• THE LIMERICK LEADER | 11 November 2000 | Norma Prendiville

    Children's author, Darren O'Shaughnessy, aka Darren Shan is bombarded with questions by fifth and sixth class pupils at Gaelscoil O'Doghair who seem to know as much about the books, its characters and plots as the author himself. They have read the books Cirque Du Freak and The Vampire's Assistant from cover to cover -- and are now dedicated and loyal fans. More to the point, they are thrilled that more books are in the pipeline. The third in the series, Tunnels Of Blood was published last Monday; the fourth, Vampire Mountain will appear next May; and, Darren Shan tells them, he has already written up to book 10 in the series, which he plans to run to 20 books.

    That is riches indeed for young readers eager to find out the end of the story. But while Darren Shan will talk for hours about the books and writing them, he most certainly will not tell the end of the story. That is something even he doesn't know yet, he explains. (actually, i know how it ends: it's all the stuff in the middle i'm still working out! -- darren) But is it true? Is the book really true? Well, yes and no. "It isn't REALLY true. But it could be true -- but you won't know that until the end," he says. And somehow this is acceptable and adds even more to his mystique.

    For Darren Shan, each book is just like a chapter in a very long book, and unfolds its own story. "There are changes all the time. New things are happening," he points out. But he does reveal that books four to six will be more fantasy than horror, with lots of adventures. And the main character, Darren, gets himself a girlfriend. "Would you like to see Darren with a girlfriend?" he asks the class. There is a resounding "Yes!"

    For these young readers, Darren Shan can do no wrong. Their reviews say it all. "It is not like any other books I read," writes Gary Corbett of The Vampire's Assistant. And Gerard Foley recommends it highly as "very interesting. You will not want to put it down," he says in his review.

    The children also have very definite opinions of Darren Shan after his visit. "He is really funny," says C"adlyadlyn N’ Mhurchœ. "He likes to act out the characters in his books." Carolyn Hayes found the real Darren quite different from the fictional character. "He is more daring and more devious in the books," she explains. "In real life he is very nice and jolly." Shane Collins, though, believes the two Darrens are quite similar. "Not in looks," he hastens to add. "You wouldn't really take him for a vampire. But when he talks, he sounds just the very same as in the books."

    The questions come in rapid fire. Do you believe in vampires? Would you like to be a vampire? The answers here are more complex. "The vampires I write about are not the sort of vampires you get in movies," says Darren. "Why should vampires be evil? My vampires are quite different. They have very, very hard lives. The vampires I write about could be real."

    On he ploughs, no question ignored. Who is his idol? Does he like Harry Potter? Why did he start writing? Darren Shan answers all the questions with none of the condescension adults often extend to children. He talks of publishers, agents, the business of writing, of promotional tours, and of his posters of Dracula.

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