Chatting with Daniel Handler, A.K.A “Lemony Snicket”

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Little, Brown Books for Young Readers/Courtesy

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Daniel Handler is the author of the children’s books known as, “A Series of Unfortunate Events”. Recently, he collaborated with artist Maira Kalman on a new book entitled “Why We Broke Up,” a story about the end of a relationship between two high school students from very different worlds. I asked the famous author, previously known as Lemony Snicket, over email.
Kanwalroop Singh: Why do you write?

Daniel Handler: I like a story.

KS: Why did you write “Why We Broke Up”?

DH: I wanted to work with Maira Kalman again, and we dreamed up the book.

KS: What is your writing process like? When and where and how long?

DH: Five or so hours a day.  Why We Broke Up was written in various cafés. Sometimes I write in the library.  Sometimes I write in my office.  Usually longhand, on legal pads, with music on.

KS:  I know you support Occupy. Why? Have you been to Occupy SF?DH: I try to show my support for any noble, timely cause.  I’ve been to Occupy SF as an observer and distributor of baguettes.

KS: What is your favorite part of this book?

DH: Maira’s illustrations.

KS:  Charlotte … who is she, can you tell me more about her?

DH: Charlotte is a literary agent who represents both Maira and myself, among many others. She gave a dinner party in Bologna where Maira and I met. It was a glamorous and delicious way to make a new friend.

KS:  What purpose do the pictures inside the book serve? How did they come about?
DH: They came about after Maira and I had done a book together, 13 Words, and had such a swell time that we wanted to do another one.  I hope they make the book magical and luminous.

KS:  What is your favorite book? Is there any book you read that changed the way you think, or the way your write?
DH: If I had to choose one book I suppose it would be Lolita, but it’s really an impossible question.  Other books that have changed me include The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily, The Long Goodbye, Time Will Darken It, Anagrams, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Why DId I Ever and I Want My Hat Back.

KS:  Why are your sentences so short?

DH: I hope my sentences are all as long as they need to be.  Some sentences in Why We Broke Up are more than 300 words.

KS:  Quickly! Say something I can quote.

DH: Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song
A medley of extemporanea,
And love is a thing that can never go wrong,
And I am Marie of Romania.
Never hurts to quote Dorothy Parker.

KS:  Why “Lemony Snicket”?

DH: It seemed amusing at the time.

KS:  Why are you so cool?

DH: Flattery will get you everywhere.

KS:  I need a childhood memory.

DH: You have none of your own?  Pity.

KS:  Why did you break up?

DH: She met a nice woman.

KS:  What is the weirdest thing about being a writer?

DH:  Having to explain to people what that is, exactly.

KS: Are you obsessed with old black and white films?

DH:  I wouldn’t say “obsessed.”

KS: Can you tell me a story?

DH: I certainly hope so.  It’s my job.