Lemony Snicket: Reversal of Fortune

A talk with Daniel Handler, the creator of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events.

By Kaja Perina, published on November 1, 2004 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events contains just enough disheartening warnings—and mature undertones—to give the best-selling children's series crossover appeal. The author, one Daniel Handler, is both merciless and empathic toward the Baudelaire orphans, for whom no caregiver is too nefarious and no reversal of fortune too operatic.

KP: Your characters have interesting names—Klaus, Violet, Sunny Baudelaire. Do you think a name influences a child's self-image?

DH: Certainly. All of the details influence you; you just never know what will turn into a profound detail.

You have a 1-year-old named Otto.

It's a palindrome. We want our child to know himself inside and out.

Do people predict that your books will change now that you're a father?

For [years] people have said that, as if not having a child somehow made me completely indifferent to the process of child rearing. I certainly haven't said, "I can't believe I was putting fictional children in dire circumstances. What was I thinking?"

Were you a sneaky kid?

I found myself in situations where it was presumed that I was uninterested and not listening. But of course I was. I was trying to decode the mysteries of the adult world at a young age. I guess I still am. I just have less of an excuse for being mystified by them.

What's the worst thing that happened to you as a kid?

Nothing really terrible ever happened to me, as is the case for many children in America. The worst thing is probably something on TV that turned into a nightmare narrative, quietly, by itself.

If you were kidnapped, might you be a candidate for Stockholm syndrome?

It depends on who kidnaps me. If I were kidnapped by Sidney Poitier, yes.

Have you ever been to therapy?

Yes. But I'm of the school of thought that writers who go to therapy are
paying for what they ought to be paid for. If you look at where I work out issues, it would probably be on the pages of books.