Charles Tan Interviews Andrew Pyper

Andrew Pyper’s novel The Demonologist is a 2013 Shirley Jackson Awards nominee.


Charles Tan: How did you come about developing David Ullman’s character and his family?

Andrew Pyper: I wanted to write a horror story about emotion.  Not one with emotion, but about emotion.  One of the things that move and fascinate me about demonic mythology is the demon’s inability to feel, to love, even as they pretend to, or find a way to afflict those who do.  I started thinking some years ago, in broad terms, about a horror novel in which the horror wasn’t arbitrarily encountered (the people moving into the haunted house or acquiring the cursed amulet out of sheer bad luck) but born from an emotional state, a “way in” that was coherent from a characterization point of view.  In my research, I found a lot of interesting stuff about how grief or displacement or depression (or, as David Ullman calls it, “melancholy”) have always been a means by which the demonic can enter our personal world.  This was the key for me.  A protagonist who suffers from an emotional block, a man who loves but finds it hard, a man who’s been unable to fully connect with others his whole life.  In this way, he would be a mirror for the demon: both are trying to feel – which is to say, both are trying to be human.

Charles Tan: What were the challenges in writing The Demonologist?

Andrew Pyper: The Demonologist is a horror story set in the present day, a story about demons and ancient evil.  The fundamental challenge in writing a story like this is making it believable for – or at least coherent with – a sceptical, secular modern world.  I wanted to create a demonic mythology free of fixed Christian “rules,” one that proceeded from literary and psychological origins instead of religious ones.

Charles Tan: What kind of research did you have to do for the book?

Andrew Pyper: I read a lot, of course, and from both the high and low ends of the spectrum.  Milton’s Paradise Lost and on-line accounts of demonic possession, the bible and memoirs of exorcism.  Thankfully, my research did not require me to interview any actual demons.

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