• Issue 5 - December 2000

    01 December 2000

    Yikes -- Christmas is upon us! Traditionally, vampires aren't too keen on the yuletide (holy crosses everywhere!), but of course the vampires in my books aren't the least bit bothered by crosses, so they don't really mind. Not that the Generals and Princes of Vampire Mountain take much notice of the festivities -- human customs don't mean very much to the blood-suckers; they've got bloody good customs of their own, as you'll find out in the next few Darren Shan books when they hit the stores next year... Anyway, on with the news.
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    Tunnels Of Blood finally debuted this month. Early response has been overwhelmingly positive, and sales have been great too -- it hit #3 in the Irish charts a couple of weeks after being released! (In comparison, it took Vampire's Assistant nearly 4 months to climb that high.) The audio cassette of Vampire's Assistant was also released during November. This isn't as readily available as the book, so if you'd like to get it for Christmas, you'll probably either have to order it through your shop, or else by following this Amazon link and buying it over the web.
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    At last -- some film news!! While I've still no idea when the Cirque Du Freak movie might be released (or even when it might be made!), I can reveal that two writers (brothers) in America have been hired by Warner Bros to work on a script, which is a big step forward -- you can't make a film without a script!! Their ambitious plan is to combine the first THREE books into one movie. While this would obviously mean sacrificing a lot of material in each book, it would make for an action-packed, large-scale, fast-paced thriller. I think it's an intriguing idea, and I'm looking forward to seeing what they come up with. It's still very early days, and I can't currently give any more information away, but I'll keep everyone abreast of future developments through the Shanville Monthly.
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    I started the month in London, where I visited several schools. I had a great time everywhere I went. Thanks to all the pupils and teachers who contributed (and special thanks to Tim Osborne at the City Of London school, who put in a huge amount of work). Cheers also to Jo and Emily for shepherding me around and seeing that I didn't come to -- or commit any!!! -- harm.
    Back home in Limerick I made trips to the library in Newcastlewest and the Monaleen National School, both of which I enjoyed immensely. The Gaelscoil in NCW deserves extra special mention for the incredible time and effort put in by the teachers and pupils: I arrived to discover one class dressed in vampire costumes, with their faces painted, and ALL the students in years 3 to 6 had written reports on my first two books -- many also drew wonderful interpretations of the charcters!! I had a fabulous time there. You can check out the school's own website by clicking on this link: http://www.gaelscoil.com/
    I've no school or library events planned for December or early in the new year, but register and I'll let you know whenever I'm going to be out and about.
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    I signed a huge amount of copies of all three of my books in the City Of London School while I was there. They still have some in stock in case you're interested, which they're selling through their book store's web site (it's called the John Carpenter Bookshop -- though it's NOT named after the film director, as I first thought!!!). The URL for the site is http://carpenter.seekbooks.co.uk/default.asp?StoreURL=carpenter For more information, prices and shipping options, either check out the web site, or phone the shop on 0207 3320223.
    I also signed copies of Cirque Du Freak and Tunnels Of Blood in Waterstone's in Picadilly Circus recently (they're currently running a special promotional offer -- 3 books for the price of 2 -- and Cirque is one of the books being promoted). If you're in the area, and you hurry, you might still be able to find some!
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    I added LOTS of new material to all three sub-sites this month, including great new reader's art and letters, and several new reviews and interviews. I also updated a few dead links, and added a new animated GIF to the main Shanville page (courtesy of Robert Kawka -- many thanks, Robert). If you haven't surfed the site in a while, this would be a good time to flick through the various pages.
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    I've had a rush of e-mails from Shansters hot out of the Tunnels Of Blood, eager to know when Book 4 of The Saga hits the shops. While I don't have a definite release date yet for Vampire Mountain, it's scheduled to come out next May or June. I know that seems like quite a long wait, but it's only 6 months (or less) -- which is a VERY short time span in the publishing world. I've recently completed editing Vampire Mountain, and while it isn't an especially long book (slightly shorter than Tunnels Of Blood), we learn lots of facts about vampires and the Little People (the picture on the cover is of a Little Person). I'm very pleased with it -- but be warned! Vampire Mountain is the first part of a self-contained trilogy, so you'll have to read Books 5 and 6 to find out how the story finishes!!! (I thought it was better to split the story up into 3 parts, rather than put out one huge single book -- there were several reasons why; I'll talk more about them in a future issue of the Monthly, when the books are released).
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    Don't forget -- I'll be adding a brand new Darren Shan story to the Tunnels Of Blood site this month, about a week or so before Christmas Eve -- my Xmas present to my band of merry little Shansters! It's a fun, fantastical Christmas story set during and just after the events described in Tunnels Of Blood. I'll send out an e-mail to registered Shansters once the story's on-line.
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    A recent personal highlight was a visit I made to the set of the Harry Potter movie (the producer is the same guy who bought the rights to my books, and he invited me along for a day). I got to see several of the sets, including the Great Hall and the Gryffindor common room. I've got to say -- they look amazing!! Incredibly detailed and fabulously real. I also got to eat lunch with some of the actors playing the central roles, including those filling the shoes of Harry, Hermione, Ron and Malfoy -- a great bunch of kids, who look and behave eerily like the characters in the book. Wonderful fun. Roll on November and the film's release ...
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    Q & A

    You Shansters are an inquisitive, curious lot!! Here are answers to some of the questions I've been hit with recently.
    First up, Sharp-Eyed Shanster Of The Month Award goes to Tristan Fisher. He wrote: "in the third book it said that Darren only truly became the vampire's assistant when he drank a human's blood. Well, in the first book, when he had just became a vampire, he drank Alan's blood when Alan cut his knee on the football pitch." Well spotted, Tristan -- but you're only half right. Occasionally I do make little slips (I'm only human ... well, HALF-human!) but this isn't one of them! I remembered Darren drinking Alan's blood when I wrote the scene, but because that was a spur-of-the-moment, instant reaction, I don't count it as Darren's first "real" drink. When Darren finally drinks human blood in Book 2, it's the first time he consciously, deliberately drinks -- which is when he "truly" becomes a creature of the darkness.
    Samantha Grant wanted to know if publishers are biased against young writers. The answer is no, they're certainly not biased (at least, no more than they are against any new author!), but it's very difficult when you're young to write a book up to publication standards. I've had ideas for books practically all my life, but it wasn't until I hit my mid-twenties that I learnt how to make the most of those ideas (and I made the breakthrough sooner than most -- a lot of writers don't hit their stride until their thirties or forties). Writing is a long, complicated process, which requires a lot of time and patience. My advice is to stick with it, but to write for fun at the start -- worry about publishing later, when you're older and more experienced. Of course, there are exceptions, and occasionally teens do get picked up by publishers, so if you want to go for it -- more power to you!
    Charlie White was also interested in the writing process, and asked if he should write to the end when working on a story, or write a bit, then edit and play about with it, before moving on to the next section. Every writer has his own way of working, Charlie, but my advice would definitely be to write all the way to the end before worrying about editing. I think the first priority when writing a story is to get to the finish line -- it gives you a sense of achievement, and it's also easier to look the entire story over as a whole, and see what needs fixing.
    Charlie also asked if my books would be getting longer. The answer to this is no, I think they'll all be around the same sort of length as the first three. Some might be a small bit longer or shorter, but I don't plan to write any 'monsters'. If I have an especially long story to tell, I'll break it up into 2 or 3 parts, as I'm doing with my next three books.
    Rebecca Painter wants to know when Steve Leopard will be gracing the pages of a Darren Shan book again. I'm afraid it's going to be a long wait, Rebecca -- Steve doesn't return until some time after the three Vampire Mountain books -- but it'll be worth it: he comes back with a BANG!!!!!
    Finally, John Tarbet Walker complimented me on signing Alan Cumming to read the audio cassette adaptations of Cirque Du Freak and The Vampire's Assistant, and wanted to know who picked him; he also asked about the cover designer. I agree with you totally about Alan, John -- he's fabulous! The person who chose him was Stella Paskins, who works for Collins and oversees the cassette adaptations. As for the covers: they're designed by a Collins artist. I can't think of his name at the moment, but I'll find out and include it here later.
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    And that's it for this month -- and year! Thanks for your support during this first chockablock year of the Saga. I'll be back in 2001 (unless I fall victim of a monolith in the meantime!). I anticipate many changes to the site during the next twelve months -- as the series and web site (hopefully!) grow in popularity, I imagine the night will come when I'll have to turn control of Shanville over to professionals, to give it a keener visual edge; I also hope to launch a chat room or message board, so that Shansters on the web can commuicate more freely with one another through Shanville. But that's all for the long, unknowable weeks ahead. In the meantime, keep well over the holiday season, and make sure you have a bloody good Christmas and a gory New Year!!! Darren Shan x x x