5 Questions for Lemony Snicket

Lemony Snicket answers a few of our own queries about his All the Wrong Questions series on the eve of the second book's release.
Regan McMahon Senior Editor, Books | Mom of two Categories: Reading, We Recommend
Senior Editor, Books | Mom of two
5 Questions for Lemony Snicket

Fans of Lemony Snicket (aka Daniel Handler) know that the author of A Series of Unfortunate Events and the recent picture book The Dark, among many others, has a way of shining a light on some of the darker issues kids wrestle with.

In 2012, he launched the noir mystery series All the Wrong Questions, starring himself at age 12 when he was an apprentice learning the detective trade. The first book, Who Could That Be at This Hour?, is set in the strange and menacing town of Stain'd-by-the-Sea, where Snicket must find a missing statue. The second, When Did You See Her Last?, which was just released this week, picks up soon after the unfortunate events of the first -- and this time Snicket's looking for a missing girl. He took time to have an email chat with us and answer all the right questions. 

How did you get the idea to create a series in the noir mystery style?

In noir, a central character, curious about things, is ordered by powerful people first to investigate and then to stop investigating a world of sinister secrets and conspiratorial complications in which our hero must make his own moral path despite temptations and threats that abound. This is also the journey of childhood.

Which mysteries did you read as a kid that you think still hold up well?

A recent rereading of Agatha Christie's Endless Night was a tense and forbidden treat, although my favorite mystery writer when I was young was Zilpha Keatley Snyder [The Egypt Game, The Witches of Worm], still a favorite.

Why is the series titled All the Wrong Questions?

Who wants to know? What else could it have been called? When did such a question occur to you? Where might a satisfactory answer come from? Why aren’t we stitting and talking together? How long can this go on?

Do you hope kids can solve the mystery in each case before you do, or do you always try to outsmart the reader?

I hope my readers are comrades and that whatever mysteries we uncover together we might unravel simultaneously.

Do you hope to inspire readers to become detectives?

All readers are detectives. Why else keep turning pages?

We hear that a movie adaptation of the young adult novel Why We Broke Up, by your representative, Daniel Handler, is coming out in 2014 and starring Hailee Steinfeld. Can you tell us anything about that –- or about any other exciting projects in the works?  

I am sad to announce that more Snicket will come to the screen shortly. Blindfolds and/or earplugs should be encouraged by Common Sense Media.


Related tags

About Regan McMahon

Regan has been reviewing children's books for more than a decade. A journalist and former book editor for the San Francisco Chronicle, she cites as one of her toughest assignments having to read and review the 784-page... Read more

Add comment

Sign in or sign up to share your thoughts

Comments (35)

Parent written by belleandnani

I swore I would never, but I don't know how it came out! The lady was wearing this beautiful baby-doll shirt and I was thinking about complimenting her, by the time I realized I had asked her how many months pregnant she was. When she replied she was not pregnant. I wanted the earth to eat me! That thought didn't even cross my mind and I really don't know how that came out??
Teen, 17 years old written by iliasuDin71

My mom said she was going to make chicken for dinner and I asked her, "Wait! Do we have any popcorn leftover to make popcorn chicken?".
Parent of a 5, 5, and 8 year old written by DeboraDyess

My kids all handed me their stsuff at the park one day. - jackets, backpacks, sports equipment , all thrust into my arms. I foolishly asked if I looked like their pack-mule. My oldest boy smiled. "A little, just around the eyes." I never asked that question again!
Educator written by elizabeth.kavan...

I am currently 8 months pregnant, and a Media/Technology Specialist. Last week a second grade students looked at me, and with all sincerity, asked me if I was pregnant. I looked at him and replied, "well... what do you think." He said, "well I don't know, there are a lot of teachers with big bellies."
Educator and Parent of a 12 year old written by FVentura7

A colleague had lost a lot of weight before going on summer break; when we came back for the new school year, she seemed heavier again, and I asked "Did you gain back some of the weight you had lost?" She obviously had, and was very upset I had noticed and asked.
Parent of a 7 year old written by playerblue99

We were having problems with people paying for the coffee at work (it was an honor system), and after reading the latest sign posted by the coffee machine, I asked the person standing next to me "Who would want to be the person in charge of the coffee fund? You couldn't pay me enough money." Turns out that person was in charge of the coffee fund.
Educator and Parent written by panquake98

At my school many teachers had become visibly pregnant over the summertime. My teacher, who I had had the year before, also seemed to have added a bit of a bulge. I asked her "When are you having your baby?" She looked at me like she would slap me, then she just walked away and I saw her quietly crying by her desk. I knew I had done something wrong because she never did that sort of thing. Later she came to me privately and told me that she was not going to have a baby and that it was not polite to ask that question and I should talk to my mom about it. I did. Learned something that day!
Kid, 12 years old

I didn't ask the wrong question everyone did! I went to school wearing a hot pink cast in my left leg and everyone that got close to me asked ..Is your leg Ok?..Hello!! Thanks for asking but I'm wearing a cast obviously there is a problem. They could have asked What happened to your leg?
Educator and Parent written by Kimkam47

I asked my daughter if she could start mowing the lawn to save money. Then $400 later for equipment, I pay my lawn man again.
Parent of a 8 year old written by Jadedcup

For a special treat I had gone out and bought freshly ground, very expensive, real Kona coffee, and had even picked up special filtered water for my in-laws visit to our new apartment. I asked my father in law if he wanted a fresh cup of coffee, when he arrived. He said no he had a cup of his favorite already...purchased from the gas station down the block!
Kid, 11 years old

Once I asked my mom if my underwear was washed and dried yet but It turned out that I sent the email to my former male teacher!
Kid, 11 years old

Once I asked my mom if my underwear was washed and dried yet but It turned out that I sent the email to my former male teacher!
Parent written by MichaelzMom

Does this room look clean to you? (the 10 yr old always answers "yes" incorrectly to this question). We met Daniel Handler at NYCC! He is absolutely the funniest genuine person I've met and would love to win these books to further clutter my son's room with books!!!!!
Kid, 11 years old

When I asked my mom if I could go out with a boy. I get it, my mom doesn't want me to grow up, but she said If he lays a hand on you he'll lose that hand. She also said she would volunteer for one of my school dances in booty shorts and a tank too if I go with a boy. I don't get parents. That was DEFINETLEY the wrong question to ask!
Parent of a 8 year old written by molomatic

It seems like I always ask my family what they want for dinner that night and then I get a bunch of different answers and nobody can agree. The right question would be "who wants X for dinner and who wants Y?" Then at least it would be narrowed down to two from the get go. :-)
Educator written by techtosa

I was once asked if I'd heard about a certain event. I unknowingly commented about a different person (with the same name) who'd had a major event happen to them. Then, I finished by asking them what they thought of that. They said they hadn't heard about that and that they were referring to the baseball game's manager. Whoops!
Parent of a 1, 4, 7, 9, and 11 year old written by 4mom

A few weeks ago I asked my Pre-K son if he was ready for picture day at school. He said almost, and 5 minutes later showed me his new hair style. Let's just say it could not be fixed in time for school!
Educator written by crstortz

I was teaching a lesson on DNA. Part of the lesson involved building a model of DNA. One student put his together, but had mixed up two of the colors. He thought it looked right. I asked him if he was color blind. Turned out he was. oops!
Parent of a 7 year old written by Annemarie

I asked my Mom if she was having a baby (I just want a baby brother to play with!) & she said, "No." Then I asked, "Why are you so fat?" - I found out that she's also too old to have one anymore.
Parent of a 7 and 9 year old written by carries

Each year at Christmas and their birthdays, I ask my daughters what they would like. Afterwards I always think the right question is "What don't they want!".
Parent written by happytobeme

As the mom of 4 I will more than occasionally ask "Why are you always picking on your sister (brother)?". There is no answer to that question, it's genetically wired in them I think some days...
Educator and Parent written by tor1204

I asked my third grade students if they ever had a feeling of regret. Wow! I had no idea how loaded the question was until one of my students started telling her story to the whole class. Sometimes it is best not to know.
Parent of a 9 and 12 year old written by Amy Perciballi

I was in a fancy new modern restaurant and the bathroom doors were not clearly labeled with men or women signs. I asked a nearby server which was which - and as it turned out they were both able to be used by either men OR women!
Parent written by Looking4BestMedia

I asked a teacher who was writing on the blackboard "Would you please write that bigger? How do you expect us to read that?" She looked at me, and said, "Dear, you need glasses."
Parent of a 5, 7, and 9 year old written by MamaLlama3

Several years ago we had a meeting at work and one lady in particular sort of took over the meeting even though she didn't really know what was going on. After the meeting I sent an email to my friend asking her if she thought that lady was as ridiculous as I did. Unfortunately I sent the email to the lady, instead of my friend. Yikes!
Parent of a 2, 5, 7, 10, and 11 year old written by Margaret5

I remember asking my kids, "where are my keys?" and they were actually dangling from my wrist. Oops.
Parent of a 7, 9, and 11 year old written by afutchf

In middle school, I asked the school principal if I could go to the potty. I didn't even realize my mistake until all my friends started laughing. Apparently, no one uses the word "potty" in middle school. I was so embarassed.
Educator and Parent written by rowneyd

My friend once asked, having been told that the lady was a lesbian. "Really, where is Lesbia?"
Parent of a 4 and 6 year old written by csmith54751

I was once having a conversation with a stranger sitting next to me in the waiting room at the doctors office, we began to talk about a certain profession, I asked "Who in there right mind would ever consider letting themselves become that?" Turns out the person I was talking to did....um embarrassing and awkward lol