Kenneth B. Andersen - A Gripping and Humorous Tale About Good and Evil Seen From a Different Perspective
Kenneth B. Andersen is an international bestselling author. He has published more than 35 books and they have been translated into more than 15 languages. His series about the superhero Antboy has been turned into three movies, which are available on Netflix. The Antboy movies were an international success and have been sold to more than 130 countries. Currently, an animated tv series and an animated movie are in development. A big musical of The Devil's Apprentice opened in the fall 2018 and the movie rights for the series have also been optioned. As our Author of the Day, Andersen tells us more about The Devil's Apprentice.
Please give us a short introduction to what The Devil's Apprentice is about.
“The Devil’s Apprentice” is about Philip, who’s a good and polite boy. Very good and very polite. One day he’s hit by a car and – to his surprise - he ends up in Hell. The Devil, Lucifer, is sick and is in the need of an heir to the dark throne and he has chosen Philip. Except he hasn’t. It turns out that Philip is the wrong boy. Now Lucifer has to teach the good boy how to be evil - which is easier said than done. Even though “The Devil’s Apprentice” is a concluded story it is also volume 1 in The Great Devil War-series (6 volumes total).
What inspired you to write about a good boy who accidentally ends up in Hell?
Years ago I was reading a Danish novel called “Little Lucifer”, where the main character misbehaves and someone yells at him, that he’s the Devil’s apprentice. At the exact moment I read those two words I thought that would be awesome: To write a story about a boy who literally ends up as that – the Devil’s Apprentice. In Hell where he is to be trained in evil by the Devil himself.
Tell us more about Philip. What makes him tick?
First of all, Philip is a good boy by nature. God and the Devil play a game of dice every time a baby is born and the number decides the level of good and evil in each person. However, there’s another reason for Philip’s good behavior: Philip’s father died before Philip was born, and Philip has always been told by his mother, that his dad is in Heaven. So Philip behaves this good, because he wants to be certain that he goes to Heaven, when he dies so he can finally meet his father. Unfortunately, things don’t quite go the way he has planned. The thing with his father becomes a very important part of the series.
Your Antboy books are very famous, having been turned into movies. Are there any similarities between the Antboy books and The Devil's Apprentice?
Well, they are very different stories. Antboy is my (hopefully funny, but not silly) take on superheroes and it is primarily for teen readers. The Great Devil War-series is also for teens and young adults, but it also has a lot of adult readers. But there are similarities. Both stories are about growing up and about learning who you are. They are also both humorous stories – at first. However, The Great Devil War-series does become darker and more sinister as the story progresses.
Movie rights for The Devil's Apprentice have also been optioned. Tell us more about this.
Yes, that’s very exciting! The movie company that made the Antboy movies, also optioned The Devil’s Apprentice, but I had to take back the movie rights as I realized it was impossible to do the movie in Denmark. There were too many changes in the story because it would be too expensive to do on a Danish budget. Now the movie rights have been optioned by a big Norwegian movie company, Maipo Film, and it will involve several countries. Fingers crossed!
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I’m a decent badminton player (even though my oldest son just beat me, but don’t tell anyone). Badminton is a popular sport in Denmark where we have to stay inside six months of the year.
The book contains a couple of twists and red herrings. Did you plan it all before you started writing, or did some of it just "happen" along the way?
I had planned most of them and I also knew how the story would end. What I didn’t know was that “The Devil’s Apprentice” would end up as volume 1 in a longer series. In the book there is a scene where Philip meets Death and learns that Death has a die, that decides the lifespan of every human being. As I wrote that scene I started to wonder, what would happen if Death’s die was stolen? Who would steal it and why? That’s what has happened in volume 2, “The Die of Death”. It’s a story about seeing death from a different perspective, just as The Devil’s Apprentice was a story about seeing evil from a different perspective.
Which one of your characters do you think you would get along with the most? What about the least?
I think I would get along really well with the gatekeeper Grumblebeard (he is the demon on the cover). I know he doesn’t look it, but he is actually a very nice and pleasant demon – although not to the condemned of course I wouldn’t get along with Aziel, who also has a beef with Philip. He is just bad company. He is … well, evil.
Do any of your characters take off on their own tangent and refuse to do what you had planned for them?
Yes, that sometimes happens. Especially in vol. 3. In vol. 3 stuff happens that I wish … well, hadn’t happened.
Your book has a very different take on good and evil, heaven and hell. Why did you take this approach?
- Fantasy stories are usually very black and white and I find the gray areas much more interesting. I wanted to take a look at evil – and Hell - from a different angle. The point of the story is not that it’s good to be bad, but that we have to acknowledge that we are flawed, because we are humans, not angels. And that that is alright. Since I wanted the story to take place in Hell, it couldn’t just be an inferno of chaos and suffering. I wanted a more small town-feeling. Yes, there is pain and torment – if you are a condemned soul – but for Philip – and the reader (and me) – it’s actually a nice place to visit. I like to think of the story as a sort of Harry Potter meets The Divine Comedy.
Talk to us a bit about your writing habits. Do you write early in the morning, or through the night? Pen or laptop? Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?
When I’m working on something – which I usually am - I write four hours a day. I have an office in my basement and I write from 8 am - 10 am and the again from 1 pm - 3 pm. I don’t aim for a certain amount of words or pages. Sometimes I write half a page in two hours if things go slow, sometimes three pages. It depends.
What are you working on right now?
A few weeks ago I published a new book called GRIMM, co-written with Danish writer Benni Bodker. The book consists of ten of the Grimm brothers best and most gruesome stories, which we have rewritten in a way that’s faithful to the stories but using our words and imagination. A very beautiful book, illustrated by one of Denmark’s best illustrators John Kenn Mortensen (check him out on Instagram) We are doing ten more fairy tales, which will come out this fall. At the same time I’m working on some new Antboy-stories. I’ve published six books so far and three more will come out next year – it will be the grand finale.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
On my English website www.kennethbandersen.com, Instagram, and on Facebook – I got a writer page on Facebook, but The Great Devil War also has its own FB-page. I love hearing from my readers!