• STAR COMMUNITY NEWSPAPER | 11 April 2007 | Tasha Hayton

    Oh the horror: author visits students at Coppell Middle School West

    Darren Shan visited students at Coppell Middle School West on Tuesday.

    Shan, a young adult horror fiction writer, has sold 10 million books in more than 20 languages in 30 countries, said Rose Brock, librarian at Coppell Middle School West.

    Shan has lived in Limerick, Ireland, since he was 6 years old after his family moved from his London birthplace.

    Students had to win tickets to listen to Shan speak in the library, Brock said. There were two sessions in which Shan spoke and parents and students from other schools were calling West to see if they could go to one of his sessions, Brock said.

    To earn a ticket, students had to complete a scavenger hunt with questions about Shan. The first 250 students to complete the hunt won tickets, Brock said.

    Brock said Shan appeals to a wide range of kids from elementary school students to high school students. Boys show the most interest in his writing as he writes bloody and gory scenes, she said. In Shan’s first series, “Cirque du Freak,” Darren Shan, a fictional character, meets vampires at a circus. Shan said he used his pseudonym as the main character’s name to blur the lines between reality and fiction. Shan’s real name is Darren O’Shaughnessy. He published two adult novels under his real name, he said.

    The fourth book, “Bec,” in Shan’s second series, “The Demonata,” was recently released. The series will span 10 books. His first series spanned 12 books.

    At the middle school, Shan read a scene from the first book in “The Demonata” series, “Lord Loss.” The scene follows the main character, a young boy named Grubbs Grady, back into his parents’ home after they left him at his aunt’s house for the evening. Grubbs walks into his parents’ room to find his mom, dad and sister brutally murdered.

    Shan said he chose to read the scene because it was a particularly, “gruesome, gory, bloody scene.”

    Shan then read an excerpt from the fifth book in “The Demonata” series, “Blood Beast.” Although the book is not set to sell until October, Shan said he thought it was particularly frightening as the scene takes place on an airplane.

    As he read the descriptions of acid vomit, chopped off heads and popping eyeballs, students in the audience groaned and laughed. He said the scene should really put them in the “mood for food.”

    The last book in “The Demonata” series is set to release in spring 2010.

    After Shan read his excerpts, one student from the audience interviewed him. Sabalan Mirazaei, an eighth-grade student, asked Shan why he likes to write horror books, what his favorite books were and where he got his ideas.

    Shan said his favorite book when he was growing up was “The Secret Garden.” Although, it might seem surprising for his audience that he would like a book about a little girl and a garden, he said, the idea of the main character feeling alone and out of place is mirrored in his own writing.

    “I like to take readers through a real roller coaster emotional journey,” Shan said.

    He said his mom was worried about him when he was a kid, because he had a poster of Dracula, “the lord of the undead,” on his wall. His all-time favorite book is “Salem’s Lot” by Stephen King.

    Shan said his greatest thrill in his writing is getting to “meet people who have read the books.” He said that most of his time is spent alone writing.

    “If no one was interested, it would be a real big waste of time,” Shan said.

    Shan said he originally wrote adult fiction but had always wanted to write about vampires.

    “I always wanted to do a vampire story but not the ordinary Dracula story,” Shan said.

    Mirazaei asked Shan if he’d always wanted to be a writer. Shan said he’s always loved writing. He said he doesn’t get “writer’s block” because he dives in to his writing without thinking about the overall task of writing a book.

    Although he said it’s “very nice” to have sold more than 10 million books, he said the satisfaction of writing continues to be his drive.

    Writing to make quick money should not be the reason anyone writes, Shan said, because it’s not a great way to make money. He said the love of writing should be the only reason people write.

    When asked his biggest fear, Shan said he’s slightly afraid of losing the success now that he’s had it.

    “What if [the books] are no good,” Shan said.

    Shan said writing his first draft is quick. He said all the books in “The Demonata” series have been written, but he said he takes two years to edit and revise them.

    Although he said demons and vampires have been written about before, his goal as a writer is to approach the story in a new way.

    “What you do as a writer is to try to put a fresh spin on old ideas,” Shan said.

    When one student asked if parents ever got mad at him for writing scary books, he said he hadn’t experienced much frustration from parents because people read horror to be scared. Although he thought there would be more objections to his books, he said he thinks there isn’t because his stories are about the struggle to move on from violence and not simply about the violence.

    “Through all the bloodshed and goriness, the stories are very moral,” Shan said.

    The rights for his first three books from the Cirque du Freak series were bought by Universal Pictures. The script for the film will be written by Oscar-winning screenwriter Brian Helgeland, who wrote “Mystic River” and “LA Confidential.” The producer for the film will be Lauren Shuler Donner, who produced the “X-Men” series. Paul Weitz, who directed the “American Pie” series, will direct the movie version of “Cirque du Freak.”

    Jennifer Abbots, former publicist and long-time friend of Shan, said his characters are actually really human and kids can relate to his writing.

    Despite his gory writing, Abbots said, Shan’s “really funny.”

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