How fear influences Andrew Pyper

The thriller writer discusses his latest book, The Only Child, a tale inspired by the classic literary monsters Dracula, Hyde and Frankenstein's monster.
Andrew Pyper talks about what influences his writing, including his latest book, The Only Child (CBC/Simon & Schuster)

Andrew Pyper is one of Canada's most prolific and beloved thriller writers. His latest, The Only Child, has its roots in three classic Gothic horror stories — Frankenstein, Dracula and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde — but it's set in contemporary times. The main character is Lily, a forensic psychiatrist who assesses violent offenders. Her latest client is just that — but also claims that he is 200 years old, is the real-life inspiration for those classic monsters and is her father. 

What fear does

I think fear reveals many of the defences and veils that we use to protect ourselves from being seen for what we really are. Sometimes those veils are unknown even to ourselves. And fear, and the experience of horror or the uncanny, delivers us a rendering of ourselves that is often more real than the every day. 

Who influences him

We would not have zombies if it weren't for Mary Shelley. We wouldn't have Twilight were it not for Bram Stoker. And on and on and on. This is a tradition that lives within us. We live and breathe the Gothic. I approached it with respect, but also with great excitement. I can leave my mark on a tradition that is so broad and so deeply influential to all of us. 

What scares him

I used to be so much tougher. I would watch horror movies as a steady diet of that stuff. Now I'm quite squeamish and easily upset, and I cry when I watch TV, even if it's bad. I've gotten really soft. But what frightens me is the revelation of the capacity for cruelty in all of us. The thinness of the membrane between being a good person and indulging in the opportunity for cruelty. And for denying others safety. And not just recognizing that in other people, but recognizing it in ourselves. I think that's the moral purpose and the usefulness of scary stories — to reveal how that potential rests in all of us and it must be resisted. It doesn't just say oh, look at the monster, look how different it is, and how scary it is. It's just the opposite.

Andrew Pyper's comments have been edited and condensed.