interview, Saturday Sundries

“Evil needs a doorway into our world”: An interview with The Demonologist’s Andrew Pyper

Andrew Pyper. Photo by Don Denton,
Andrew Pyper. Photo by Don Denton,

In Andrew Pyper’s The Demonologist, (available March 5th) Professor David Ullman discovers that demons exist—and that they are the reason his beloved young daughter has been taken from him. I recently talked with Andrew about the bread crumbs his protagonist must chase, and the world of emotional horror that opens before him. . .

What brought about the genre shift to horror?

In hindsight—because all of this is hindsight when I talk about the “category” of the book, it’s all post-facto analysis—I was just following my nose in a narrative way and going where the story took me. But I think, why did it take me there? Because I’ve always been interested in the supernatural. It appears glimpsingly through almost all the previous novels, but in a kind of partial way. And this story demanded, because it entertains the possibility of demons existing alongside us in the real world, the creation of an entire world. Whereas the previous novels required people putting up a forbidden window, this is like, no, no, you have to build an entire premise whereby all human action will be infused with the supernatural companionship with demons. So once I recognized that, it felt quite liberating. I didn’t feel like there was a constraint of rules—although you can’t go that far, because that would make it a different kind of book. There was no sense of rules that might be broken.

It’s interesting to me, the idea of demons living alongside us. You play with this Miltonic idea of Hell not being a physical place, but living in us and alongside us. Unlike, say, in a movie like Constantine, where Keanu is transported to Hell, in The Demonologist we have these hellish things happening in our minds and all around us. Is that a conscious choice to stick with this Miltonic idea? What brought about this vision of Hell for you?

It is in part born because Milton is obviously an influence on the novel, a text that I used both thematically and to a degree mechanically, but I think that commitment, that is, the commitment to realism, having the story take place in the real world with these impossible supernatural beings moving through it, that was just an aesthetic choice of my own. I love horror and I love fantasy, but when it comes to those kind of stories, I’m definitely on the muted, restrained “keep it real” end of the spectrum. I know some people are like, “No, if you’re going to talk about Pandemonium, why don’t you take us inside Pandemonium? Let’s see the floor plan.” Mine’s a more internal, psychological Pandemonium. That’s just what I prefer. I personally like those kind of stories, like Rosemary’s Baby, where this is a story about the Satanic but it actually takes place in present-day New York.

Charles Grignion (engraver) after Francis Hayman, illustration to Book VI of Paradise Lost (1749), engraving.© Christ's College Old Library
Charles Grignion (engraver) after Francis Hayman, illustration to Book VI of Paradise Lost (1749), engraving.
© Christ’s College Old Library

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Saturday Sundries: My favourite books of 2012

Monoceros This is how you Lose Her Zoo City

I can’t help but take stock at this time of year. The time between Christmas and New Year’s always feels so liminal, a week in between the year that was and the year that is yet to be. I’m so pleased with how the blog has grown this year, and in particular with the interest and participation in the Cloud Atlas readalong.


I’d like to thank all of you who have read my ramblings and my opinions, and who have taken the time to comment, as well!

And now, after much pondering, I’ve come up with a list of my favourite-favourite books of everything I read in 2012! If there’s one thing going through this list has taught me, I’m a little bit lax in reviewing books I love. I tend to put them aside, bathing in their glow and planning on writing nice things about them, and then moving on. So, if ever there was a book-related resolution for me, it’s this: write the glowing five-star reviews just as often as I write the more critical reviews!

In chronological reading order, my favourites of 2012 are:

Continue reading “Saturday Sundries: My favourite books of 2012”

interview, Saturday Sundries

Saturday Sundries: An interview with Wild Girls’ Mary Stewart Atwell

I recently had a chance to sit down with Mary Stewart Atwell, whose debut novel Wild Girls is an incendiary coming-of-age tale like no other. . .

Where did this idea come from? What inspired you to write about the wild girls, this difference between “the secret darker self” and “the daylight self” of girls?

I was teaching at my old boarding school, in my twenties, thinking about my own adolescence. So I wrote a realistic novel about boarding-school life and I wasn’t very happy with it. I came back to it a couple of years later. I’d never written anything with any magical realistic elements, but I started thinking about girls acting out in a metaphorical way. It really clicked for me and said something true about my own adolescence: while it doesn’t happen to everyone, for me, I became a different person for that time.

I can look back at myself at 15 and 16, and I just don’t relate now to who I was at all, so to me, it seems more true in an everyday way, to really explore what happens if we took those feelings to an extreme in metaphor. What would that look like?

I like that idea of truth in magical realism. The supernatural element is actually something that took me by surprise. I expected a psychological outburst from the wild girls, but to see what actually happens to these girls took me aback. Can you see this sort of story working without the supernatural element?

To me, it was what brought it alive: If you write about female adolescence from a realistic perspective, it’s a story we’ve heard so many times. Giving those girls power that in a realistic situation they could never possibly have is what made it click for me. Power is what they’re missing, so at those times they have more power than anyone in the community.


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