• BOURNEMOUTH DAILY ECHO | 27 September 2007 | Maria Court

    As a master of horror, Darren Shan regularly serves up a diet of gore and entrails, corpses on slabs and more werewolves, demons and vampires than you can toss a lump of garlic at. His books have been out sold in the UK only by Stephen King and Dean Koontz. Yet what sets this man apart is that his grisly stories are being lapped up by a playground audience.Darren will be in Bournemouth on Sunday to launch the sixth title in his hugely successful The Demonata series.

    Fame came soon after he wrote his first children's book, Cirque Du Freak. The horror tale about a boy who meets a vampire at a circus was the first of a 12-book series, The Saga of Darren Shan, which attracted a cult following around the world.

    To date, Darren Shan (short for Darren O'Shaughnessey) has sold 10 million books translated into more than 27 languages and read in more than 34 countries. The rights to the first three books have been bought by Universal with a film currently in pre-production stage.

    Little wonder he sounds chirpy. Speaking from his home in Ireland, he is also remarkably relaxed considering his forthcoming touring schedule. "Now that's REALLY scary", he laughs.

    He speaks of fame as if it was something he just stumbled upon. "I never thought I'd make a career out of children's books," he admits. "I was an adult author and I wrote my first book for children as a bit of fun - something for myself on the side. I remembered what I was like when I was younger and the sort of books I wanted to read back then."

    Understandable, then, that he assumed his only audience would be male, but on tour he often notices the girls outnumbering the boys. Clamouring for a slice of his macabre imagination are fans from a wide age range, but the majority are youngsters between 10 and 16.

    Darren puts his success down to his "complex, involved characters", plus an easy-to-read, almost economical, script. "An adult audience provokes freer writing. You can be more morally ambiguous and can explore grey areas further. For younger readers, things have to be made a little clearer, without resorting to lecturing. Take right and wrong for example. Your good guys always have to be good."

    He is constantly ready to fend off a barrage of complaints which never really have materialised. Surprising considering some of his scenes cut very close to the bone for so young an audience. "But my books aren't all about blood and gore," he argues. "At their heart they explore relationships and feelings. Like any genre of writing, you have to develop characters and make people care about them. I get very few letters saying my readers have nightmares but lots saying my books made them cry."

    But there's no escaping his affinity with the dark side. "I do like horror," he adds, giving a long, low chuckle when I remind him of his monikers - King of the Gory Story, Stephen King for Kids and Number One Master of Horror. "I'm very happy to wear the horror cap, yes. Some of the best stories ever written have been horror stories. Take Macbeth, for example. To this day people will not class it as horror."

    His new book, What The Hell's Coming Next?, is the sixth in The Demonata series. Despite details being kept very much under wraps, he will divulge that it follows on from book five, which ended on a huge cliffhanger. "I hope it will be a real fan pleaser as it ties up a lot of storylines woven throughout the previous novels in the series."

    Even the deliciously ghoulish image on the cover is still a secret just days before the launch. The big reveal will take place at Bath on Saturday, and straight after in Bournemouth on Sunday. "The details probably won't be on my website by then, so Bournemouth fans will be among the first in the whole world to see what's on the cover."

    And no doubt be champing at the bit to find out, indeed, what the hell's coming next...

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