Friday, December 2, 2011

London Times chooses Dark Endeavour as a 2011 Best Book for Children

The children's critic for The Times of London, Amanda Craig, has made her annual pick of the best children's books -- and This Dark Endeavour makes the cut for the young adult category (13yrs + ) alongside Moira Young's acclaimed Blood Red Road:
"Kenneth Oppel’s This Dark Endeavour (David Fickling £12.99), a captivating gothic novel for 13+ about the future Dr Frankenstein and his competitive love for his twin brother. Books this good are for life, not just Christmas."

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

This Dark Endeavor named a 2011 Quill & Quire Book of the Year

Reprinted from Quill & Quire Magazine

"The talented and prolific Kenneth Oppel already garners much attention from readers, award juries, and critics alike. So why feel the need to include him here? Here's the thing: sometimes the hype is justified. A Gothic tale of love, lust, ambition, and the supernatural, Oppel's latest effort, which has roots in Mary Shelley's classic horror novel, combines eloquent language and an action-filled plot. His young Frankenstein brothers, Victor and Konrad, are sure to get as much attention as those Twlight kids, especially once the movie (optioned by the producer of Stephenie Meyer's hit franchise) hits the big screen..."

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The New Covers

This Dark Endeavor will have a new look Summer 2012, in preparation for the release of the sequel, SUCH WICKED INTENT in August.

For those of you who didn't feel you had quite enough Victor Frankenstein in your life, rest easy -- the new cover gives you altogether more coverage of the mad-scientist-to-be, although his face is still, infuriatingly, half turned, or near concealed by abundant hair.

And for those of you who may have been curious about what the much sought-after Elizabeth Lavenza looks like, the cover of Such Wicked Intent should bring some satisfaction.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween

Always good to get some love from London, especially since England is the home and native land of Mary Shelley, whose masterpiece Frankenstein inspired This Dark Endeavour...

Friday, September 30, 2011

This Dark Endeavor and Augmented Reality

At hundreds of Chapters Indigo stores all across Canada, you will find an amazing banner depicting the Dark Library: shelf upon shelf of ancient tomes which Victor Frankenstein discovers in a secret chamber within his chateau.

If you have an Android phone, you can download a free app instantly, and scan your phone's camera over the shelves to search for a hidden volume. When you find it, the book will slide out from the shelf (on your cell phone screen), open, and reveal animated clues about my story.

The campaign was launched yesterday, at the Eaton Centre Indigo store in Toronto.

Or you can go here to my website, and experience the same thing via your computer's webcam:

Have fun!

And click here for Quill & Quire's coverage of the Augmented Reality campaign.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Young-adult Frankenstein

By Mark Medley
Reprinted from The National Post
photo credit: Tim Fraser

The National Post's Mark Medley spoke to bestselling author Kenneth Oppel about his latest young-adult epic.

Mary Shelley published Frankenstein, her first and bestknown novel, when she was only 21 - an age when most people are still in university. Impressed? Well, Kenneth Oppel was still in high school when he published Colin's Fantastic Video Adventure, a novel he'd begun at the age of 14.

Now, 25 years after the start of his writing career, Oppel has mined Shelley's masterpiece for his latest book, This Dark Endeavour: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein, one of the most talked-about young-adult novels of the fall.

"I think any time you use a classic as a springboard, you might be asking for a bit of trouble," says Oppel, sitting on a patio near his Toronto home earlier this week. "You're begging for a comparison. And it would be pretty tough to come out on the winning end."

Oppel was rereading Frankenstein a few years ago when he was struck by descriptions of the scientist's childhood. "No human being could have passed a happier childhood than myself," Frankenstein says in an early chapter, before chronicling carefree days spent seeking the elixir of life, searching for the philosopher's stone and raising demons.

"What kind of happy kid spends his time trying to raise the dead and commune with devils?" Oppel asks. "But, as a writer, I looked at that stuff and I thought, 'Hmm. It's pretty interesting kernels for stories.' "

Although he jotted down some ideas, Oppel was hesitant to write an origin story. The market was already flooded with prequels - Young Sherlock Holmes, Young James Bond - and Oppel didn't want to be seen as jumping on a bandwagon, however lucrative it might be. Eventually, after finally deciding to explore Frankenstein's childhood in a novel, Oppel typed up a couple of pages and sent them to his agent, who "flipped" for the idea. He then wrote two sample scenes, which his agent sent to publishers around the world. "There was a bidding war for the book based on the idea," Oppel says.

In This Dark Endeavour, a 16-year-old Victor Frankenstein, with the aid of his pseudo-sister Elizabeth and friend Henry Clerval, set out to find the Elixir of Life, which Victor hopes will save his twin brother, Konrad, who has been afflicted with a strange malady. Oppel describes it as an alternative history of the Frankenstein family.

"I'm just trying to capture the flavour of the book," he says. "It's not supposed to be a total simulation of what Mary Shelley might have written had she gone back further in the chronology of the story."

Those familiar with Shelley's life or her 1818 novel will spot elements Oppel has borrowed for his own work, but readers needn't be familiar with Shelley's book to enjoy Oppel's offering, though he hopes young readers will seek out the original afterwards.

"What's exceptional is the story and the subject matter," he says of the original. "It's mythological. It's a cautionary tale about science and religion and early technologies - our relationship to the things we create on the planet and the other creatures on the planet. So it's a very moral and ethical book. I think that's one of the reasons I like it - it's got everything: it's a page-turner, it's a great story, it's got a monster for God's sake! It's sci-fi! It's horror! It's everything! But as a writer, it's all material. I look at it as, what a great story. I'd like to dig around in that and see where I can go with it."

Oppel, who says he's drawn to "heroes with huge cracks in their character," sees some similarities between his own work and the scientist with the Lazarus complex.

"We're grave robbers," he says of writers. "We dig stuff up. We chop it up. We sew it back together. We do our best. Sometimes it's ugly. Sometimes the suturing isn't good. Actually, when I think about it, it's a pretty excellent metaphor for the creative process. Because there is theft - subconsciously if not consciously. My imagination is informed and made up with all my favourite books, everything I saw, every comic I read, every movie, every video game I played, every theme park ride I was on. Every experience that I had is somewhere in there. And you pilfer, and you poach, and you try to recreate these amazing moments you had as a kid - these perfect, amazing, moments - and create this world."

The 44-year-old Oppel has been creating worlds since 1985, when his first novel was published. Since then, he's written more than 20 books for children, young adults and adults, including 1997's Silverwing, which has sold almost a million copies around the world, and 2004's Airborn, which won the Governor General's Award for Children's Literature.

This Dark Endeavour may prove to be his most popular book yet. It has already been sold to 13 territories around the world, and optioned for film by Summit Entertainment, the powerhouse behind the Twilight franchise. Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) has been tapped to direct. Although Oppel is realistic about the movie's chances of being made - he says seven Frankenstein features are currently in development - This Dark Endeavour has one thing going for it: "Mine ... is the only one with hot teens."

Whatever happens with the movie, Oppel is not leaving Shelley's world behind just yet - a sequel called Such Wicked Intent will be released next year.

Midway through our interview, I ask Oppel if he'd mind it if another writer used his work for their own fiction.

"After I'm dead, I don't imagine I'll have any say in it anyway," he says with a laugh. "It's an interesting question. Sure, if they did a good job, all power to them. Go for it. I don't mind that, it's really quite flattering. Too bad I wouldn't be around to get some of the residuals."

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Oppel stirs up alchemical magic in Frankenstein prequel

Kenneth Oppel in 2008 - Kenneth Oppel in 2008 | Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Reviewed by Kelley Armstrong

Reprinted from The Globe and Mail
Published Friday, Sep. 23, 2011

Photo credit: copyright Fred Lum

The word “Frankenstein” often conjures up images of a block-headed monster brought to life by a mad scientist. But those familiar with Mary Shelley’s classic tale know that Frankenstein is not the monster; he is its creator, a young man driven to tragedy by ambition. In This Dark Endeavor, Kenneth Oppel adds a prologue to Shelley’s classic with a young adult novel about Victor Frankenstein, the teenager who will grow up to play God.

Oppel’s Victor is a 16-year-old living with his twin brother, Konrad, and their distant cousin, Elizabeth, in late-18th-century Switzerland. Together with their friend Henry Clerval, they enjoy the carefree lives of privileged young adults, and amuse themselves exploring the grounds, fencing and performing plays.

When Victor finds the Dark Library hidden deep in the subterranean passages beneath Chateau Frankenstein, it is like something out of their Gothic plays. After solving the riddle to enter, he discovers a library filled with arcane books, including Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa’s Occulta Philosophia, which becomes pivotal to the story. Victor soon finds himself fascinated by this mysterious world of occult science and alchemy. Of course, he is soon in urgent need of the magic these books promise, and the true story begins.

Oppel’s past novels for children have showcased his talent for writing action-packed tales. Despite the literary premise, This Dark Endeavor is no different. It comes as no surprise to learn that Hollywood is already developing a big-screen version of this cinematic adventure. Yet Oppel doesn’t sacrifice other aspects of the story to maintain the page-turning pace. He has obviously done extensive research into the period and the history of alchemy, and his historical setting is richly developed, as are the characters who inhabit it.

The protagonist, Victor, isn’t perfect. Oppel expertly lays the groundwork for the man we know Victor will become. He is arrogant and reckless, driven by a passionate, striving intelligence and a refusal to accept natural law as inviolable. He is also a believable teenager, beginning to question authority and make his own choices. When his father tries to dissuade him by confessing his own mistakes, Victor’s reaction is typical for his age, seeing not parental concern, but hypocrisy.

Oppel doesn’t neglect the female part of his audience either. In Elizabeth, he creates a spirited young woman who refuses to be left on the sidelines during even the most dangerous adventures.

There is a final twist that seems abrupt, leading to a rushed final chapter. However, the ending does propel the story in a direction it must go, and will leave readers eagerly awaiting the sequel.

For those who have read Frankenstein, This Dark Endeavor adds a new chapter – and a fresh angle – to a familiar story. The target audience, though, is teens, most of whom will not be familiar with the source material. Fortunately, they will have no trouble enjoying this story on its own merits. This Dark Endeavor may renew interest in Frankenstein, but it also stands alone as an original and welcome addition to the world of young-adult fiction.

Kelley Armstrong is the author of the Darkest Power series for young adults.

© 2011 The Globe and Mail Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Toronto Star covers DARK ENDEAVOUR

The darker side of sweet sixteen

September 16, 2011
By Sarah Millar Toronto Star

This isn't the first time a book of Kenneth Oppel's has been optioned for a movie.

It's happened to many of his books before, including the Airborn trilogy, which was optioned by Universal Pictures and Stephen Somers, the man behind The Mummy movies.

"That never got made," the Toronto-based author said pointedly over the phone.

Now it's the author's latest young adult book, This Dark Endeavour: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein, which has been optioned for a film. This time by Summit Entertainment and Karen Rosenfelt: The people who took the Twilight trilogy to the big screen.

So far the film has a director: Matt Reeves, who directed the film Cloverfield (which is one of Oppel calls: "Godzilla done right."), and a screenwriter.

But just because the book has been optioned, has a producer, a director and a screenwriter doesn't mean it's going to get made. Especially in Hollywood. This is something Oppel knows well. Because of this, he's trying to remain realistic, but hopeful about the book coming to a big screen near you.

This Dark Endeavour, which was released last month, tells the story of Victor Frankenstein at the age of 16. It riffs off Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, a book that Oppel has always loved.

After re-reading the classic novel years ago, he began to wonder about Frankenstein's youth. He was intrigued by how Frankenstein described his youth ("No youth could have passed more happier than mine").

"It made me laugh because I thought it was a rather disingenous statement to say that when you're doing things totally unlike what you imagine a happy, carefree youth would do," Oppel said.

He also wondered what could happen to someone in their youth that would turn them into a man who goes around digging up graves and chopping up body parts and sewing them back together.

As a starting point, he decided to tell the story of Frankenstein's hunt for the Elixir of life — something Shelley mentioned in her novel. In This Dark Endeavour, young Victor feels compelled to find the Elixir when his beloved twin brother gets ill and may die. Fearing that conventional medicine cannot save him, Victor turns to black magic.

Oppel admitted that there were challenges in taking a character so well-known and making it his own.

"I was apprehensive, certainly in so much as you feel nervous taking on a literary classic and borrowing from it and reimagining it," he explained.

"So you feel you have to be respectful and try to keep the spirit of the original. And I tried to do that with the language, without alienating my readers. I'd like to think the novel has the same tone, it's the same sort of gothic, operatic, overwrought tone as the original."

Oppel learned that the book had been optioned in January of this year, after he had finished writing it. But, he said, the thought of the book being made into a movie did not influence the writing process.

"Realistically, the chance of any book becoming a film is slim. Even though now more than ever before more young adult books are being turned into movies because it's a very hot market, (doesn't guarantee a film will come)," he said.

Instead, Oppel's looking forward to his next book, a follow up to This Dark Endeavour, called Such Wicked Intent which picks up right where This Dark Endeavour leaves off and will be released in about a year. Oppel is not sure if the series of young Victor Frankenstein will stretch beyond the two books, but said he loves to write characters like Victor Frankenstein.

"It's so much more interesting to take a character that really exhibits every element of human nature than just focus on someone that's calm and heroic and does the right thing 95 per cent of the time. . . in the new book he descends to new levels of obsessiveness, and that to me is the fun part.

"I mean he's Victor Frankenstein, he's not Charlie Brown."

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

THIS DARK ENDEAVOR: Review of the Week

Reprinted from QUILL & QUIRE

October 2011

The movie rights to Kenneth Oppel’s latest novel have already been sold to the producers of the Twilight series. No surprise there. This Dark Endeavour has all the elements – a love triangle, the supernatural, a touch of animal lust – that made the Stephanie Meyer franchise such a hit.

It also has depth and intelligence. Set in 18th-century Geneva, the story revolves around 16-year-old twins Victor and Konrad Frankenstein and their distant cousin, Elizabeth, who has lived with the Frankenstein family in their ancestral castle since she was a child. The three discover a secret library full of books on alchemy, including one that promises to produce an “Elixir of Life.” When Konrad falls gravely ill, Victor, against his father’s instructions, sets out with Elizabeth to find the ingredients for the elixir.

Along for the ride is family friend Henry Clerval (whose ultimate fate will be known to those who have read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein). His role here is limited, but since two more books are planned, it’s a sure bet we’ll be seeing more of him.

It takes a while to get used to the prose, which faintly echoes the style of Shelley’s 19th-century novel. At first it feels rather stilted, but once the adventure gets going, we are quickly caught up in Victor’s quest for the three ingredients, his growing lust for Elizabeth, and his jealousy over her preference for the “good” twin, Konrad.

Most engaging of all is Oppel’s choice of narrator. Victor’s seething passions and mixed motives – coupled with his clear-eyed assessment of them – make him by far the most complex and, oddly, sympathetic character Oppel has created (at least, among those that are human). Kind, sensible Konrad seems positively pale by comparison. Team Victor, start your engines.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

THIS DARK ENDEAVOR: Review of the Week


Love, loyalty, loss, and obsession, all linger at the heart of Kenneth Oppel's This Dark Endeavour: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein , a gripping narrative of the early years of Mary Shelley's Dr. Frankenstein, his family, and the passions that ultimately consumed him. I am often wary of prequels to classic novels, but I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised and more than a little short of breath by the time I read the final sentence of this, dare I say, masterpiece. Having recently read Shelley's Frankenstein , I was not entirely sure how this attempt at a childhood story of the mad doctor would turn out. Hours after finishing the novel, I am already anxious for another installment.

Victor tells the story from his perspective, detailing his relationship with his twin brother Konrad, his cousin Elizabeth, and his friend Henry, as they enter a world of alchemy and pseudo-science. The three children come across a hidden library one day, deep within the bowels of the Frankenstein chateau, an eerily spectacular castle sitting on the edge of Lake Geneva. The Dark Library, as it is named, holds shelf upon shelf of dusty tomes from long-dead philosophers, alchemists, and mad-men. Victor's father is insistent that the children stay away from the library for fear that they will be seduced by the false knowledge hidden on the brittle, dusty pages. But one day, Konrad falls mysteriously ill, and even after a number of physicians, including Dr.Murnau—a delightful nod to W. F. Murnau of Nosferatu fame—are unable to find anything but a temporary cure, Victor, Elizabeth, and Henry, try to find a cure on their own.

Aided by a mysterious old alchemist named Julius Poidori, who lives in the city, the three friends embark on a series of adventures to find ingredients for the Elixir of Life, an ancient recipe written in an almost unreadable language. Along the way, Victor finds out about a deeper, romantic connection between Konrad and Elizabeth. With this knowledge, mixed with jealousy and the possibility of an elixir that can cure all ills and prevent death—with the exception of the most violent or gruesome kind—he becomes ever more obsessed in his quest. Soon after the elixir is complete, he discovers that he is not the only one who has developed a deep and frightening desire to obtain it.

Oppel's characters are incredibly complex, with the possible exception of Victor and Konrad's mother—who is often peripheral, though still strong when she shows up—and all seem to have some dark secret that motivates them throughout the novel. What starts out as an innocent quest for a medicine to cure Konrad quickly turns into a dark and twisted game of survival, secrets, and deceit, and the further they all continue, the less likely it is that any of them will actually win. This book is a work of fiction that goes beyond the limits of a simple prequel, often seeming as if Mary Shelley, herself, might have imagined the world and history of the Frankenstein family that Oppel has created. Oppel's mastery of language, and his ability to provoke a multitude of emotions, shines through, in This Dark Endeavour: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein

Highly Recommended. (4/4 STARS)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Sketchbook of Victor Frankenstein, Part III

"He is quite tame. He came to me as a mere kitten and is as amiable as any house cat. Aren't you, Krake?"

The alchemist's fingers vigorously kneaded the fur between Krake's ears, and the lynx gave a luxuriant yawn, revealing wickedly sharp teeth...

-- from This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein.

artwork copyright Sophia Oppel

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Sketchbook of Victor Frankenstein

Artwork copyright Sophia Oppel
In his youth, Victor Frankenstein kept a sketchbook, in which we can find some clues about his life and secret adventures -- as chronicled in THIS DARK ENDEAVOR...

Friday, August 26, 2011


No, I won't be going to Belize on my tour, but how often do I get to stand atop a Mayan pyramid?

Here are the initial dates for my Fall book tour. More dates and details to  come:


NAIBA (New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Assoc.)
Breakfast Speaker
September 20, 2011

Towne Book Centre event
details tba
September 21, 2011

Books, Bytes & Beyond
details tba
September 22, 2011

Word on the Street,
Queen's Park
Bestsellers Tent
12 noon
September 25, 2011


School and Library Visits
October 3-6, 2011

Vancouver Kids Books
West Point Grey United Church Sanctuary
4595 West 8th Avenue
October 6, 7:00 pm

October 14-15
details tba

School Visits
October 19-21, 2011

Books for the Beast Conference
Keynote Speaker
October 22, 2011

Texas Book Fair
October 23, 2011
details tba


ALAN Young Adult Literature Conference
November 21-23, 2011

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

It's Alive!!

Feel like more monster in your life?

I'm very pleased to announce that my latest book THIS DARK ENDEAVOR: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein goes on sale today in the United States.

For my fellow Canadians, it will be published next week on August 30th by HarperCollins.

And to my British friends, you will alas have to wait until October 6th when it will be published by David Fickling Books/Random House. But that will just give you time to read Mary Shelley's gothic masterpiece Frankenstein.

Here's what reviewers are saying so far about the book. (And by the way, whenever you see those .... ellipses in a review blurb, it means I'm just skipping ahead to the next really good bit, or deleting something mean or silly the reviewer said. You'd be amazed at how even the stingiest, most negative reviews can yield at least one good pull quote. Trust me.)

"In this stylish gothic tale, teenage Victor Frankenstein makes a desperate attempt to create the forbidden alchemical Elixir of Life, in order to save his beloved twin brother, Konrad, from an untimely death.... Oppel hews closely to the Frankenstein mythos, and with a delicious mix of science, history, and horror, he peers into the psyche of a young man who is beginning to hunger for greater control over life and death. Publishers Weekly (starred review).

"As a prequel to Mary Shelley's gothic classic Frankenstein, this is both meticulously researched and highly original.... Written from Victor's perspective and filled with his believable internal moral struggles, Oppel's novel is a gripping tale of undying devotion, mixing hope with foreboding. Horn Book (starred review)

"Dark psychological drama is the main engine here: Victor’s determination to succeed is as much an urge to outperform Konrad as to save him. Oppel grapples with the human duality of animal and soul in ways that recall (but don’t repeat) Shelley’s similar thematic explorations as he revitalizes the classic horror tale for a new generation." Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (starred review)

"A dark and dramatic back story for Shelley's tormented creator." Kirkus Reviews

"Brash, jealous, and arrogant, Victor is sweet relief from today’s introspective YA protagonists, and one can easily visualize how this teen becomes the mad genius of Shelley’s Frankenstein." Booklist

“Oppel has reinvented the gothic thriller for modern readers. The narrative crackles with tension, emotions run high, and the atmosphere is perfectly dark and brooding. The Shelleys would be proud. I definitely recommend you check out the book when it's published August 23. I anticipate This Dark Endeavor will get a lot of attention, and rightly so." Rick Riordan, author of  the Percy Jackson series

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Kenneth Oppel takes a holiday

This is me, working really, really hard on my next novel. With a looming deadline, I did what any self-respecting writer would do: I took my family on vacation. Wandering around Venice was much more fun than staring at my computer screen, trying to puzzle out my tortured characters' motivations, and wondering why that bit in the middle isn't nearly as exciting as it should be.

You'd be hard pressed to find a more spectacular city than Venice. You don't even need to try to find beautiful things. There are, of course, the many splendid vistas across the Grand Canal, but (and this is my favourite thing to do) just wander anywhere and you'll discover small streets and little squares and quiet bridges and, everywhere, the beautiful decrepitude that Venice has had centuries to achieve.

So by all means, start with the Piazza San Marco. After all, it's been in James Bond movies and stuff, so you kind of have to see it. The Basilica looks like this:

My advice: take in the square and Ducal Palace, the pigeons, the quarter of a million tourists -- and then get out of there. As quickly as possible. Of course, if shopping really turns you on, nearby you'll find shops like Bulgari and Prada and Gucci where you can see handbags and clothing so appallingly silly and ugly that it shakes my faith in the human species. But that's just me.

The farther away from the square you get, the more interesting the city becomes, especially as you find the small streets and neighbourhoods where there are real shops (that sell, um, food and vacuum cleaners and stuff) and real apartments where real Venetians live.

You can usually tell the real Venetians easily from the tourists, especially the women. They are often very well dressed, smoking furiously while talking into a cell phone and walking with terrifying speed, while emanating a thought bubble that very clearly reads: "Get out of my way, or I will kill you with the stiletto heel of my designer shoe."

The other cool thing about finding a quiet local square, say to have lunch on a red bench while your littlest daughter chases pigeons, is that you will come across real signs of the real city, like this garbage can with very helpful and specific information on it, about what NOT to put inside. I myself witnessed some locals trying to stuff their entire refrigerator into the can, without success -- but it didn't stop me from, later that night, cramming in an ugly armchair which was taking up too much space in my hotel room.

Unless you want to seem like The Grinch, you can't really take your family to Venice and not go on a gondola ride. It's pricey, but the boats themselves are really beautiful (see the seahorse detailing on the left) and you get a unique vantage point from the waterline. If you're lucky you might see a rat scuttling out of sight from the arrestingly jade-coloured water (I didn't see one this time, but did last time. Maybe they've been drinking too much jade-coloured canal water.)

Wander around enough and you can actually see the place where they make and take care of the gondolas.
And remember how I said everything was beautiful in Venice. Here, on the left, this is not a church (as I first thought). This is their civic hospital. I have no idea if the facilities inside are similarly baroque. It's kind of hard to imagine getting really top notch brain surgery here -- but I bet they're really awesome at applying leeches and dispensing edifying elixirs.

Oh, and remember how I said the best thing in Venice was just to wander around. Yeah. Just bring a map. The place is a maze. Here I am, trying to look nonchalant as I look (for the 126th time) at my map, trying to figure out just where the hell I am.

After Venice, I didn't think I'd procrastinated quite long enough, so we went off to some Greek islands,which were beautiful.

But then my various editors started getting anxious about a) where I was and b) when I was coming home and c) when was I planning on finishing the second book of the Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein.

So I came home.

And, oh yeah, This Dark Endeavor (Book One) comes out at the end of August... I'm really excited about it, and hope you enjoy it!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Exclusive Interview!! Shocking Confessions!!

One of my favourite Seinfeld episodes involves Jerry being invited back to his old high school to speak at career day, but as he anxiously awaits his turn in the hall outside the gymnasium, he gets bumped by a series of other speakers (who go over big) and then a fire drill scuppers his appearance altogether.

I can happily say this was not my experience when I returned last May to my old high school, St Michaels University School (SMUS) in Victoria BC for a day of speaking engagements. I was even given the lofty title Scholar in Residence! Over the course of the day I spoke to attentive junior, middle, and senior students (without any fire drills), was treated to a lunch with the librarians, the energetic head of English and a group of bright and lively students, given a tour of the very impressive campus, and made to feel very welcome by the library and Alumni staff.

And even though, during my time at the school, I was a notorious non-joiner, was guilty of shockingly poor school spirit, and generally cultivated the persona of a tortured and misunderstood artist-in-the-making, all these years after my graduation, the school was kind enough to put me on the cover of their handsome Alumni Magazine, School Ties!

Below, you will find the exclusive, candid interview conducted by my friend and former alumnus, journalist Bert Archer, in which I talk about the school, and some of my experiences, and writing in general.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Awards 2011

Melanie Watt (best picture book winner for Chester's Masterpiece) and I pose with our impractically large prize cheques Our respective juries are off to either side: amazing kids who read, discussed, debated and chose the winning book from a shortlist of five!

Melanie Watt and I with the Solways, the relatives of Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz, the esteemed Toronto booksellers after whom the award is named.

Will it fit into the ATM or will I actually have to talk to a teller?

Doing a quick reading of HALF BROTHER in which Ben gets peed on by a baby chimp. Went down well I think.

Friday, June 3, 2011


I spent four years of my childhood in Halifax, so was particularly pleased to receive both the Children's Book of the Year Award, and Young Adult Book Award in a city that holds so many fond memories for me -- the Bookmobile on Saturday in the Sobey's parking lot, the Historic Properties, Point Pleasant Park, the wonderful old library on Spring Garden Road -- and my first viewing of Star Wars at the Gottingen Street Cinema!

Thanks to photogapher Erica Penton I have a photographic record of the evening!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Oppel's DARK ENDEAVOR film moves ahead

Matt Reeves And Jacob Estes Take On Summit's Frankenstein Film

Tuesday May 24, 2011 @ 4:43pm EDT
reprinted fromHollywood Deadline

Let Me In director Matt Reeves has been signed to direct This Dark Endeavor, with Mean Creek writer/helmer Jacob Aaron Estes writing the script for Summit Entertainment. Deadline told you yesterday about a batch of films based on the Mary Shelley Frankenstein novel. Summit just took a step forward in this contest. The film is based on the Kenneth Oppel novel This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein. It will be published this summer by Simon & Schuster, the first of a series.

In the Oppel novel, Frankenstein's twin Konrad is gravely ill. His brother seeks out a mysterious old alchemist to help him produce the Elixir of Life, a serum that will bestow the gift of perpetual health. You can't order this drink at a pub, and Frankenstein sets out on a dangerous adventure to find the elusive contents. He's accompanied by his best friend Elizabeth, who is sweet on Konrad. Things get complicated among the three of them.

Reeves, who also directed Cloverfield, adds This Dark Endeavor to two other projects he's working on. He signed recently to direct the Justin Cronin vampire novel The Passage for Fox 2000, and he's got a deal at Universal to write and direct a film based on the Ray Nelson short story 8 O'Clock in the Morning, about a man who awakens with the realization that aliens are all over the place and control society. Estes just completed The Details, the Tobey Maguire/Elizabeth Banks-starrer that sold to The Weinstein Company in a big deal at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. Both are repped by CAA.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Half Brother optioned for film

By Jeff Sneider
Reprinted from Variety

Producers Christian Taylor ("Hick") and Eva Orner ("Taxi to the Dark Side") have optioned Kenneth Oppel's young adult novel "Half Brother."

Set in the 1970s, the coming-of-age story explores the bond between a teenage boy and a chimpanzee, as well as the ethical implications of animal research. Raised by the boy's family as part of a study, the chimp quickly becomes a media sensation, but when the project loses its funding the teen must risk everything to save the animal.

Producers are in the process of finding a writer and distribution partner for the project, which is said to feature a magical quality reminiscent of "E.T."

Scholastic/HarperCollins published "Half Brother." named a 2011 Best Book for Young Adults by the American Library Assn.

Summit Entertainment recently acquired rights to Oppel's upcoming novel "This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein," which Karen Rosenfelt ("Twilight") is on board to produce.

Taylor is producing "Hick," an indie pic that will star Chloe Moretz, Blake Lively and Eddie Redmayne.

Oppel's publishing rep is Writer's House, while Rosen Feig Golland and Lunn repped Taylor and Orner in the deal. Richard Shepherd represented film rights on the project.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Spring Appearances

Coast to coast this spring, here's where you'll find me doing readings, presentations and workshops...

MARCH 2011

Kitchener Public Library
Country Hills Branch
March 1, 5pm

Kitchener Public Library
Country Hills Branch
March 28, 7pm

APRIL 2011
School Book Tour
April 11-15, 2011

Kitchener Public Library
Country Hills Branch
April 16, 10am

Frye Festival,
Moncton, New Brunswick,
April 27-30, 2011

MAY 2011

Literacy for Life Conference
May 2-4, 2011

School Book Tour
May 10-13, 2011

Kitchener Public Library
Country Hills Branch
May 31st, 1pm

Kitchener Public Library
Country Hills Branch
May 31st, 6:30pm

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Summit acquires 'Victor Frankenstein' rights - Entertainment News, Top News, Media - Variety

Summit acquires 'Victor Frankenstein' rights - Entertainment News, Top News, Media - Variety

Studio nabs feature claim to Kenneth Oppel's upcoming novel

Dark Endeavor
By Dave McNary

Summit is looking to make a big-screen version of the Frankenstein origin story and has acquired rights to Kenneth Oppel's upcoming novel "This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein."

Projects' been set with Karen Rosenfelt, a producer on Summit's "Twilight" franchise and Fox's "Alvin" films.

The tome's the first book of a series to be published by Simon & Schuster. Story follows Victor Frankenstein's twin brother falling ill, leading Victor to seek out a mysterious old alchemist to help him produce the Elixir of Life, a fabled serum that will bestow the drinker with perpetual health. Aided by his best friend Elizabeth, Victor sets out on a quest for the three ingredients needed to save Konrad's life.

Oppel's previously written the "Silverwing" trilogy and "Airborn."

Erik Feig, Gillian Bohrer and Ashley Schlaifer are overseeing the project for the studio.

ICM represented film rights on the project. Oppel's publishing rep is Writer's House.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Uncomfortable Bits

There’s a scene in my new book, Half Brother, that some people have found very uncomfortable. I won’t tell you what it is; you’ll have to read the book to find out – and maybe you won’t find it uncomfortable at all. But it’s made me think about how differently people can respond to the same material – and most importantly, how much I’ve come to appreciate those moments – in a movie, or a book, or simply watching Ricky Gervais host an awards show – that have pushed me beyond my comfort zone, or violated my expectations in some way.

Because it’s inevitably these moments that stay with me the longest. It might be something as simple as the scenes in the movie Castaway where Tom Hanks names and starts talking to the volleyball – annoyingly absurd I thought at the outset, but then realized how brilliant and moving it was – a man so lonely and desperate to cling to sanity, he finds companionship however he can. Or the scene in Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of Frankenstein where, having birthed the creature, he’s unable to lift its giant frame from the floor, and staggers and slips about for a prolonged period in a slick of “amniotic” fluid – at first it seemed farcical and gratuitously slimy, but then in my mind it became brilliantly primal, and a metaphorical wrestling with the boundaries of science and morality. Or it might be the literal ringing of bells in heaven when the heroine is “martyred” at the end of Breaking the Waves – a moment which several of my friends said utterly ruined the entire movie for them, but which I think is brilliant.

At their best, uncomfortable moments aren’t just shocking and interesting; they can challenge our convictions. As readers, viewers, citizens, we tend to prefer the same menu. There’s a comfort in it, a sense of security, but sometimes also an almost self-righteous complacency: See, everyone thinks exactly the same thing as me! But what I think is so valuable about a work of art is how it can confront you with a new opinion, a new moral or political idea, that you’d never considered. Novels as disparate as Never Let Me Go, Cider House Rules, Feed, Frankenstein, and Wolf Hall have introduced me to new and uncomfortable ideas, and forced me to think about life in different ways – and while my personal reactions and reflections might not have been those intended by the author –perhaps quite the opposite in some cases – the important thing is the process: an opening to ideas rather than a closing.

So, long live uncomfortable scenes!

By the way, here's some of what Patrick Ness said about Half Brother in his recent review in The Guardian:

"Oppel is pleasingly unafraid to ask awkward questions, often right at the point where readers might have made up their minds. What a particular joy for a teenage reader, to be challenged rather than instructed. Parents might be surprised at the passionate discussions Half Brother ends up inspiring, along with a healthy new respect for our closest genetic cousins." – Patrick Ness in The Guardian, 22.1.11