Best-selling horror author (think about the “Saga of Darren Shan” or “Demonata” series) Darren Shan answers my questions about vampires, horror and writing - and tells us more about his upcoming movie…
Hi Darren, thank you for visiting me on “Veronika Asks” for the October special! Would you please introduce yourself to our readers? How would you describe yourself (then your works) with three words?
I’m the author of horror books for teenagers (primarily) and adults (previously as D B Shan, although they are to be rebranded as Darren Shan books from this point forward). My books are on sale in close to 40 countries around the world, and have sold somewhere in the region of 13 million copies, give or take.
Me — light, happy, genial.
My books — dark, twisted, demented.
“Hell’s Heroes”, the tenth book in the “Demonata” series, is out this month (October 2009). Can you share a few spoilers (what is the “Demonata” series about, by the way)?
The Demonata is a ten book series about demons. The backdrop to the overall story is that there is a parallel universe to ours, populated entirely by demons. They have been biting away at humanity for thousands of years, but are now posied to break through and wipe us out. Three teenagers have the power to stop them. Sounds cliched and straightforward, doesn’t it? But trust me, it isn’t! Hell’s Heroes is the final book in the series, when everything hits the fan!
“The Vampire’s Assistant”, (a movie blending the first three books of “The Saga of Darren Shan” together), is due to be released on October 23, 2009. Have you already seen it and were you fully involved in the project?
I wasn’t involved in the film in any real way. I did read through the script just before they started shooting, and made some suggestions, a few of which they heeded, but for the most part this is writer-director Paul Weitz’s baby, a re-imagining and re-invention of the story told in the books. It makes all sorts of major changes, so it isn’t a fiathful adaptation, but I have seen it and I do like it. As much as they changed, it keeps the dark, twisted, freakish elements of the books, which for me was the most important thing.
You said you started writing when you were fourteen years old. Were you already writing horror, fantasy and dark comedies then? Why did you pick the horror genre?
Yes, my work has almost always been focused on matters dark and grisly, although I have written some lighter books in my time. I didn’t pick the horror genre — it’s just what I was naturally drawn to. I always think it’s a matter of simple tastes. Some people like steak, some prefer pork. Some people like romance, some prefer horror.
Why do you think people are so fond of horror stories? How do you explain your success?
I think for the same reason they like roller coasters — it’s scary, but safe. We get a buzz from being scared, an adrenalin rush. As long as that happens in a safe, controlled environment, that can be hugely enjoyable.
Do you plan on writing something non-horror related? Or, to say it another way, if you had to choose between writing in another genre or not at all, what would you pick?
I’ve written all sorts of books, many of which have yet to see print. Fantasy and sci-fi themes crop up in most of them, but I’ve written some straight-up thrillers too, a direction I might be exploring a bit further in my adult books over the next few years.
I understood, from online articles (and your Wikipedia page, for that matter), that your first books weren’t really successful. What made you start over, write a new book, send it again, in one word: fight?
I didn’t actually start over. I spend an average of 2 to 3 years working on any one book, but I juggle several books around at the same time. So, I might work on a first draft of a book this month, the third draft of a different book next month, and the final draft of yet another book the month after that. My first book to be published was for adults. It picked up some decent reviews, but didn’t sell very well. But I’d already written and sold the first few of my vampire books for children while waiting for it to be published, so it wasn’t a case of failing with one type of book and then trying another — both were created during the same time period. My children’s book took off — my adult books didn’t. Although they’ve sold significantly better since they were republished recently!
You said you own thousands of films. Which movies can we find in Darren Shan’s collection?
Just about everything. I have over 4000 films in my collection, from short silent films made around the turn of the 20th century, to classic Hollywood productions of the 30s and 40s, to modern blockbusters, to foreign-language films, to… I’m not too fond of true-life made-for-TV dramas, but I’ll give just about anything else a go.
How do you work? Do you have special rituals or habits that help you? Is the writer’s block a problem?
I’ve never had writer’s block, though some books certainly do come easier than others. An idea can come from anywhere. I’ll play around with it until I’m ready to start writing (that can be anything from a couple of days to several years), then jot down a brief synopsis of the book. Then I’ll usually break it down into chapters, to give myself a firm starting point. Then I sit down at my PC and write an average of 10 pages a day until the first draft is finished. After that, I’ll usually leave it alone for several months, go and work on other books. Then I’ll do an edit, leave it for a while, work on other books, return and do another edit, etc. I’ll usually do at least 6 or 7 edits of a book before I’m happy with it.
If you could be a hero or a creature from one of your books, who would you be? For that matter, if you had to choose, would you be an Evil Fighter or a Dark Creature?
Well, my first series for kids, The Saga of Darren Shan, was based on a character who shared my name, and who might indeed (if you read the series all the way to the end) actually BE me, so in a way I already AM a hero from my books! :-)
If you had a special power, what would it be and why?
The power to eat as much as I liked and never put on any weight!
What about your projects?
Next up is a one-off fantasy book called The Thin Executioner. Then a four-book series about Mr Crepsley, the main adult vampire from my vampire series, telling his back-story.
Do you want to add something (or perhaps wish a happy Halloween to our readers? And while we’re at it, do you celebrate it and how?)?
I’ll be celebrating Halloween in Orlando this year, and checking out their Cirque Du Freak scare zone in the Uuniversal Halloween Horror Nights theme park — I’m intrigued to see what it will be like!
And of course, I can’t do without the “Nothing-to-do-with-books-question”: you’ve found $100, how will you use your newly acquired money?
Buy some more films, probably!
Author & Book: Stephen King. The Secret Garden.
Movie & TV show: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly. Boys From The Blackstuff.
Food: Sweet & Sour chicken.
Hobby: Collecting art.
Place to write: My office.
Quote or Motto: Don’t let the bastards grind you down!!
“Tea or Coffee?”
Tea or Coffee? Neither — I’m a hot chocolate man!
Saturday night. Disco & Restaurant or Home, Books & DVDs? Usually home, watching a movie.
Going on holidays. Beach or Mountains? Mountains.
Sleepy Little Town or Crazy Megapolis? Both — I live in the countryside in Ireland, but have a flat at the heart of London, and I love bouncing about between the two.
Pick a DVD: Comedy or Weepy Drama? Either, depending on my mood.
Like To Travel or Hate to Move? Love travelling, except when I’m in the middle of a first draft of a book, when I barely even stick my nose outside my front door.
Sport Lover or Couch Potato? I like watching soccer, but I don’t play any sports.
Leader or Follower? Leader.
Shy or Easy-going? Shy.
Serious or Funny? Seriously funny!!
Thank you, Darren!
You can learn more about Darren Shan and his books at http://www.darrenshan.com
Darren’s Reading List for Halloween
“Salem’s Lot” by Stephen King.
“The Books Of Blood” by Clive Barker.
“Let The Right One In” by John Ajvide Lindqvist.