• IRISH POST | 01 October 2008 | N/A

    WHEN author Darren Shan had his first taste of literary success as a runner-up in a TV scriptwriting competition for RTÉ aged just 15, little did he know that it would be the beginning of a hugely successful writing career.

    And now, with his latest book Wolf Island being published, the writer looks set for more good fortune. Shan has sold over 10million books worldwide in over 35 countries, seen his work translated into nearly 30 different languages and now the first three books in his popular series The Saga Of Darren Shan (or Cirque Du Freak as it’s known in America) have been turned into a Hollywood film starring Salma Hayek and Irish American actor John C Reilly.

    Born as Darren O’Shaughnessy to Irish parents in London, the whole family moved back to Limerick when Darren was six years old and he has lived there ever since, although surprisingly he still speaks with a strong London accent.

    After studying for a degree in Sociology and English at Roehampton College he then worked for a cable TV company in Limerick for a couple of years, before concentrating on writing full time.

    During his writing career Shan has become something of an international literary phenomenon thanks to his tales of vampires and demons for a playground audience.

    Whilst being influenced by Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series and the Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, Shan cities horror writer Stephen King as his biggest inspiration.

    “I have always had an interest in horror stories and I think that as a writer you should be writing the sort of stories that you would love to read,” he says.

    The stories that I write, I think I would enjoy reading — if I had not written them of course!”

    And obviously many others share this sentiment as he is now considered to be one of Ireland’s most popular and exciting children’s authors — thanks to his horror stories for a younger audience.

    But surprisingly Shan did not start out writing for children.

    I have always wanted to be a writer and since I got my first typewriter when I was 14 I have been writing various stories,” he explains.

    I finished my first novel when I was 17, which was for adults and then when my subsequent novels had some success it was just natural that my writing was more orientated towards adults.

    I thought writing children’s books would be a nice idea for the future but adult books were my main focus.

    Although he achieved varying degrees of success with his adult novels, Darren Shan really came to the forefront of children’s literature in 2000 with the publication of his first children’s book Cirque Du Freak — the first book in The Saga Of Darren Shan series.

    And now enjoying his immense popularity he continues to write for both ends of the market, which he says suits him. “I really enjoy writing for adults and children because the storytelling style and plots of both are so different which makes it very interesting!”

    Although he is one of the biggest names amongst children and teenage readers he is adamant that he cannot take all the credit for his success. “Selling stories is in the lap of the Gods” he says.

    “You need to find a popular market where other people want to read what you have written. “I was just lucky to sell enough books where I didn’t need to do another job and I could just concentrate on writing.”

    And that concentration certainly paid off as with his biggest children’s book being brought to life on the big screen those few people who haven’t heard the name Darren Shan certainly will now.

    Excited by the impending release of the film, Darren said: “I am so intrigued to see what the movie looks like as I have not been directly involved with the production of it.

    “I have learnt from the experiences of other authors who were involved and stayed away.

    “It is such an exciting cast and I can’t wait to see how it looks.” Although invited to go over earlier this year to watch some of the filming, Shan had to decline due to prior commitments touring Britain to promote his latest release Death’s Shadow from his other popular series The Demonata.

    “Every time a book is released I tour,” he explains. “I am a huge collector of books and comics so I know the mindset of the fans and appreciate it.

    “They want your autograph and so as they have bought your book and helped get you where you are it is the least you can do.”

    And with record numbers of people turning up for his events, surely his loved ones must be pleased for his success? “My friends and family are really happy for me as they always saw I wanted to write,” he says.

    “So for me to be able to that, they are just so pleased. And of course it gives my mother something to brag about which is always good!”

    And now with the latest title in The Demonata series about to be released and a number of exciting new writing projects being worked on, it seems Shan is about to cement his place as Ireland’s biggest children’s writer.

    Looks like Mrs O’Shaughnessy may have an awful lot to brag about yet! 

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