Recently I had the most imponderable honour of interviewing one of my all time heroes, Mr. Daniel Handler aka Lemony Snicket. Due to the upcoming Netflix premiere of A Series of Unfortunate Events, the man who shaped my childhood years and in some way, my perception of life, agreed to answer a few of my questions. Enjoy!
Have you had any personal experiences that affected the sinister way of how you told stories later on in your career? Or were you born a little bit „strange and unusual”?
I was raised in a Jewish household in California, so I inherited an outlook on the world which could reasonably be described as “strange and unusual.”
If I were to meet with Mr Snicket, what place would he choose?
Someplace rainy and quiet. There is an awful, awful teashop I visisted once in Reykjavik of which I often think.
Is aqueous martini your drink of choice while working on a new project or do you have other drinks/foods that make time pass more pleasantly?
A glass of water and a few raw carrots seem to do the trick.
From the trailer of the new Netflix adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate Events, I sense references to Tim Burton’s peculiar films, to Wes Anderson and even to The Addams Family. Have any of these pictures inspired you when creating the plot of the story, or were there other films or books that influenced your work?
I think I share influences with all those filmmakers – the old monster movies of Universal and Hammer Studios and the deadpan sense from Ed Wood that obviously inspires Mr. Burton and the Eastern European literary sense and 1960s optics that inspire Mr. Anderson. The Addams Family was directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, who is also directing much of the Netflix adaptation, so obviously we share a sensibility.
I remember loving Your books when I was a kid and reading one book a day (that’s how obsessed I was…oh my poor mother and her drained wallet) but I can’t help but notice, I appreciate them even more, now. The gothic, ironic tone of the series appeals to me and to my personality. Were children always your target audience, is there an ideal age to start the series?
I think an appreciation of the Snicket books coincides with an appreciation of irony, which some people seem to acquire at birth and others, never.
Is there a moment or character from the Netflix adaptation that you are most excited for people to see? Give me a scoop, I’m desperate.
Right now I’m very taken with K.Todd Freeman, who plays Mr. Poe. His cough is quite startling.
Did you know from the very beginning what would be the ending to the series or was it something that kind of progressed naturally?
I knew the destination but not the route, if that follows.
The orphans are pure and have their hearts in the right place and yet they are tied up with corrupt and nefarious acts of adults. Do you think The Baudelaires would grow up to be good, honest people or would they lose their innocence along the way and become as bitter and vicious as the people they encountered during their childhood?
I cannot bear to answer this question.
How did you pitch A Series of Unfortunate Events to publishers? What would be your go-to line?
Oh, I can never bear to pitch things, either. I got an editor of my acquaintance to meet me at a bar and I told her about terrible things happening to orphans who take shelter in libraries.
What was the last movie, book or album that touched you?
Movie, Footsteps in the Dark (for the umpteenth time) Book, Annie Baker’s John (although it is actually a play). Album, Leonard Cohen’s You Want It Darker.
While reading The Unauthorized Autobiography I was a victim of what I consider a literary mental breakdown. I’m still not sure if I solved all the anagrams and enigmas right. Was it your ultimate goal to make the reader as frustrated as possible? How did the process of writing The Unauthorized Autobiography differ from writing the original series? Was one more challenging than the other?
he idea was to translate the ideas of Gustav Sebald into children’s literature. I am not surprised that you complain of a breakdown because many people associated with the book are permanently scarred, including the author.
Count Olaf is terrifying, a chill goes through my spine when thinking of him, and yet he is utterly ridiculous in his behaviour and physique. And that leads me to my last question, is he really dead or is he just working for the President elect now?
Far too many world leaders could pass for ridiculous villains, alas.
Unless you want Count Olaf to steal your money and happiness, remember to check out the premiere on January 13th on Netflix!