Lemony Snicket's life story reads like it was deliberately constructed to confound biographers. Is he or is he not American author Daniel Handler, accordion impresario and the very prolific author of the popular A Series of Unfortunate Events series of books for young readers, among other works? Were his childhood hobbies really taxidermy and playing the harpsichord? In any case, 2014 sees the release of a handful of his new works, including File Under: 13 Suspicious Incidents.
Why did you write your new book?
Like tapas, small-portion mysteries sometimes feel like the thing to do, and for more or less the same reasons: it's late at night, a sizzle is in the air, sad, romantic songs can be heard from a nearby balcony, and you think people might gather around if you served something delicious.
Whose sentences are your favourite, and why?
I've just discovered the work of Jenny Boully, whose prosey poems are full of terrific sentences – even the title of one of her collections, of the mismatched teacups, of the single-serving spoon: a book of failures, is almost a terrific sentence all by itself.
What's the best advice you've ever received?
"There she is; say nothing." Anything whispered to you as you enter a party is bound to be handy in one way or another.
Which historical period do you wish you'd lived through, and why?
I am quite content living through the history I seem to have survived, but if I could dash off and visit, say, the Harlem Renaissance, that would be something to talk about.
Would you rather be successful during your lifetime and then forgotten or legendary after death?
Are those my only choices? Could one not simply be well thought of, by the people I love, before, during and after my life? No. Well then, as it is nice to have a roof over one's head, I choose successful during my lifetime.
What agreed-upon classic do you despise?
To Kill A Mockingbird.
Which fictional character do you wish you'd created?
Most of P.G. Wodehouse's, if only so that people would be flabbergasted that the author was American.
Which fictional character do you wish you were?
On certain evenings, Dracula would be a fun time.
What question do you wish people would ask about your work (that they don't ask)?
"I've just shucked some oysters – would you like some?" I realize this question is not technically about my work, but I do adore hearing it and I always have my answer ready.