Daniel Handler was born in 1970 and brought up in San Francisco, graduating from Lowell High School. During the early '80s he sang with the San Francisco Boys Chorus in San Francisco Opera productions such as La Boheme, Carmen and Tosca.
His parents met at the opera, but his mother is not an opera singer as has been widely reported due to a misinterpreted joke he made in an early interview. His mother, Sandra Handler, used to be the dean of City College of San Francisco. His father was a CPA who fled Germany as a young boy; Handler says "I knew about the Holocaust at an earlier age than most people learn about it, I think, and so the idea that the world could suddenly go very wrong, and that it had no bearing on what sort of person you were, sunk in pretty early. And it's affected my politics and my writing and my life."
Handler double-majored in English and American Studies at Wesleyan University, where he met his wife, Lisa Brown, a graphic designer and writer. They have one child, Otto, born in 2003.
Handler also writes as Lemony Snicket. This psedonym came about when he was researching his first novel, The Basic Eight, and needed to contact for research purposes some right-wing political organizations and religious groups, but didn't want his name to be on their mailing list. When someone asked him his name, out popped "Lemony Snicket."
When not portraying Snicket, Handler writes novels under his own name. His first novel, The Basic Eight (1999) was set in an austere academy not unlike his own high school; Watch Your Mouth followed in 2000, and Adverbs was published in 2006.
When asked to comment on the success of the Lemony Snicket series, Handler says "I find it mind-boggling... I think I got lucky - there's not really a trick to getting published. Everybody knows how to do it. You find an editor who likes your work. There are plenty of good things that don't get published and there are plenty of bad things that do."
Handler says that the Lemony Snicket series is in the gothic tradition of Wuthering Heights. He also says that the books follow the great Jewish traditions in that the Baudelaire orphans behave well and bravely because it's the right thing to do, not because they'll get ahead; as he says "Judaism doesn't really promise any reward, they just emphasize that good behavior is more or less its own reward."
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In a silly and smile-provoking string of short interviews, Daniel Handler introduces his novel, Why We Broke Up, by asking strangers in Grand Central Station about their experiences with heartbreak.
Daniel Handler asks strangers in Grand Central Station about their experiences with heartbreak
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