Bestselling Author, Andrew Pyper: On the Writing Life (Interview)

January 12, 2012

Andrew Pyper Interview

Interview with Andrew Pyper: bestselling author of five novels, including Lost Girls, The Killing Circle and, most recently, The Guardians.

Interview by Sharif Khan.

SK: Most people who’ve reached a certain degree of success in their field have not done it alone. They’ve had teachers and mentors along the way. Who are some literary mentor-figures who’ve helped guide you? Also, can you share any books, workshops, writing groups that you’ve found especially helpful in your learning and development as a writer?

AP: I may be an exception to a sound rule, but I’ve never attended a writing workshop, class or group. It hasn’t been a conscious avoidance, it’s just how it worked out. (I should add that I’ve conducted writing classes here and there, and I’ve envied my students’ relationship to one another, the comradeship and even the conflicts.) Similarly, I’ve never really had a writing mentor. And similarly, some part of me is jealous of those who have.

SK: It is important to note here that you received a B.A. and M.A. in English Literature from McGill University, which provided a structured learning environment under the tutelage of qualified teachers providing feedback, instruction and guidance to help develop your writing and literary skills.

AP: The primary use of degrees in English Literature for me was that they allowed me time to read. Nothing (or more or less nothing) but read. I had some great teachers, sure.  But it was the sustained, intense reading that really taught me things.

SK: The research and planning phase of a novel is one of your favourite topics. Can you share some advice in this area that has worked for you?

AP: The amount of research one has to do prior to outlining depends on the story. A novel set in 17th Century Florence is more likely to require a few weeks in the library (if not in Florence) than a remembrance of personal things past. But once that’s done – that is, once you feel ready to move on from an accumulation of the “facts” to considering the shape of the story – it’s time to outline. I’m big on outlines. Sometimes, people assume that’s because my work involves plotting and suspense, and therefore, if your novel doesn’t, you don’t need an outline to the same degree. This assumption is wrong. Outlines aren’t necessarily linear, aren’t necessarily some bullet-point version of plot turns. Outlines are records of consideration. They require the enormously helpful period of pre-writing questions and the entertainment of various answers. In my experience, the longer you spend thinking about a book before writing it, the better the book.

SK: I read your novels, The Killing Circle, and The Guardians, and was really impressed by the realism you brought to these works. Can you share a story or a challenge that you encountered when it came to researching either of these books?

AP: Both The Killing Circle and The Guardians are based in fictional versions of homes for me: Toronto (my home now) and Stratford (my home growing up). In both cases, the “realism” of those settings is distorted by a prism-turn of the imagination, the slight distortion of a real place recollected in a dream. What I like doing in my work is taking real people – or real places – and altering the conditions underlying either/both, so that just when you think a certain reality can be depended on, the floor gives way under your feet.

SK: E.B. White once said, “The best writing is rewriting,” and yet so many writers dread this stage. Can you provide any tips to make this process go smoother? How many drafts do you typically go through? What does the process look like when working with your editor?

AP: I go through multiple drafts, based both on my own editorial inclinations and in response to early readers’ notes. Typically, I seek out quite a number of these readers, as I feel that the thoughts of an intelligent person are always going to give you something. That “something”, by the way, needn’t be a problem – or the suggestion of its solution – but often something surprising, requiring discovery. In general, however, if more than one reader is bumping on a certain character or event, you know you’ve got something to fix.

AP: As for a self-editing tip, reading the manuscript aloud to yourself is amazingly helpful. There’s something about hearing the words in your own voice that alerts you to problems that re-reading the same words twenty times on the page or screen never will.

SK: What writers do you feel a special kinship to who’ve helped influence your work?

AP: There’s so many writers I love. My promiscuity has likely resulted in my being without a special writerly kinship. However, having said that, among my first loves: Conrad, James, Greene, King, Munro.

SK: What about other influences? (Other personalities or art forms?) I believe Don DeLillo once said, “I think more than writers, the major influences on me have been European movies, jazz, and Abstract Expressionism.”

AP: I love movies almost as much as books. And I suppose this love finds its way into my work (as do all my loves). I think – and I’m honestly only thinking about this this very second – there’s some of Hitchcock’s Vertigo in The Killing Circle, for instance. Some of Kubrick’s The Shining in The Guardians. A dash of Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby in the novel I’m working on now. It’s not so much the stories or set-ups of those movies I return to, it’s the mood, the feel, the particular alterations to your blood temperature during your time in the cinema’s dark.

SK: I believe most of your books are in film development, which is quite rare for the average novelist. Can you please share some tips you’ve picked up along the way for adapting a book to film and writing for the screen?

AP: I’m only adapting one of my novels myself, and while it’s been a long and sometimes discouraging process, I’ve learned an enormous amount. What have I learned? As much about how to manage the priorities and wishes and intentions of the people collaborating with me as “how to write a screenplay.” If I had to distill it to one point, however, it would be something like: No matter how dumb someone’s note might sound at first, there’s always something useful and true in it if you dig deep enough.

AP: As for the movie business generally, it’s fascinating, but mostly insane. The best you can do if the movie world comes knocking on the novelist’s door is partner with those who love the book the most. Not because they’ll necessarily end up making the movie that’s most respectful to your work, or even the movie that’s good. Go with the people who love it because, when the hard times hit (and they will), it will require mad love to move on and keep trying.

SK: Publishing is a business. What business and marketing lessons have you learned as a multi-published author?

AP: I haven’t learned much on this front, I have to admit. I’m not trying to avoid the question when I say the biggest factor in increasing your chances for success is in writing a good book. Sending a might-have-been-good book out too early is probably the most frequent explanation for failure.

SK: Making the book circuit rounds, the book tours and lectures, etc., can be quite intimidating for some authors. What has that road journey been like for you? Can you share any lessons learned along the way?

AP: I love getting out and meeting readers, fellow authors, bookstore people. It’s not terribly romantic most of the time, nor glamourous. But it’s fun, and always rewarding (often when you least expect it). Also, I work at home, so the small adventure of getting out into the world and meeting a couple dozen new people is exciting and, I hope, keeps me sane.

SK: What’s next for you? Any upcoming project/s you’d like to share?

AP: I’ve just finished a new novel that’s scheduled to be published later this fall in some places and early the following year in others.

SK: Any parting advice, words of wisdom or encouragement you’d like to give aspiring authors?

AP: Don’t let the bastards get you down.

To learn more about Andrew Pyper, visit his website:

About the Interviewer: Sharif Khan is a writer-for-hire/communications professional and author of the inspirational book, Psychology of the Hero Soul. He is based in Toronto where he is working on his first novel. For more info, visit:


7 Habits of Highly Effective Writers

July 3, 2011

1. First Light. “When I am working on a book or story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write.” – Ernest Hemingway

2. Daily Quota. Stephen King sticks to a daily writing quota of 2000 words, not stopping until the quota is met.

3. 70-hr Work Weeks. “When I’m working on a novel, I work 70-hour weeks.” – Dean Koontz

4. Short Breaks. Dan Brown keeps an hourglass on his desk and takes short breaks from writing every hour to do push-ups, sit-ups and stretches.

5. Consistency. “I write at the same place, same table, same chair, with the same cup and type of coffee. The same computer has produced the last fifteen books. The books are written from August to November, from 6 a.m. to noon, five days a week. Old habits die hard.” – John Grisham

6. Sleep on it. When writing the challenging middle of a book, Janet Evanovich takes a pad and pen to bed and writes down her thoughts before going to sleep. Then in the morning, she knows what to write.

7. Clarity. “I made up my mind long ago to follow one cardinal rule in all my writing—to be clear. I have given up all thought of writing poetically or symbolically or experimentally, or in any of the other modes that might (if I were good enough) get me a Pulitzer prize. I would write merely clearly and in this way establish a warm relationship between myself and my readers, and the professional critics—Well, they can do whatever they wish.” – Isaac Asimov

Get busy writing, or get busy reading.

Sharif Khan
Writer-for-hire, Author
Communications professional
Follow me on twitter: @sharifkhanbooks





10 steps to help you get started writing your nonfiction book

April 20, 2011

1. * Read the top ten books related to your book topic.

2. Ask: how can I make my book better and/or unique enough for readers to want to buy?

3. In your research, take lots of notes. (These notes will feed your imagination and also provide you with writing material to draw from).

4. Set a goal of X hours or X pages of writing per day. (Try to keep a consistent writing schedule).

5. Turn on computer. Apply bum glue and sit on chair.

6. Start writing and don’t stop until you’ve reached your daily goal.

7. If you really want to shine, Stephen King suggests maintaining a DAILY schedule of 4 to 6 hours of reading and writing in your genre.

8. Keep at it and your book will be finished.

9.  Edit and polish to a glossy shine before submitting.

10. THE END is usually reserved for fairy tales. Time to promote the heck out of it!

* This list assumes you’ve already done your homework and know who your reader is and what main author platform (speaking, blogging, radio, TV, viral videos, etc.) you will use to reach your target audience.

If you’re an author, independent publisher, speaker, or aspiring author dreaming of writing and publishing a book, you might want to check out this crash course for publishing success: AUTHOR 101 UNIVERSITY 

Click on the link above to learn more about the program and watch inspiring videos of participant success stories.

To your writing success,

Sharif Khan
Freelance Writer, Essayist
Author of “Psychology of the Hero Soul”
An inspirational book on awakening the hero within

Join me at the Screenwriters Summit in Toronto!

March 5, 2011

Four Master Teachers – One Amazing Weekend – Screenwriter’s Summit Toronto – April 9-10, 2011

Together they’ve sold over 2,000,000 books, spoken to over 500,000 people and traveled to more than 40 countries. Famed screenwriting gurus Syd Field, Linda Seger, Michael Hauge, and John Truby all come together at the Screenwriters’ Summit.

Over two intense days, these four masters of the craft will provide you an unmatched depth and understanding of screenwriting and story that is ideal for screenwriters, filmmakers, TV writers, producers, directors and creative executives. Michael, Linda, John and Syd will each teach half-day classes followed by a half-hour Q&A session in which you’ll be able to follow-up with any questions you may have. The speakers having taken the time and care to share their outlines with each other to make sure they provide you the best, most engaging material possible without overlap.

Don’t miss this rare opportunity to hear 4 world-class speakers in a single weekend where the goal is simple: to learn, network and have some fun at the same time. The Vancouver Sun called the Summit “a most amazing event” that “drew an incredibly diverse crowd in terms of ages and backgrounds. Great event.” With the class size being strictly limited to 275 participants, the Screenwriters’ Summit in Toronto will be a great and unique opportunity to hear some of screenwriting’s best and most-respected teachers.

Look forward to seeing YOU there!

Please see for details!

Sharif Khan
Freelance Writer, Essayist
Author of “Psychology of the Hero Soul”
An inspirational book on awakening the hero within

Stephen King’s formula for learning to write well

March 5, 2011

“Read and write four to six hours a day. If you cannot find the time for that, you can’t expect to become a good writer.” – Stephen King, bestselling author, novelist, screenwriter and short story writer (over 350 million books sold)

World’s Top Authors Reveal their Secrets

February 7, 2011

AUTHOR 101 UNIVERSITY is the place to be if you’re an author, publisher or aspiring author. You’ll hear top publishing and marketing experts and bestselling authors reveal tools and techniques to get your book published and fast-track your career as an author or publisher. For details, visit:

If you’ve ever dreamed of publishing a book or if you’re an author and want to overcome limiting challenges and experience a breakthrough, then you don’t want to miss this crash course in publishing success!

Go today to and get the details and watch videos of inspiring success stories.

Sharif Khan
Freelance Writer, Essayist
Author of “Psychology of the Hero Soul”
An inspirational book on awakening the hero within 

On staying focused.

February 3, 2011

How are you staying focused this year? Right above my computer is a sticky note with the message “WRITE FIRST” followed by the premise of my next book. This keeps me focused on my main career priority of developing my core competency (writing) while also reminding me what I’m writing about.

Sharif Khan
Freelance Writer, Essayist
Author of “Psychology of the Hero Soul”
An inspirational book on awakening the hero within

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