Plot Outline:

Book 2 of The Saga Of Darren Shan. Having abandoned his old way of life to unwillingly serve as Mr Crepsley's assistant, Darren must accustom himself to the habits of vampires. But the change is difficult and the loneliness is crushing.

In an attempt to give Darren a sense of stability, Mr Crepsley takes him to live at the Cirque Du Freak, where he is to share a tent with Evra Von -- the Snake Boy introduced in Book 1. Darren soon fits into his new position -- even if he doesn't exactly enjoy hunting food for the ominous Little People! -- and he and Evra befriend a curious young boy called Sam Grest, whose one great wish is to join the travelling freak show.

But all is not well with Darren. He refuses to drink human blood, even though he'll die without it. While Mr Crepsley argues with him, and tries forcing him to drink, Darren grows weaker and weaker. Will he resist the temptation of blood and sacrifice himself for the benefit of his humanity -- or will some awful turn of events lead to his becoming a true, blood-sucking creature of the night???

Author Notes:

The Vampire's Assistant was published on May 30th, 2000. I didn't know when I wrote Cirque Du Freak that this was going to be such a long series. I knew that book 1 would be open-ended, leaving me with the possibility of writing another few books, but I didn’t have any clear series plans in mind. My vague thoughts were that Darren and Mr Crepsley would wander from one location to another, having run-ins with various types of monsters. With that in mind, I started plotting out the second book. (This was before the first one had been rejected by every publisher in town, a good example of the benefits of staying one step ahead of your readership -- if I'd waited for the reactions to book 1, I might not have bothered forging ahead with number 2, as nobody wanted to publish the first one and it looked like we'd hit a dead end.)

I realised early on that Darren needed to return to the Cirque Du Freak with his new mentor, so that he could come to terms with his life as a vampire's assistant among an understanding and friendly crowd. If I'd tossed him straight into a plot-heavy, fast-paced storyline, he wouldn't have the time he needed to adjust to his change of life and settle into his new role. It was fun fleshing out and getting up close to the freaks that we had only seen from a distance in the first book, and I enjoyed introducing Sam Grest and RV to proceedings. I don't think I had any specific long-term plans for RV when I wrote the first draft of the book, but I had a feeling we hadn't seen the last of him.

Evanna is mentioned for the first time in book 2 (though it's easy to miss, as it's only a fleeting mention, so don't be too hard on yourself if you can't remember it). This led readers to wander if I had planned things very carefully in advance, since she doesn't enter the overall storyline until book 7. The answer is... no! I spread the writing process for each book out over at least 2 years. I'll write a first draft in 3 or 4 weeks if it's a short book like The Vampire's Assistant, but then re-write and edit it over the course of the next 2 years or more -- whilst working on other books. So, while the first draft of Cirque Du Freak was written about 2 and a half years before it was published, I was still working on it as late as mid-1999. Similarly, I was still editing and fiddling with Book 2 up to late 1999, if not early 2000, by which time I'd written the first draft of book 8 and was starting in on book 9 -- so that;s how I was able to go back and include a little Evanna easter egg in book 2!

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