'Snicket' author to tell the truth(ish) during visit

| Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013, 8:55 p.m.

With his author's imagination and his satirical style, Daniel Handler says he finds Pittsburgh to be a gloomy town, and he fears an encounter with a monster crawling out of a river.

“I hope I will not be attacked by one of my fair creations while visiting your fair city,” deadpans Handler, whose latest book, “When Did You See Her Last?”, came out Oct. 15.

So long as that doesn't happen, Handler of San Francisco will be visiting the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh on Oct. 25 to give a presentation, “Why Does Lemony Snicket Keep Following Me?” His visit is part of the Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures' PA&L Kids and Teens series. Handler is touring the country, although the Pittsburgh event will be different, the author says. His other visits are mostly at schools, where he is speaking in fictional tones to the kids about the Snicket character.

“I'm lying to them and telling them that Lemony Snicket can't be there, and I'll be there instead,” he says. “The Pittsburgh event is somewhat more unusual. ... We'll be talking about my own life. ... I'll be telling what I can call, for the sake of argument, the truth ... about how I came to write Lemony Snicket.”

Why so facetious? Well, there are two Lemony Snickets. One is reality-based, and sort of functions as Handler's pen name; the books are published under the narrator's name. The other is a fictional character in the stories. Snicket never appears in public: His creator does all of his bidding. And Handler will talk about how Snicket stole his ideas, blocked his spotlight, bought him a house and ruined his fantasy of a simple life.

In his sarcastic style, Handler describes what did inspire him to write the original Lemony Snicket “A Series of Unfortunate Events” series, which began in 1999 with “The Bad Beginning” and ended with the 13th book, “The End,” in 2006.

“I just thought it was inherently interesting,” Handler says about the Snicket series. “I just thought it would be interesting to write about terrible things happening over and over again. That just seemed charming.”

The series inspired the major motion picture, “Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events,” in 2004. Then, Handler launched the prequel series — “All the Wrong Questions,” which details Snicket's life as a young teen around 13 years old — in October 2012 with “Who Could That Be at This Hour?”

The second book in the four-part “All the Wrong Questions” series, “When Did You See Her Last?”, tells the story of Snicket as an apprentice in a secret organization. He investigates the kidnapping of a young woman — and, as usual, the case turns out to be much more complicated than Snicket thought.

Handler has written many other books outside of the Snickets, including the Pittsburgh-based “Watch Your Mouth: A Novel,” “The Basic Eight” and “Adverbs.” He plans on two more books in this new Snicket series, so long as nothing terrible happens to the author.

Handler was surprised and delighted by how popular the Snicket books became.

“I continue to be amazed by it,” he says. “I can't believe that so many people are interested in terrible things happening to children over and over again.”

Kellie B. Gormly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at kgormly@tribweb.com or 412-320-7824.

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