• Issue 225 - April 2019

    01 April 2019




    Hi everyone, and welcome to the April issue of the Shanville Monthly. As I hinted last month, the Shan Clan was due a fresh delivery in late March, and here she is, Gaia Shan, daughter of darkness! She popped out with a full head of hair, and is a remarkably chilled little thing -- so far anyway! I spent most of the last week of March in the maternity hospital, looking after Gaia and her Mum. I'm back home now, still in carer mode (someone has to keep Dante entertained!), but not even a newborn baby can get between me and an issue of the Shanville Monthly, so here's the April edition, with all the latest news that's fit to report. Nappies away -- let Shan have his say!!!






    When I publish a book, I always write up some author notes about it. I cover all sorts of things in the notes, such as where the idea might have originated, how long it took to write, who certain characters were named after, and so on. I try to make them as informative as possible, to give fans as much insight into the creation of the story as I can. Over the last couple of years, I've been updating those notes, and also writing new notes for a few that I missed. I finally completed the task last month, adding notes for the two most recent books for adults that I released under the name of Darren DashMidsummer's Bottom was my most recent release, so that's the one I finished up with. There'll be no more now until the next book comes along -- hopefully that won't prove too long a wait! You can check out the notes for any and all of my books on my website, any time you want, by clicking THIS LINK.






    A reviewer called Frankie has been working their way through my Saga Of Darren Shan series, posting a review for each book. After a brief hiatus, Frankie recently hit the halfway mark with The Vampire Prince. To find out what Frankie thought of the book, CLICK HERE -- if, like me, you don't speak Italian, just copy the review and paste it into a translator like Google Translate for a very accurate translation.




    I'll be interested to hear if others share Frankie's harsh view of Kurda. For me, Kurda was a fascinating character to write about. He plays the part of a villain, but everything he did was for the good of the vampire clan, so in some ways he can be viewed as a hero, albeit one who is ruthlessly prepared to sacrifice the few to save the many. Was he right to proceed as he did? Could his plan to save the clan have worked if he hadn't been exposed by Darren? Would it have been better for the clan to perish than to move forward in Kurda's intended direction? Let the debates commence!!!





    Vlogger JJ Goodman declared March "Demonata Month" with the aim of reviewing all ten books in my demon series before the end of the month. Did he succeed or did he crash and burn? For the answer, you'll have to head on over to his YouTube page, where the links for each book can be found. Once you've ascertained whether or not JJ hit his target, I'd highly recommend having a look at the reviews too -- he has some vey interesting thoughts about them...






    This one made me chuckle a lot! Last month I saw a post on my Twitter feed, from someone in Woolmer Hill Library, with the #bookfacefriday tag, featuring an ingenious use of a hardcover UK copy of my Zom-B Family book (book 10 in my Zom-B series),which features the nefarious Owl Man, one of several not-so-easily-defined villains who appear in that story line. I wasn't aware of #bookfacefriday before, but I'll be keeping an eye out for similar posts going forward, especially if some of the rest of you rise to the challenge and find a way to incorporate covers from some of my other books... 





    I frequently hear from fans who are having trouble tracking down certain copies of my books -- they can't find them in their local book shops, or the booksellers for whatever reason won't order in the books for them -- or who can't afford to pay full price for them. If they're having that sort of trouble, I usually recommend buying online if they can. Amazon, of course, is the go-to store for many people, and there's no denying you can get some great bargains on there, and sometimes track down books or other items that are out of stock in most other places. But it's not the only store in town, certainly where my books are concerned.


    The online store I recommend more than any other, based on low prices, having my books in stock, and having bought from them several times myself, is Lowplex. They're based in the UK, where shipping is free if you pay over a certain amount on your order, but they ship all over the world, and their shipping rates are pretty reasonable, although there's no really cheap way to post heavy items like books around the globe. Lowplex offer complete sets of all my major series, at incredibly low prices -- indeed, the prices are so low that even if you live on the other side of the world to the UK, the overall price for a set can still work out very reasonably, regardless of the cost of shipping. For instance, the last time I looked, they were selling...

    ...all 12 of my Zom-B books for just £17.95! CLICK HERE

    ...all 12 of my Saga Of Darren Shan series (known as the Cirque Du Freak series in the USA) for just £17.99! CLICK HERE

    ...all 10 of my Demonata series for just £19.95! CLICK HERE

    ....or both the Saga and Demonata sets (22 books in total) for a mere £33.99! CLICK HERE

    ...and all 4 books in my Saga Of Larten Crepsley series for the nice low sum of £10.99! CLICK HERE


    You can find these UK sets on Amazon stores around the world as well (they may well be available through other online sellers too), and it might work out cheaper to get them from your local Amazon store -- my advice is to compare prices on both sites, including shipping, and going with whichever works out the cheapest. As I always stress when highlighting Lowplex, I have no association with the company, and don't directly profit from any of these links (I'm not on a backhander if you click on them) -- I'm just flagging up bargains because I like to see you guys nab the best deals possible whenever I can. We creatures of the night have to look out for one another, right?!?






    I haven't been giving many interviews in recent times, keeping a fairly low profile while I'm between book series. But when a fan called Rhiannon -- who'd been to a few of my book signings over the years -- emailed me to ask if she could ask a few questions for a short interview for her blog, I couldn't say no. It's a nice little piece, in which I talk about why I'm not touring at the moment, how I go about presenting myself at public events, and what it's like to have fans who have grown up into adults while reading my books. I highly recommend the interview, and it won't take more than 2 or 3 minutes to read. CLICK HERE.




    I took my 4 year old son Dante to see A Dog's Way Home at the cinema a few Sundays ago. Neither of us was especially interested in seeing it, but it was a cold, wet Sunday and we needed to kill a couple of hours before we went for a swim. I knew the general gist of the story before we went -- a stray dog gets adopted by a kind guy, they get separated, and it spends a couple of years making its way back home to him. Fine. A nice little family movie, the kind of which I'd seen many times before. No harm there -- I thought!


    Poor little Dante was left traumatised!


    The crying started when the dog was taken away from its owner, but I managed to settle him down easily enough at that stage. More tears when the dog had to be sent hundreds of miles away to live with other people, but again I managed to calm him swiftly enough. Then we got close to the end, and the dog had to say goodbye to a wild cougar that it had teamed up with -- floods of tears! And then the expected happy ending, when the dog is reunited with its owner -- full-on howling and weeping from my little four year old!!


    The thing was, he had never seen a film like this before. Most of the films he's watched are just funny crowd-pleasers, or, if they work on more emotional levels -- such as the superb Coco, which reduced ME to a blubbering wreck, and still does any time that I happen to catch the last act if it's showing on TV -- they've been beyond his comprehension and he hasn't been that affected by them. But this was a beginner's level weepie, and it hit him hard. He could fully understand what was happening, but he wasn't quite sure why it was making him cry, especially at the end, when he knew he should be happy, but his heart was breaking with that happiness.


    t was fascinating and instructive to watch (although I was busy hugging him and telling him it was all OK and swiftly trying to explain why the film was working on his emotions this way), and it gave me a keen insight into what many of my readers no doubt go through when they read my books. I love stories that work on multiple levels, that can move us to tears as well as thrill us or make us laugh -- it's what story-telling should be all about, engaging us in a variety of different ways, pushing a number of different buttons. I also think it's important to experience tear-jerkers like this film or my own Killers Of The Dawn book, because fiction helps prepare us for the losses and blows we must suffer and deal with in real life. We all lose people close to us. We all have to say goodbye to friends and loved ones at various points in our lives for whatever reasons (such as moving to a new neighborhood or a new school). These can be hard, gut-wrenching experiences, and I think we're better placed to cope with them if we've encountered such situations in movies or books or TV shows or comics or wherever.


    A strong argument, one that I fully believe in and have often drawn on when trying to tell readers why I've killed off some of their favourite characters in my books. But try explaining all of that to a weeping four year old as you exit the dark of the cinema!!!








    I sometimes get asked by readers which comes first when I'm writing a book -- the title or the story? It varies from book to book. Sometimes the name will come to me first, and I'll have it in place from the very beginning. Other times I'll come up with it during the writing process. And occasionally it will only come late in the day, when the book has been edited and is nearing the printing stage. The trickiest one I ever had to deal with (to date, anyway) was Dark Calling, which had a VERY tortuous birth...


    My first working title for book 9 of The Demonata was The Divine Horror. I was never happy with that, but at least it gave me something to call the book. A year and a half later, I shortened it to "ivine Horror, in case that would grab me any more, but it didn't. Nearly a year after that, I changed it to Eternity's Crux. I liked that title, as it tied in very neatly with the story line and hinted at the sci-fi elements that play an important part in the book. But I suspected it was a title that other people wouldn't warm to, and as soon as it went to my editor, that was confirmed. The trouble was, we couldn't come up with anything else that both of us liked. It needed to be short and snappy, yet it also needed to relate to the plot. But book 9 had a very complicated plot! We bounced ideas back and forth. Some of the titles in the mix included Destiny's EyesCreatures of the Dark, and Dark Matters. We both liked the "dark" theme, so I played with it a bit more and came up with titles such as Dark EyesMonsters of the Dark, and Call of the Dark.


    That last name struck a chord with me. I knew it wasn't quite right, but I sensed I was close. With the production team baying for a title (we literally came within 24 hours of the deadline!), I played around with Call of the Dark on my way to the theatre (I was going to see a play called Fat Girl), and came up with Dark Calling. I instantly knew the problem had been solved, and luckily my editor agreed straightaway when I sent it to her. And so the title of book 9 finally came to be. Phew!!!





    The above post about the title for Dark Calling was inspired by a comment from someone on Twitter called Kay, who used to work in a bookshop. At one point when the Demonata books were being released in the UK (I think it might have been for Wolf Island, though I could be wrong about that) my publishers created an interactive dump bin for use in selected stores. A dump bin is what they call those display cases that you sometimes see books by certain authors (usually bestselling authors) stacked in. They're a great way to publicize an author's work, setting it aside from the regular shelving in the store.


    Usually dump bins just feature a photo of the author's latest book, or maybe a photo of the author, or even just the author's name. But HarperCollins put a motion sensor into the Demonata dump bin, along with an audio clip, and whenever anyone passed by, it emitted a loud wolfish howl. Kay posted to ask if anyone else remembered that dump bin -- she said it used to make her jump every morning when she arrived for work!


    The dump bin bin was utterly brilliant -- but also utterly impractical. The howling drove booksellers mad, especially in busy stores, where it was being set off every half minute. I think the staff in pretty much every shop turned off the audio clip after about 10 or 15 minutes max. Well, except in Kay's shop, evidently -- maybe they were a more demonic crew in her neck of the woods. Or maybe they just liked scaring Kay in the morning!!!






    It was World Book Day last month, and GBC -- a TV channel in Gibraltar -- aired a nice programme about a school where lots of the students had dressed up as characters from their favourite books. Quite of few of them were inspired by characters from my books -- mainly Cirque Du Freak -- and as the programme makes clear, the" freaky force" is strong in this school!!!  The top photo above is from the school, and you can CLICK HERE to watch the short news item.


    The second photo is another World Book Day related post. It popped up on my Twitter timeline on WBD, posted by the freakishly fabulous crew at Team Kolbe House. It put a BIG smile on my face. Oh, and if you think the teacher in the corner looks a bit odd, that's because she's dressed as Cruella De Vil!


    I haven't done anything to officially link in with World Book Day in recent years, ever since the people who organise it in the UK snubbed Zom-B Circus a few years back -- for more info about that, see my author notes for the book: https://www.darrenshan.com/books/details/zom-b-circus It's not that I bear a grudge, but the way I figure it, since they've no interest in the undead, as a representative of the undead, I've no interest in them!!!   






    A couple of fans were talking about Vampire Mountain (the book, not the actual place) over on Twitter recently, and one of them said that it was maybe their favourite book from the series. I think the book has quite a strong following among fans of the series, based on the number of copies of it that I've been asked to personalise at book signings over the years -- when I do a signing, I'll always try to sign as many of my books as any fan brings along, but I also personalise one book per fan (i.e. I dedicate it to them and write a small message for them) and I let each fan choose which book that goes into. Normally they choose their favourite, and some front-runners have emerged over the years -- unsurprisingly, Cirque Du Freak is the one I most often get asked to sign, but others that place highly include Lord Loss, Hell's Heroes, Bec, Killers of the Dawn, Sons of Destiny... and Vampire Mountain.


    I'm surprised and pleased by just how popular Vampire Mountain has proven to be. It doesn't feature much action, and there's a lot of world-building, which can often make for a dull, draggy book. It would have been easy to lose a lot of readers with this book, to bore them to the point where they decided not to proceed any further. It was a concern for me going into this part of the story, and I worked hard to keep it as tight and interesting as I could. So every time someone comes up to me with a copy of it to get signed, I smile to myself and mentally murmur, "Job well done!"


    If I had to pick my favourite book from the series, I might opt for The Vampire Prince, but to be honest, I view the series as one big book, and the individual titles are just like chapters to me, so I don't have an actual fave, any more than I'd have a fave chapter in a stand-alone book. How about you? Do you have a favourite book in my Saga Of Darren Shan/Cirque Du Freak series? And if so, what is it?!? Answers on a postcard to Darren Shan, Vampire Mountain, Somewhere in the Wilds!!!






    I post a lot of fan art to my Facebook page, and above you can find three of the pieces that I featured last month. At the top there's a drawing of Mr Dowling, along with some of his oh-so-cute (if you're a demon!) babies, from my Zom-B books, by a fan called Joslyn. If you've never read my Zom-B books -- yes, that IS an eye stuck to the end of his nose, and those "decorations" on his arm are actually lengths of gut that he's wrapped around himself.


    The second drawing came from a fan called Leah and features Darren and Mr Crepsley from Cirque Du Freak. Her accompanying message was very sweet. She wrote: "I just wanted to share this old drawing I found clearing out the house. I drew it over 9 years ago, and brought it with me to a signing you did in Swansea. I meant to give it to you but I got so nervous I asked you to sign it instead. It still makes me cringe thinking how awkward/nervous 14 year old me was meeting you, but you were very kind! It's a fun memory to think about as an adult even after all these years. I still very much enjoy all your books and I'm glad you've continued to create such fantastic works!" I know that fans sometimes get overwhelmed when they meet me. I always try to put them at their ease and break down the barriers, so that they don't go away away feeling TOO embarrassed, but I know how hard it can be when you find yourself in the presence of one of your idols -- I was in the same room with Stephen King, MY writing idol, years ago, but went all shy and couldn't find the courage to go introduce myself to him. So Leah did much better with me than I did with Stephen King -- and she ended up with a cool, autographed drawing that can still make her smile all these years later -- result!!!! 


    Mr Crepsley is probably the most popular of all the characters in my books, and the one who tends to get drawn by budding artists the most. His warrior amour, Arra Sails, is a very popular character too, but I don't see too many drawings of her, which made the third drawing above, a stunning, fiercely beautiful portrait by a fan called Eszter, all the sweeter when it came my way. Ah, Arra, how we all miss you...



    IT'S A WRAP!


    And that's it for April. I suspect I'll be changing nappies and preparing meals for the Shan clan for much of the coming month, so I probably won't be getting a whole lot of work done. Ah well, there's more to life than work. I'll keep on posting Shan and Dash related updates on Facebook and Twitter, and I'll be back here at the start of May with a roundup of all the latest news and updates. Until then, all my bloody best, Darren Shan. x x x



    Follow Darren Shan on Facebook and Twitter. He also has a (very rarely updated!) YouTube page.





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