• Issue 3 - October 2000

    01 October 2000

    Hi, and welcome to the latest issue of the SHANVILLE MONTHLY! October's a busy month for me -- Children's Book Week is a big event in my calendar -- and I'm going to be on the road a lot. Included in this issue are details about where you can catch me. Also, the results of last month's competition, the BBC What's Your Story winner, book news, and more Q&A. Let's get cracking ...
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    The fun starts in Ireland on Monday, October 16, when I travel to Dublin to appear at the Tallaght Library at 11.30. That afternoon, I'll be in Clondalkin Library at 14.00.
    Still in Dublin: on Tuesday, October 17, I'll be in Ballymun Library at 10.45 in the morning, and at Ballyfermot Library at 13.00 in the afternoon.
    On Wednesday, October 18, I head west to do two events in Galway Library, in the city, the first of which begins at either 11.00 or 11.30 (you can phone the library at 091 - 561666 for the exact times). Later, I'll be flitting up the road to Tuam Library, for an afternoon show at 15.30.
    I'm on home turf on Thursday, October 19, when I make two appearances in Eason's in Limerick City. The first is at 10.30, the second at 12.00.
    Usually, the libraries and shops book in classes from local schools, but if you're by yourself or with a couple of friends, I'm sure you'll be able to squeeze in (though you might want to check first). If you want to go to an event, but it's on during school time (as most of them are) ask your teacher to contact the library/shop and arrange a trip for you and some of your friends -- hey, it can't hurt to try!!!
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    The following week, I move further afield, hitting England and France. On Monday, October 23, I'll be in the Walker Library in Newcastle (I'm not sure of the time: contact the library and check if you're interested in coming).
    On Tuesday, October 24, I'm in Guildford at the Electric Theatre at 11.00 in the morning. That afternoon, I'll be at Methuen's Bookshop in Woking at 14.30.
    On Wednesday, October 25, I make my first ever trip to Paris, where I'll be at the WH Smith shop at 248 Rue de Rivoli from 15.00 in the afternoon.
    That's all I have booked for the time being, but if any more events pop up, I'll send out an e-mail and let everybody know. I'll be doing more libraries in November, but I'll save them for the next Shanville Monthly.
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    The winners of last month's limerick competition (in alphabetical order) are Steven Shinners of (fittingly enough!) Limerick, and Grace Singleton of Northumberland. The two limericks -- Steven's on top, Grace's underneath -- were:
    Two boys named Darren and Steve
    sneaked off to a freak show one eve;
    whilst there they found a spider,
    with a vampire beside her,
    and a snakeboy that could wriggle and weave.
    * * *
    Two boys named Darren and Steve
    sneaked off to a freak show one eve;
    to see a spine-chilling display,
    that would make their minds decay,
    they saw things you would not believe.
    * * *
    Steven and Grace both win advance, signed, proof copies of Tunnels Of Blood. There will be more competitions in future issues of the Shanville Monthly. And don't forget, every six months or so I hold a big draw for registered Shansters -- so if you haven't done so already, REGISTER today!
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    The winner of the BBC What's Your Story competition has been announced. For those who've forgotten, I wrote the start of a short story for them a couple of months ago, and readers were invited to finish it and send in their completed story. The winner is called Karina Lickorish (a pen-name, I'd imagine!), and you can read Karina's surreal, odd-ball story by clicking on the following link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/cbbc/write/winner_shan.shtml
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    I received word on Friday that Tunnels Of Blood (Book 3 of the Saga) has gone to press. A copy has been posted to me, so I'll scan the cover and stick it on the Tunnels Of Blood site as soon as it arrives. I should have the rest of the TOB site on-line by the end of October, or else early in November. I'll let you know when it's ready.
    The response from readers who've read proof copies of Tunnels Of Blood has been great. All who've written to me have said they think it's the best of the first three books (check out the first reader review on AMAZON). It's due in the shops on November 6, though with luck we'll get it into some stores a bit earlier (as we did with the first two books), so look out for it from mid- October, and reserve your copy now!
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    I've added links to some new reviews of The Vampire's Assistant -- including a wonderfully enthusiatic review from the Irish version of the Big Issue -- which you can access by clicking HERE.
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    On the writing front, I started the month by editing Book 4 of the Saga, Vampire Mountain, which is almost at the final draft stage. After that I went through Book 9, then began on the first draft of Book 10. I'm over two-thirds of the way through, and it's a pacy, adventure-packed entry, featuring giant snakes, monstrous toads, black panthers, hungry alligators and assorted others! I'm not going to reveal the name yet -- I'm leaving my options open for the time being -- but you'll read about it here first when I decide.
    I also cast my eye over the American version of Cirque Du Freak this month (it's due to come out there in April 2001). Nothing's been changed, though lots of words have been altered to make the book sound more American (which is fine by me: one of the reasons I don't mention any place names in the books is so that readers in different countries can "make it their own"). "Mum" has been replaced with "Mom", "OK" with "Okay", and at one point they used the phrase "bummed out" instead of "sour"! And, of course, it's feet and inches instead of metres and centimetres. I'll let you know more about the American release when we get a bit closer to it.
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    Q & A

    More answers to questions readers sent in response to the competition in the first issue of the Shanville Monthly.
    Eliza Bates wants to know if I was always good at writing, and Paul & Caroline (no surname) asked when I started. Well, I've been writing as long as I can remember. It was something I always loved doing. I especially liked reading my stories out in class and seeing how others reacted. And yes, I've always been able to string a decent story together, though one of the most important lessons I had to learn on the road to getting published was that talent by itself isn't enough -- you have to work damned hard as well!
    John Walker and Boo both asked what I was like at school. Oh, I was a brilliant student, top marks in my class, the apple of every teacher's eye, the ... *Ahem!* OK, in truth, I was a mischievous slacker, more interested in passing notes around than copying them down. I did enough to get by -- and to keep my parents off my back! -- but I never pushed myself to excel. Since I was determined all my life to be a writer, I knew that school grades wouldn't ultimately matter -- the work I put in on my writing skills would determine whether or not I'd succeed. I was interested in school -- it provided a wonderful foundation of knowledge from which to build -- but I never saw the point in committing facts to memory and regurgitating them for exams. I'm still of that opinion: school should be fascinating and fun, but it shouldn't be the benchmark by which your future prospects are measured. (I'll stop there before I go off on a rant!!)
    Xavier Malina asked which of the Darren Shan books I thought was the best. I get asked this question a lot in libraries and schools, and it's a tricky one. My basic answer is that for me it's impossible to divide them. Because the books are part of a large but self-contained series, I look on each as a new chapter in the overall 4000 page novel that, when finished, will be The Saga Of Darren Shan. Thus, asking me whether I prefer Cirque Du Freak or The Vampire's Assistant is like asking another writer if they prefer chapter one or chapter two of their current book.
    Finally, a question from Calum Barnes, who picked up a proof copy of Tunnels Of Blood at my Edinburgh appearance last month; after reading it -- and having read the first two books -- he asked why I'd killed off certain key characters. I loved reading horror and fantasy series when I was a teenager -- by the likes of Tolkien, David Eddings, Terry Brooks, etc -- but there was one quibble I had: in almost every series, the writer would "protect" his more important characters. That is to say, he'd send a group off on a peril-filled adventure, drop them into all sorts of dangerous situations -- then get them all out alive (with maybe one or two secondary characters biting the bullet along the way)!!! To me, it didn't make sense. Naturally, it would be pointless to write a book where everybody gets killed during the course of the quest, but I always felt that writers should play fair, and allow their characters -- even the main players -- to die if the circumstances demanded it. I don't kill off members of my cast lightly, or for fun, but if they run into trouble (as they usually do!), and the story calls for blood ... Well, I don't believe in running contrary to the demands of a story. The world of Darren Shan is harsh and hazardous, and characters can and do die, as readers have already seen in the first three books. The fundamental question in future books isn't "How will Darren and his buddies wriggle out of this sticky situation?" --- rather, "Which of these guys will make it out of here alive?"
    On that ominous note, I'll draw this month's Q&A to a close. More answers next time, and if there are any questions you'd like to put to me, write by visiting the mail box.
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    I received a wonderful drawing of Mr Crepsley this month, from Christina Flow, which I'll add to the Tunnels Of Blood site when it goes on-line. If you're a budding artist, and would like to sketch some of the Darren Shan crew, you can send your drawings to me at: Darren Shan, c/o Harper Collins Children's Books, 77-85 Fulham Palace Road, Hammersmith, London W6 8JB, England. Or you can scan it onto computer and e-mail it to [email protected]. For guidelines, click on ART.
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    And that's it for this month. I'll be back around the start of November (assuming I survive my October travels!), when Tunnels Of Blood will hopefully be causing havoc and selling like hot cakes!!! Until next time, all the bloody best, Darren Shan x x x