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Derek Landy on sharing storytelling responsibilities and relinquishing control

Derek Landy on sharing storytelling responsibilities and relinquishing control

I’m quite used to being the emperor of my own empire. I’ve been writing the Skulduggery Pleasant series since 2005 (the first book was published two years later) and from the very beginning I have ruled over my domain with a fist of iron and a will of, er, also iron. Of course, it has never been a one-person show. From agents to editors to copyeditors, every line is scrutinised, every character considered. If a suggested change makes the book better, I embrace it. If not, I let it slip away

But the final decision is always mine, and so every ounce of praise and every hint of complaint come to rest on my doorstep. I am the first and last word. I am the authority.

And then we decided to make a graphic novel, and all that changed.

I learned how to write comics while working on characters like Captain America and Iron Man and the rest of the Avengers. I learned writing for Marvel — a dream come true for a kid who grew up reading this stuff. I knew, going in, that making a comic was a team effort, and since I was playing with somebody else’s toys, in somebody else’s sandbox, the transition from Supreme Emperor to Lowly Peasant was an easy one. I was there to learn. I was there to absorb what I could and apply it as best as I was able. The fact that I was doing all that while Captain America slung his shield and Spider-Man bounced around in the background just put a smile on my face.

For Bad Magic, PJ Holden was coming in to use his talents and hard-earned skills to tell this story. They were my words, yes, but PJ’s job was not merely to do what the script told him to do. It was to take my vision and filter it through his own vision. I started out my career writing screenplays, and if this were a movie, I would still be the writer, but PJ would be the director, cinematographer, set designer and prop builder, and then once the cameras started rolling he’d be every single one of the cast. None of these hypothetical crewmembers would be working were it not for my script, this is true, but my script would mean nothing were it not for all of these hypothetical crewmembers.

Working as a novelist, I have got very used to the idea of being in charge — but collaborating on a project where the visual aspect is arguably the most important element is a vital lesson not only in giving up control, but also in sharing the ultimate responsibility for telling this particular story. Every ounce of praise and every hint of complaint is now shared between everyone who worked on this book. And I’m okay with that.

Bad Magic, Derek Landy + P J Holden £14.99

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