• Issue 202 - May 2017

    01 May 2017



    Hi everyone, and welcome to the May issue of the Shanville Monthly. This is a special month for me, because 20 years ago on May 8th, 1997, I had the idea for a little book called Cirque Du Freak! You can read more about that below, and I'm running a special competition to tie in with it. You can also discover a few different ways to make reading fun for students... there's news of a Kindle Monthly Deal for fans in the USA... links to interviews that I've given recently... and a whole lot more. But first, let's step back in time a couple of decades to leanr more about the birth of a freak show...






    Although it didn't see print until January 2000, I started work on Cirque Du Freak 20 years ago this month! It was back in May 1997. I was still living with my parents and drawing the dole. I was just about to sell my first novel (Ayuamarca, later to be re-titled as Procession of the Dead). I spent my days writing and watching movies and TV shows, and not doing a whole lot else, as I didn't have any money. I was 24 years old, a baby in the world of literature, although I certainly didn't feel like a baby -- I think CDF was the 14th novel that I would complete before my 25th birthday a couple of months later, so even though I was young, I had already written an awful lot of words. I also kept a diary back in those days, and here are a few entries from around that time.


    8th May 1997 -- "I had an idea for a new book tonight: a kid's one!!! I don't know if it'll lead anywhere, but it might. I quite fancy the idea of a fun side-line in novels..."


    9th May 1997 -- "Started a new book -- the kid's one! It's called The Saga Of Darren Shan. Book One: Cirque Du Freak. I wrote 6 pages. It's fun, though not as easy to write as I imagined: trying to strike the right teenage-orientated tone can be a bit tricky at times. I'm not sure whether I'll work on it regularly, on a daily basis, or as the mood grabs me. We'll see..."


    24th June 1997 -- "Finished Cirque. Wrote 11 pages and wrapped everything up. I think it's good stuff, though I'm not sure what sort of money exists at the younger end of the market. Oh well: I'll soon find out!!"


    As things transpired, there was quite a lot of money at the "younger end of the market" for a lucky few writers, and I ended up being one of them! Cirque Du Freak would change my life. It took me from being a struggling, penniless writer to being a global bestselling author with a nery nice bank account. It turned me from a hungry wannabe who no publishing house was interested in, into "The Master of YA Horror." It transformed me from being a writer for adults who was writing for children on the side, into a predominently YA author who occasionally publishes a book for grown-ups. And with it, I went from being known as Darren O'Shaughnessy to my family and friends, to being known as Darren Shan by millions of strangers across the world. And it all started 20 years ago, in the back of a car, when I was babysitting a young cousin and my mind was wandering. Maybe I should babysit more often!!!






    Tying in nicely with the 20th anniversary of the start of Cirque Du Freak (by coincidence or DesTiny?!?), the ebook of Cirque Du Freak: A Living Nightmare (as the first book is known in the USA) is going to be featured in a Kindle Monthly Deal for the month of May on the American Amazon site at a reduced price of just $1.99 instead of its regular $7.99 price. A great time to get onboard if you haven't yet started the series, or if you've been thinking of adding them to your eReader. You can go straight to the deal by CLICKING HERE.






    WHO gave a couple of podcast interviews at the Sci-Fi Weekend festival at the start of April? WHO talks about why he writes for children and teenagers under one name, and adults under another? WHO explains why he wasn't able to write a book set in the Dr Who universe when he was asked? WHO talks about all this and a whole lot more?


    ME, of course!! And the reason for all the above WHO's is that the interviews were with a couple of hardcore Dr Who fans, who interviewed me for their podcast, Gallifrey Stands. They were nice, relaxed interviews, that run for nearly 15 minutes in total. They start start just after the 10 minute mark in the podcast, which you don't need a TARDIS to access -- it's available, for free, by CLICKING HERE.






    I was a guest at the Sci-Fi Weekender in NorthWest Wales last month. It was my first time at a big sci-fi get-together of this sort -- I've been to the Comic Con in London, but that's confined to a single building in the middle of a massive city, whereas this was a takeover of a camping site, which made it feel more like I'd slipped through to an alternate reality!! (Actually, now that I cast my mind back, I recall going to a fantasy con in the Netherlands many years ago, which was similar, but that didn't end happily for me, due to poor organisation, so it left a sour taste.) There was lots to see and do, though my own events meant I didn't have time to go and sit on on all the other stuff that was of interest to me. (Happily, I did get to see Nicholas Brendan from Buffy give a fun talk.) But to be honest, just looking around at all the people in costumes was enough of a thrill. There were some truly amazing outfits and makeup on display, and every time you looked, it was a new display, as people in costume drifted here and there. I had a very good turnout for my talks and signings too, which was nice, and quite a few people who'd never heard of me before walked away with signed copies of all 10 of the paperback Zom-B books -- fresh converts to the Shan cause! I haven't done events like this in the past, because I was on the road so much with my regular tours, but now that I'm taking things a bit easier on the promotional front, I'm more open to stand-alone festivals like this one, so it's possible you might see me at more of these a bit further down the line...


    To tie in with the Sci-Fi Weekender festival, the organisers produced a book of short stories by all the writers who were present. It's called Tales From The Weekend, and it includes my short story, An Affair Of The Night, which explains where Gavner Purl picked up the pink boxer shorts that he was wearing when he disrobed on the way to Vampire Mountain!! (The story is actually available for free on my web site HERE but if you'd like to get a version of it in a physical book, that you can add to your shelves along with the rest of your Darren Shan collection, this is your chance!) You can order it through the Telos web site: http://www.telos.co.uk/product/tales-from-the-weekend-pb/ They ship worldwide. And if you order early enough, you might snag one of the copies that has been signed by me and most of the other contributors. (If that's a deal-breaker for you, contact them in advance using the link on the site, asking if they can guarantee you a signed copy.)


    I have no events planned for the next few months -- I plan to be busy writing. But don't be too surprised if I pop up at the Edinburgh Book Festival at some point in August, given the fact that I've appeared there for the past 17 years in a row...







    A fan called Jade works in the Newcastle Library in the UK. Every staff member in the library is allocated a month to do a display for an author of their choice. Jade's month is May, and here are a couple of photos of the display she came up with -- looks like the best display ever to me!!!!  Jade said she was "hoping to introduce a few more people to the wonderful worlds and characters you create." And she also noted that "I met you back in May 2012, so it seems very fitting that I was given this month to do it." I think it's more than just fitting, Jade -- I think it was DesTiny!!!!!!!





    [This is a repeat article from last month -- bargains like these deserve to be shared!]


    If you love a bargain, and don't own all the books in The Saga Of Darren Shan (aka the Cirque Du Freak series), then have I got exciting news for you! The complete set is back in stock at Lowplex UK, for the eye-watering, virtually giveaway price of just £16.99!! Yes -- all 12 books for just 17 quid!!!! That's a whopping 76% discount. And their international shipping rates are very reasonable too, so even if you live outside the UK, this will still probably be the cheapest way you're ever going to find to buy the whole series in one go, especially given the fact that sterling has fallen by so much over the last year or two. Click on THIS LINK for a shortcut to Cut-price Freak Heaven!!


    And the good news doesn't stop there! If your collection is shy The Demonata series, you can pick up all 10 books for just £17.99. CLICK HERE


    If you want to buy both series together, without having to click more than one link, you can do that too -- all 22 books for £31.99. CLICK HERE


    Want to find out what Mr Crepsley's like was like in the 200 years before he met Darren and Steve, but don't want to spend more than £10.99 on the four book prequel series? CLICK HERE


    They also sell the UK paperback editions of the first 6 Zom-B books -- but be warned, these are the old look editions, and the rest of the books are being released in a different format. CLICK HERE


    Finally, they have the first 6 manga volumes of The Saga too, but there's only 5% off those, so it may well be that you can find them cheaper elsewhere. CLICK HERE






    We live in troubling times, and the media keep feeding us one negative story after another (since bad news is what sells best), which makes the emergence of The Vault Of Awsomeness particularly timely and welcome! It's kind of the opposite reaction to the TV show Room 101 -- but where that show asks people to put their pet hates into a sealed room, this one asks people to put the things they absolutely love into a vault. Writer, blogger and event organiser George Bastow was recently asked to contribute, and along with Fawlty Towers and black pudding (yum!) he stuck ME into the Vault Of Awesomeness. To find out why, CLICK HERE


    If you want to fast forward to the section where George talks about me and my books, it starts from the 40 minutes 40 second mark. But I would recommened listening to the whole show if you have the time. George is an engaging raconteur, with an interesting and amusing take on the world. Trust me, the hour will fly by and at the end you'll be left feeling... well... awesome!!!



    VLOG ON!


    Mr Crepsley from the Cirque Du Freak remains my most popular character among Shansters. We got to see a lot of him during Darren Shan's story, but I felt there was more to explore, which is why I went back and wrote a four book prequel series called The Saga Of Larten Crepsley, tracing his life over the course of 200 years from childhood to the point where he crosses paths with Darren and Steve. The books have been on sale for quite a few years now, but they're still finding their way into the hands of fans who are new to them, and one of those is a vlogger called ScareCrow who recorded a very sweet post about them. There's a bit of swearing, but don't we all swear a bit when we get overly excited? And I love it when my books get readers excited!!!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LxON3YPtBBg







    A fan called Courtney sent me the first drawing above, of a battered B Smith and a solemn looking Holy Moly. If you don't know who B Smith is, or are wondering who on earth would call their child Holy Moly, then you need to check out the books in my Zom-B series, which is where these characters hail from. Courtney has sent me lots of cool art over the years, but this is one of my favourite pieces. I hope you guys like it as much as I do.


    If you're scared of clowns, don't look at the second photo!! Whoops -- too late -- you looked, didn't you?!? It's a photo of a fan called Kallisti, who dressed as Mr Dowling from my Zom-B books to enter a competition. Mr Dowling is one of my creepiest creations (many fans would say THE creepiest, although I've created a lot of creeps to choose from!), a mute, telepathic, homicidal clown who likes to add a little bit extra to his mouth when he's planning to kiss someone -- like an army of tiny spiders!! He features strongly throughout the series, but never as much as he does in book 10, Zom-B Bride, which went on sale in its new paperback format last month in the UK and Ireland. (Book 11 will follow in July and book 12 in October.) If you're interested in visiting at home in his underground base and learning more about him (such as what he uses instead of toilet paper!!) then look for it in your local bookshop (ask if you don't see it on the shelves, and they should be able to order it in for you) or check for the best online price on 123PriceCheck.






    I don't think anyone inspires children as much as a creative, passionate teacher, and this month I'm delighted to highlight three of them. First up, here's a brilliant example of how teaching a book in class needn't be a boring exercise. It comes from the students at St Benedict's school. They were tasked with writing letters from the character Darren Shan to his parents, sister and friends. The letters were to cover the time after Steve had been bitten by Madam Octa, before Darren had his encounter with Mr Crepsley, when Darren knew there was a chance he might never return to tell them what happened.





    Next up, some of the fabulously freaky Year 6 students at Bearwood recently posted on their school's blog, and the aim of each piece was to intrigue and entice new punters into the world of the Cirque Du Freak -- i.e. they treated the book as if it was real, and tried to write an article that would persuade other people to come and check out the show. It's a great example of how a classroom exercise can be fun for everyone. http://blogs.bearwood.sandwell.sch.uk/year6atbearwood/






    The final example comes from another group of Year 7's, this time in St Aidan's CofE High school in Lancashire. The challenge was for the students to write "chapter 12.5" of Cirque Du Freak, creating a freak of their own in the process. It's another fine example of how you can teach a book to a group of kids while keeping it fun for them -- their teacher, Joanna, told me that after enjoying Cirque Du Freak as a classroom text, the students have gone on to read the rest of the series independently. If only all teachers could be as inspiring as Joanna and her colleagues in the other two schools! 





    Continuing the how-to-make-school-fun theme... last month I did a Twitter chat with some of the students of Glenthorne high school. It was a fun event, and you can read a little more about it over here: OVER HERE The article also contains a link to the entire Twitter conversation, so that you can see all the questions and answers gathered together in one easily accessible place.






    There's been a new review for Lady Of The Shades, the last book that I released for adult readers before I changed my name to Darren Dash -- but it's all Greek to me!!! That's because it's by a Greek reviewer who got their hands on the edition that was published in Greece a few years ago. Oddly enough, it's the only book of mine to have been translated into Greek so far. A pity, as I've been waiting for years to use a Cirque Du Greek pun if they ever translated my vampire books!!!  Anyway, it was a good review from what I could make out using Google Translate, although if any of you speak Greek and can provide me with a more accurate translation, it would be much appreciated... CLICK HERE







    A fan called Shane recently had to physically create a scene from a book for a school project, and he chose to bring to life the scene from my book Slawter which features on the cover of the American edition of the book. I think he did an absolutely amazing job, and you can check out his work in the photos above. I hope Shane got top marks for it -- if not, the demons will be coming for his teacher any day now!!!!





    As I said near the top of this newsletter, it's 20 years ago this month since I started work on the first draft of Cirque Du Freak in May 1997. To celebrate, I'm running a competition with three very special prizes.


    First prize will be a signed copy of the first UK edition of Cirque Du Freak -- but as rare and valuable as that is, it's not the main part of the prize! The main part is a signed set of my UK publisher's proofs for the manga edition of Cirque Du Freak, book 1 in the series. When the manga was translated into English from Japanese, it was done by my American publishers, who then sent the artwork and text through to my UK publishers, who changed a few of the Americanisms and sent them to me for my approval. These are the proofs that I actually worked on, making them an extremely rare prize -- this is the first time ever, to the best of my recollection, that I've offered a working set of proofs as a competition prize. You'll be able to see by the red, handwritten notes where my UK editor made changes. Signed copies of the first edition of the book are rare enough, but this is a true one-off prize -- the winner will end up with a document that nobody else in the world owns, not even ME after I give it away!!!


    Second prize will be something just as rare as the first prize -- it will be a signed set of my UK publisher's proofs for the manga edition of The Vampire's Assistant, book 2 in the series. Again, these pages are the working proofs that I went through when approving the final text for the UK manga of the book, with my editor's notes marked up in red. Nobody else in the world will have this, not even me!


    Third prize will also be as rare as the first two prizes -- it will be a signed set of my UK publisher's proofs for the manga edition of Tunnels of Blood, book 3 in the series. As with the first two prizes, these pages are the working proofs that I went through when approving the final text for the UK manga of the book, with my editor's notes marked up in red. Nobody else in the world will have this, not even me!


    1) Answer this question: "In what year did I start writing the first draft of Cirque Du Freak?"


    2) Send your entry to: [email protected]


    3) Put your NAME in the SUBJECT BOX when you send your e-mail -- I will not accept your entry if you don't. And make sure you INCLUDE YOUR FULL POSTAL ADDRESS in the body of the e-mail, as well as the answer. This is so that I can easily send your prize to you if you win.


    (4) Closing date is midnight, UK Time, Thursday, May 11th, 2017.


    (5) This competition is open to everybody, everywhere in the world, unless you work for one of my publishers or are one of my relations.


    (6) You can only enter the competition ONCE. If you try to enter more than once, ALL of your entries will be disqualified.


    (7) Only one entry per household -- if you send in more than one entry, ALL of your entries will be rejected. If more than one person in a house wants to enter, you'll need to make a joint entry.


    (8) The draw for the winners will be made on or after Friday, May 12th, 2017. It will be a completely random draw, made by Darren Shan personally (I use an online number generator to pick the winners). I will try to notify the winners by e-mail, and will post their names in the Shanville Monthly, and on Facebook too.


    (9) Information submitted by entrants WILL NOT be shared by me with any other individual or company.


    (10) My decision will be final.



    IT'S A WRAP!



    And that's it for May. I had lots of fun at the Sci-Fi Weekender at the start of the month, and the photo above was taken during my main solo event, when I was interviewed by fellow author Sam Stone. I don't really like being photographed, as I rarely like what I look like when I'm captured on film, but this one made me smile. I'm not sure what I was talking about at this precise moment, or why my fingers were clenched into a fist, but I love the determined look on my face and the "Come on!" gesture. THIS is how I look inside my head when I'm facing up to the various challenges and obstacles that life throws at us all. A sweet memento to take away from a sweet weekend. I'll be back next month with all the latest news and updates. Until then, all my bloody best, Darren Shan. x x x



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