• SUNDAY MORNING POST | 13 August 2000 | John Millen

    WRITER INSPIRES FEAR WITH SCARY SERIES

    It is all a bit confusing. It says on the cover of the book that Cirque Du Freak was written by someone called Darren Shan. And Darren is also the hero of the story. It says that it is a true story. But here is a secret that not many people know. Darren Shan does not exist. The whole thing is an invention of author Darren O'Shaughnessy. It is a con trick.

    O'Shaughnessy, a great fan of horror stories, was born in London and then moved to Ireland when he was six years old. As he grew up, his hobby was watching horror movies. Sometimes, he managed to watch as many as three films a day. He had a massive picture of Christopher Lee (a famous horror actor) in pride of place on his bedroom wall. When he was 18, O'Shaughnessy returned to London to study at university. O'Shaughnessy's mother was a primary school teacher and she hoped that he would follow in her footsteps. But no way. O'Shaughnessy had his sights set on becoming a horror writer. He had been writing stories since the age of 14.

    Like many writers, O'Shaughnessy had no success when he first began to write. He lived with his parents and did various jobs to finance his writing. By the middle of last year, he was on the point of giving up writing and taking up a career with a cable television company. But luck stepped in just in time. A literary agent discovered O'Shaughnessy's work and recognised the unique nature of his imagination. The writer had already written several books in a horror series, The Saga Of Darren Shan, and the agent was captivated. He knew that young readers would devour stories packed tight with such spine-chilling ideas.

    And he was right. When Cirque Du Freak hit the bookshelves, it sold over 9000 copies in just three weeks. Warners, the top Hollywood movie company, quickly bought the film rights and O'Shaughnessy found himself signing along the dotted line of a seven-figure movie contract.

    Cirque Du Freak is truly the beginning of something huge. O'Shaughnessy intends to write 24 novels before the series concludes and he has set a pattern of publishing one story every six months over the next 12 years. The screams and shivers of Cirque Du Freak will be giving bad dreams to brave teenage readers for many dark nights to come. Be prepared to be afraid. Seriously afraid.

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