• Book Army | 01 October 2009 |

    Author Interview - Darren Shan discusses Hell's Heroes and The Vampire's Assistant

    Darren Shan is so popular that his fans have collectively named themselves "Shansters". Darren has written three series of books; The Saga of Darren Shan, The Demonta and The City Trilogy, a series of adult books written under the name D. B. Shan.
    The tenth book in The Demonta series is just about to be published, and a Saga of Darren Shan film adaptation, called Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant, is released on the big screen this month. We were delighted to chat to Darren about Hell's Heroes, Vampires and working with Hollywood.

    Bookarmy: Firstly, tell us about The Vampire’s Assistant. How did it all come about?
    Darren Shan: The producer of the X-Men movies, Lauren Shuler Donner, grew interested in the books, as did the writer of the original screenplay, Brian Helgeland. We sold the rights to them and Brian worked on the script for about a year. Then director Paul Weitz got involved, re-wrote the script, and it all moved forward like a juggernaut from there!

    BA: It’s directed by Paul Weitz who helped turn Nick Hornby’s bestselling novel About a Boy into a successful film, but even with a talented director like Weitz in the driving seat, it must be difficult to allow another person to develop and interpret something that was born in your imagination?
    DS: Nope! I never had a problem with turning my stories over to Hollywood. I work very hard on the world I create within my books, and in those worlds I am absolute master. But a film is the work of many hands, from the producer, writer and director, all the way down through the stars, the set designers, musicians, effects crews and so on. Literally hundreds of people worked on this movie. I think it’s best for writers, in situations like this, just to sit back and let the professionals do what they do best. The movie is its own beast, with its own set of masters. I’m happy just to sit back with the rest of the fans of the books and go along for the ride.

    BA: There are many vivid and cinematic episodes in your books. As you are a big film buff, do you write with the silver screen in mind?
    DS: I think it definitely influences my style of writing. I often think of scenes as if they were movie scenes, which might explain why my books normally move so pacily. But at the same time I’m always conscious that I’m writing for readers, not viewers. Books work in a very different way to movies, and I always put the needs of my readers first, making use of all the rules and possibilities that books offer, rather than just try to churn out an elaborate screenplay in disguise.

    BA: It is very common for aspects of books to be altered, left out or completely changed when adapted for the big screen. Has this happened to Cirque Du Freak and how do you think the many die-hard Shansters (Darren Shan fans) will react to any differences?
    DS: Yes. Because they’ve taken the story from the first three books, it was always going to be radically different. They have captured the dark, freaky spirit of the books, but structurally this is a completely new entity. I think that will actually make things easier for a lot of fans. If they had stuck fairly closely to the books, fans would be more conscious of what was changed or let out. But after five or ten minutes of the movie, you know you’re in new, uncharted territory, so you have no option other than to accept the film for what it is. I think fans who approach it as a separate entity to the books will enjoy it – it’s a darkly funny, exciting, fast-paced movie, unlike anything else that Hollywood has produced. Those who refuse to let go of the books might want to give it a wide berth!!!

    BA: Recently there has been a huge increase in the popularity of vampire novels and films. What do you think it is about vampires in particular which grabs the imagination, especially of young readers and teenagers? Do you have a favourite vampire book or film?
    DS: Salem’s Lot by Stephen King is probably my favourite vampire book, along with the original Dracula by Bram Stoker. As for the popularity of vampires – hell, they’re just cool!!! You can phrase it a million different ways, and academics often do, but at the end of the day (or night!) coolness is what it all boils down to!!!

    BA: Hell’s Heroes is about to be published, can you give us a taster of what we can expect?
    DS: Wall-to-wall carnage, deception and destruction!! It’s a been a vicious, action-packed series right from the start, and in the last book I crank things all the way up to 11 and beyond!!! Take a deep, steadying breath before you start – you’re going to need it!!

    BA: Your books are pretty gruesome and some may say a little scary for children, but this is clearly not what your readers think. How do you gauge the correct mix of blood, guts and supernatural beasts in order to satisfy your readers without giving them weeks of sleepless nights?
    DS: It’s an instinct thing for the most part. When I write an especially gory scene, I always imagine myself reading it out in a classroom. If I think that I would feel uncomfortable doing that, I go back and look at it again.

    BA: In your Bookarmy review of Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke, you say it is one of the most influential sci-fi books ever. Which horror book has had the most influence on your writing?
    DS: Salem’s Lot changed the way I thought about horror, and what a horror book should be. It was the first time I read a horror novel with characters I cared about, that wasn’t just about scares, but about the whole reading experience and creating a world that drew you in before unleashing its scares on you. It was also the first time I’d seen a vampire child, and that definitely had a huge influence on my dreams and stories!!

    Many thanks for your time Darren. We look forward to reading Hell’s Heroes and watching The Vampire’s Assistant.

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