• THE LIMERICK LEADER | 01 April 2000 | Laura Ryan

    Writer Darren, wordy winner of new award

    IT'S been a busy year for Pallaskenry's Darren O'Shaughnessy, the January winner of the first Limerick Leader / Jurys Hotel Achiever-of -the-Month award.

    Not only has the local author two successful fantasy novels under his belt, he has been offered $1m advance from Warner Brothers for the movie rights to his children's books, Cirque du Freak and The Vampire's Assistant.

    And that's only the beginning for the 27-year-old who has already completed nine books from his children's series.

    For a man whose is influenced by Stephen King, and describes his first book as "a cross between the Exorcist and the Godfather", Darren is extremely affable, down to earth and proud of his Limerick roots.

    Born in London, he moved to Pallaskenry with his parents, Liam and Breda, when he was six years old.

    Darren was always interested in writing, and his talent was nurtured by Breda, a teacher in Askeaton National School where he was a pupil.

    After his Leaving Cert in Copswood College, he studied English in London and worked for a time in Irish Multichannel.

    "When I was a teenager I decided writing was what I really wanted to do as a career," he said.

    "I started off with adult books and the children's book started as a sideline originally."

    His first book, Ayuamarca, was described by critics as "reminiscent of the best of Clive Barker and Iain Banks".

    Set in a nameless city built by the Inca's, Ayuamarca tells the tale of a young man who wants to be a gangster and follows his adventures.

    That was followed by Hell's Horizon's, a detective story with a slight fantasy twist, which hit the bookshelves in February.

    Cirque du Freak is Darren's first teen horror book.

    Writing under the name Darren Shan, the story centres around two boys called Darren and Steve who get tickets to an illegal freak show full of magical performers.

    So was it difficult to shift from adult fantasy / science fiction books to writing for teenagers?

    "It took a while to get used to writing children's books," he said. "The children's books aren't like Postman Pat or Goosebumps, they're written in a dark way with adult themes but also written in a way that children can get access. Parents have given me a good response and teachers have lost their initial reservations when they've read them."

    Darren said it was "fantastic" that Warner Brothers bought the movie rights to Cirque du Freak and the sequel, The Vampire's Assistant, for $1m even before they even came out.

    And he's denied claims that he's now a millionaire.

    "Not at all. I've only received a small advance! The book is causing such a stir that some scriptwriters are asking to work on it for less money than they normally get," he said.

    Darren has now been writing full-time for the past four years.

    "I always hoped to be successful and sell lots of books," he said. "But the hype began to build about last June when the publishers really began to get interested. It's not as if it happened overnight and I'm always busy nowadays. So it's not as if I have a chance to sit back and gloat!"

    The first nine of his children's books have now been written leaving him time to concentrate on publicity and events in schools and libraries.

    He wants to write more than 20 books in total for the children's series which he expects will keep him busy for "the next 12 to 13 years."

    Darren's web-site can be contacted at www.darrenshan.ie

    This is the first in a new series of monthly awards organised by the Limerick Leader and Jurys Hotel to honour local people working in business, culture and sporting communities.

    It replaces the Limerick Leader / Jurys Hotel Business Person-of-the-Month award.

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