• GOTHIC REVUE | 01 January 2004 | N/A

    Gothic Revue: For those who’ve been living under a rock, can you give an overview of the Cirque Du Freak series? 
    It's about a boy -- also called Darren Shan! -- who runs into a vampire at a magical freak show and, through a series of misadventures, is forced to become his assistant. He travels around the world as a half-vampire (your readers will have to read the books to find out what that entails!), learning about the history, beliefs and culture of vampires, and getting into various life-or-death scrapes. And when I say life-or-death, I mean it -- this is one of those rare series in which central characters do actually die!!! 

    Gothic Revue: What made you choose to write a teen book as a side project from your usual adult fiction?
    I was always interested in children's and teen books, and had it at the back of my mind that I'd like to try writing a book for younger readers one day. The problem was finding the right tone of voice, and a story which would interest not only its teen readers, but the adult writer me -- after all, I was going to have to spend quite a lot of time working on any such book, and I had no wish to churn out a story which I didn't find exciting. I've always written for myself first and foremost, and I didn't want this books to be any different -- it had to be something that that child within me would get a buzz about. Then I had the idea of a boy who runs into a vampire and reluctantly becomes a creature of the night, and it all took off from there!!

    Gothic Revue: Were you aware when you finished the book of how good it was?
    The first draft was quite different from the finished version -- longer and slower -- but I still thought it was pretty good, and that it might actually do quite well. (This was in the age before Harry Potter, when considered wisdom said you probably couldn't make a living writing books for 10+ readers!) My agent thought so too, and sent it off to 20 different publishers, to try and get a bidding war going, so we could get a nice healthy advance -- but they ALL turned it down!!!! That shook my confidence, obviously, but you've got to be stubborn and thick-skinned to make it as a writer, so I decided that the publishers were mistaken and that my first instinct was right. Rather than give up on the book, I went to some meetings with a few of the publishers to find out why they'd turned it down, did a second draft, which my agent managed to sell -- and since then the series has been translated into 19 different languages and been a bestseller all around the globe!!!

    Gothic Revue: What kind of things scare you?
    Spiders and snakes!! But I'm not too frightened of spiders any more since I held live tarantulas. Snakes still give me the shivers though!!!

    Gothic Revue: We’ve read that the Cirque Du Freak series is supposed to be about 20 books long, but at Amazon UK they’re calling the 12th book the final in the series. Which statement is true?
    Darren's story will stop at book 12 (not 20, as I previously thought and announced in various interviews). But there might be a couple of follow-up projects at some stage in the future, so it's possible that there could eventually be 20 books (or more) in total.

    Gothic Revue: Your writing reminds us greatly of early Stephen King (i.e. when he still wrote decent books.) Who are your writing influences?
    Early Stephen King!!! I read Salem's Lot when I was about 11, then most of his other books in my teens. I love them!!! Clive Barker was also an influence, along with a whole host of other writer such as Tolkien, Ray Bradbury, Jonathan Carroll, Roald Dahl. But I also take a lot of influences from movies -- I'm a big movie buff, and many of my ideas and images have been sparked off by films I've seen over the years.

    Gothic Revue: I understand that your books have been optioned for movies. Any word on how that’s progressing?
    The original option, with Warner Brothers, wasn't taken up. Another movie company tried to option the books, but I wasn't happy with the deal they were offering, so I put the brakes on it -- though I think they're still trying to make it happen. Because of the success of the books, I'm in the happy position of not having to accept just any old offer. If the right people come along with the right ideas (and the right money!) I'd be delighted to let them have a crack at the books. I think it probably will happen one day (maybe as a manga movie, if not as a Western film), but there are no current movement afoot.

    Gothic Revue: If you were casting the movie and could choose anyone you wanted, who would you cast as Darren, Mr. Crepsley, Evra, Paris, Mr. Tiny and Harkat?
    I don't really think about stuff like that. If a movie is made, I'll probably keep myself very removed from the filming process, as I know that writers have no real control over how their books are adapted, and I don't want to go through the frustrations of being snubbed, abused and dragged over hot coals by the Hollywood system! Having said that, from the feedback I get from readers on the message board on my web site (www.darrenshan.com ), it seems that most people would be delighted to see Johnny Depp as the main vampire, Mr Crepsley!!!!!!

    Gothic Revue: Azrael asks: Have you had any negative feedback from the fact that your main love interest in the Cirque books is an interracial relationship, or is that less of an issue in the UK.?
    That hasn't been mentioned at all, either in the UK or the States. I wasn't trying to break down any barriers when I decided that Debbie Hemlock (Darren's girlfriend) would be black -- that's simply the way she appeared to me when I started thinking about her character. I'm pleased that nobody has reacted negatively to that -- I'm an optimist (despite the bleak nature of most of my books!) and lilke to believe that we're moving forward as a people, away from the old prejudices of the past. Of course there's still a long, LONG way to -- but maybe the fact that nobody's bothered about the mixed-race relationship in these books is a positive sign for the future ...

    Gothic Revue: You ARE mailing books nine through twelve to us because we can’t get them here in the states, aren’t you?
    Nope!!!! *evil cackle* I know it seems unfair that the UK get the books before the States, but that's simply because the books were released there first. I live in Ireland, so my main big book market is the UK, which is where I first sold Cirque Du Freak. The UK has the same sort of publishing schedule as the States (an average of one new book every 6 months), but book 1 came out in the UK a year and a half before it was published in America, which is why they're always 3 books or so ahead!!!

    Gothic Revue: What kind of response did you get from Americans during your US visit?
    It was brilliant! Loads of fans turned up at most of my events, and they were really enthusiastic, totally into the books -- some of them could remember more of the plot details than I could!!! I was also pleased to note that there were at least as many girls as boys. Although the books are sold as horror books for boys, they're actually a mix of fantasy, adventure and horror, and despite all the battles and deaths, are emotional, sometimes tear-jerking reads. I didn't plan for them to work as equally well for girls as boys, and was surprised when lots of girls started coming to my events in the UK and Ireland. I thought it might just be a British and Irish thing, but when I came to the States (as well as other countries, such as Australia, Japan and Taiwan) and saw all the girls at my events, I realized that it's universal!!!

    Gothic Revue: You seem to know a lot about freak shows. What kind of research did you do for the book?
    Well, I do say in book 1 that it's all a true story, so in the interest of staying in character, I have to say that I did no research at all and that it's all simply based on experience. *very evil cackle*

    Gothic Revue: What is your favorite word?
    Vampire!

    Gothic Revue: What is your least favorite word?
    Vampire-hunter!!!!!!

    Gothic Revue: What sound or noise do you love?
    The creaking of a coffin lid being slowly removed!

    Gothic Revue: What sound or noise do you hate?
    A hammer hitting the head of a stake!!!!

    Gothic Revue: If you were not an author, what job or profession would you love to do?
    Undertaker!!!!!!!

    Gothic Revue: What job or profession would you hate to do?
    Bogey collector!!!! (The bogey collectors have the job of retrieving all the snots that people pick out of their noses. They get them from tissues in rubbish bags, the sides of chairs, underneath tables ... everywhere!! Then they use them to make quiches!!!!!! It's true! I swear!!!)

    Gothic Revue: What is your favorite profanity?
    Charna's guts!!!! (And old vampire curse.)

    Gothic Revue: If there is a God, what would you like to hear him say to you when you reach the end of the road?
    "Could you sign this for me, Mr Shan -- I'm your number one fan!!!!!!" :-)

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