Skulduggery Pleasant is a skeleton. He's also a detective and even better, he's magic. He and sidekick Stephanie Edgley (aka Valkyrie Cain) have been on numerous adventures together. They have faced evil, fought for justice and bantered and joked their way through thick and thin .
They are, of course, the famous characters of Derek Landy's Skulduggery Pleasant series.
New Zealand fans of these characters are in for a treat. Not only is the seventh book in the series, Kingdom of the Wicked, due for release next month, but the Irish author is coming here. That's right, Landy will be in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch next month. Over his five-day visit he will speak to more than 3000 children .
Aimed at 9- to 14-year-olds (but I'm sure the books are enjoyed by a much wider audience than this) the Skulduggery Pleasant books are a delightful escape into a magical world.
HAVE YOU BEEN TO NEW ZEALAND BEFORE?
I was over in 2010 on a tour that took in Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand. It was a pretty exhausting few weeks, with very little downtime, but every event I did or school I visited somehow renewed my enthusiasm.
ARE YOU PLANNING ANY SIGHTSEEING?
I don't generally have time for sightseeing! My family hears about my tours and they think it's great, I'm going on a paid holiday, when the reality is a lot different. Being on tour is an endless procession of airports and hotel rooms, smiling until your face breaks and being nice to people - something I am not used to. I think I have one day off in the middle of the tour, somewhere in Australia, and I already know how I'm going to spend it. In my hotel room. Sleeping.
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH SKULDUGGERY PLEASANT, THE NAME AND THE CHARACTER?
Ah, the great mystery. The answer is, I don't know. It's not like I had an idea for a skeleton detective and then I searched around for a cool name. It was the summer of 2005, and I was staying overnight in a terrible London hotel, and the name Skulduggery Pleasant just popped into my head. It told me who he was, and what he was, and what he was like, and suddenly I had a main character and I was writing a book.
YOU ARE UP TO BOOK NO7 NOW. HOW DO YOU COME UP WITH FRESH IDEAS?
I figured out the storyline for the series as a whole when I was writing the first book. I looked at Skulduggery and realised he was probably the best character I was ever going to create, so I owed it to him, and to myself, to give this series my best shot. There's no shortage of imagination to keep me going.
WHO LEADS THE WAY IN THE STORYLINE, YOU OR THE CHARACTERS?
The characters. It's their interactions and their histories and their secrets that drive the story, and it's been that way from the very start. As soon as a writer lets his story dictate what the characters do, he's on a downwards slope.
WHAT'S THE SECRET TO KEEPING YOUR FANS HANGING OUT FOR THE NEXT SKULDUGGERY ADVENTURE?
Be honest with them, respect them, and don't give them what they want. Instead, a writer should give them what they need.
If they loved your last book, if every single one of them voted that it was the best book in the series, the temptation would be to model the next book around that one. And that's where things start to go wrong. Readers should be listened to, absolutely, but they can't be allowed to overly influence the writing.
A writer needs to be able to ignore the readers - it's only when he can do that that he can give them something they'll appreciate.
IN THIS DAY AND AGE OF COMPUTERS AND i-THIS AND i-THAT WHAT WOULD YOUR ADVICE TO PARENTS BE ABOUT GETTING CHILDREN TO PICK UP A BOOK?
Books can do what no other entertainment medium can manage - they can completely transport your imagination to another world, and they can wrap you up in that world until the story is done.
You're not thinking about actors, or special effects, or music, you're not thinking about anything except the words on the page.
It's absolutely true that we're living in a world where we have so many distractions, but from the amount of letters I get from parents who tell me that their kid never used to read, but then he found Skulduggery and now he reads everything, reaffirms my belief that for every person out there, there is that perfect book that will show them the light.
WHO DO YOU MOST ADMIRE IN THE LITERARY WORLD?
That's a really hard and complicated question, so instead I'm going to pretend you asked who are you most thankful to in the literary world?
J.K. Rowling, without a doubt. Harry Potter changed the literary landscape.
Before Rowling, writing children's books could hardly be looked on as a viable career move.
But she got teenagers reading her books, and adults, and she made it acceptable to read whatever kind of book you want to, regardless of its intended audience.
It's because of Rowling that I didn't force Skulduggery into a movie script or a book for adults. Instead, he's where he belongs, in books for young people.
WHAT IS THE FIRST BOOK YOU REMEMBER READING?
The first book I remember loving is The Three Investigators and the Secret of Skeleton Island. Hmmm, more skeletons. Interesting.
Skulduggery Pleasant: Kingdom of the Wicked
Win a copy of Derek Landy's Skulduggery Pleasant: Kingdom of the Wicked.
Send your name and contact details to firstname.lastname@example.org by August 8.