• Issue 236 - March 2020

    01 March 2020



    Hi everyone, and welcome to the March issue of the Shanville Monthly. This month you'll find out which of my books was nominated as a reviewer's favourite new release of 2019... what ties the Cirque Du Freak to Hedwig And The Angry Inch... how to pronounce the names of some of my more unusually monikered characters... and how many books I've released -- which isn't as straightforward an answer as one might imagine! Oh, and there's also another cool competition to tie in with the 20th anniversary of the release of Cirque Du Freak. Read on to educate yourself and enter...



    BEST OF 2019!



    "Molls Like it Hot is a thoroughly grizzly, gritty, and unmissable story based in London, UK that provides the reader with plenty of twists and turns to keep them hooked from the very first page. In all honesty, this is probably Darren Dash's best work to date. Despite being released late into the year, Molls Like it Hot surprised, and left such an impact on me, I am naming it my Book of the Year 2019."


    Wow. Just... wow. I don't think reviews come much more glowing than this one of Molls Like It Hot, by reviewer Tom Sturtridge over on the Vocal Media web site. You can read the full review by CLICKING HERE.


    Molls has been getting a great reaction from reviewers across the board -- I've honestly yet to read a truly negative review of it. If you'd like to learn a bit more about it, and how to order it either as an ebook or paperback, visit the Darren Dash web site at www.darrendashbooks.com







    I was thrilled to see famed vampire reviewer Maven Of The Eventide post a lengthy video review of Cirque Du Freak (along with The Vampire's Assistant and Tunnels Of Blood) last week. It's a really fun and well-researched piece, and she's very entertaining to watch -- I love her accent! (She mentions me having an Irish accent at one point -- I didn't have the heart to write and tell her that despite having lived in Ireland for more than 40 years, I still speak with the strong Cockney twang that I had when I left London as a 6 year old!) She does mispronounce Murlough's name (it should be Mur-lock, not Merlot) but many many have done (and continue to do) that over the years -- my fault for assuming that everyone knew that a lake is known as a lough in Ireland... Anyway, that's enough of my prattling. Time to CLICK HERE and let the Maven start rattling!





    A fan of my books, called Kendra, recently wrote to me for some advice about publishing. In her email she said:


    "I'm a comic artist/animator, just about to graduate college, and I have a piece I've been working on for a very very VERY long time. I'm finally ready to try to publish it and draw it out -- but I'm absolutely terrified. Putting my writing - and my art - out into the universe feels so personal, and I am absolutely terrified no one is going to like it. Do you ever feel this way when you write and publish your books? How do you get over the fear of failure -- if you consider no one enjoying your books a failure? How do you work with others -- and let them change your work without letting it affect you personally? And how do you keep writing fun? I'm always stuck in the balance of writing for myself and then trying to write for others. I can't find the happy medium. I want to enjoy it but I'm terrified of failure, simply because my work is so personal and so important to me. What do you do with these kind of problems if you face them at all? What keeps you writing and what gives you the courage to put it all out there?"


    BIG questions that I think pretty much every writer faces when they're starting out. I wasn't able to answer all of them in depth, though I've gone into more detail about those in the past and written about them on my web site (there will be a link for that at the end of this post) but here's how I responded to Kendra:


    "If there's one message that I hope every reader takes away from my books it's that we must never let our fears define or confine us. It's perfectly natural to be scared of showing your work to others, but if you've got to the point where you feel ready to send it out into the world, then you just have to put those fears to one side and start submitting it. Expect rejections and, even though you will be disappointed by them, you won't be crushed by them. Remind yourself that pretty much every writer struggles and gets turned down when they're starting out (Cirque Du Freak was rejected by 20 publishers), and wear those rejections if and when they come as a badge, with pride -- because they're proof that unlike the many people who dream of being writers but never dare put their neck on the block, you've stepped up and are taking the shots as anyone in pursuit of their dream must take. Also remind yourself that you're still VERY young, even if it might not feel that way -- most authors are in their 30s before they really start to get going -- so if this one doesn't work out, move on to the next one, and the one after that, and the one after that...


    "Every rejection hurts, but better to try and be knocked back, than never try at all. The most important thing is to KEEP trying. You'll learn to deal with the hurt, and grow from it. You might even find that it helps you become a better writer, in the long run.


    "And, hey, you might not get rejected at all -- though you'd be a very rare anomaly if you're not!


    "Best of luck with the adventure!"


    I hope that proved of some help to Kendra, and that it maybe helps some of you reading this, if you're in the same boat as her. For LOTS more on this subject, you might want to check out the Writing Tips part of my web site, where I've gathered together my thoughts on most things concerned with writing and publishing. You can access it by CLICKING HERE.



    (nearly) ALL THE BOOKS



    Over the years, quite a few fans have sent me photos of their Darren Shan collections. They're usually pretty impressive -- I've written a LOT of books, and they take up a lot of shelf space when you see them all together -- but they're also almost always shown spine-out. That makes sense, since that's the way we all stack our books, right? But a fan called Amity Lee (many of whose amazing drawings I've featured on my blog in past posts) decided to take a photo of her collection of my books with the covers face-up, and the scale of it made me pause and whistle appreciately -- "I've published THAT many books?!?" I murmured to my myself, almost disbelievingly. :-)


    But as jaw-dropping as this photo was, something about it made me pause. I've published 51 books (including a couple of shorts, and the novels for adults that I release under the name of Darren Dash) but I could only count 50 here. (Discounting the double-ups of my Demonata books.) I must admit, it took me a few minutes of head-scratching and re-counting to figure out what was missing -- and I wonder if any of YOU will be quicker to the punch than I was!! I'll give you a couple of clues -- it's a short book -- there WAS a paperback edition -- but it's only ever been on sale as an eBook.


    If you can't work it out, visit the Books section over on my website, where you'll be able to find it in among the mix of all my published work: www.darrenshan.com/books



    51 OR 52?!?



    I realised, after I'd written the above post, that there have actually been 52 published Darren Shan books, not the 51 that I quoted. It wasn't that I got my numbers wrong, because both of them are correct.


    Confused? Let me explain.


    In Japan, in the early noughties, my books were hugely popular. I've actually sold similar amounts in the UK and USA over the last twenty years, but there was a steady, incremental growth in those territories, as word of mouth built and built, and my books got passed on to younger brothers and sisters, who recommended them to their friends, and they got taught in schools, and so on. In Japan, on the other hand, they went VERY big VERY quickly, and were mostly bought by women between the ages of 18 and 30. (I kid you not!) For a brief while, I enjoyed rock star status in the land of the rising sun.


    At the height of Shan-mania, my Japanese publishers asked me if they could release a Darren Shan fan-book. They translated several short stories (which are available in English on my web site, in the Extras section) and sent a team to Ireland and London to take loads of photos of my on my home turf -- there are pictures of my house, the block of flats in London where I used to live, a fry-up that we had while they were here, and lots, lots more. It was published in 2004.


    I don't include the fan book in the official count of my books, since it was never released anywhere outside of Japan, but it DOES exist, and it IS a Darren Shan-titled book, so, y'know... 51 or 52... take your pick!!! :-)


    If you're interested in buying a copy of the fan book, there's a site called YesAsia which is still listing it. They ship worldwide, and shipping is free if you spend over $39. (The fan book is $22.49.) CLICK HERE





    I had a few enquiries/comments last month about the pronunciations of certain character names in my books. The latest was on Twitter, where a follower was watching an old interview with me and realised she'd been mispronouncing the name of Seba Nile for all these years -- she was saying Seb(rhymes with web)-ah instead of See-bah.


    Look, when it comes to a made-up name -- or even an unusual real name -- there is no "right" or "wrong" way to pronounce it. I never mind when a reader's interpretation of a name doesn't match mine -- I'm sure I've "mispronounced" lots of names myself when I've been reading books by other writers over the years.


    (I can't let this quick true story go without mention. When I read the first Harry Potter book, I pronounced Hermione's name as Her-me-own. Then I got invited onto the set when they were making the first film. I was chatting with a very young Emma Watson at one point, and when I got the name wrong, she swiftly, politely, but firmly corrected me with, "Actually, it's Her-my-oh-nee." No room for negotiation on that one!!!)


    Anyway, having said that every reader is entitled to their own version of my characters' names, as the author I like to think that my own way of saying them is the offiical way -- not the only way, by any means, and maybe not even the best way, but certainly the certified Darren Shan way! A long time ago, I wrote up a list of the odder names in Cirque Du Freak and the other four books in the series which had been released at that point, and I also did a list for the first three books of The Demonata, in each instance describing how I say the names. So, if you want to get in line with the official stance, click on the links below -- but if you'd prefer to go on pronouncing them your own way, that's absolutely fine too. :-)


    Cirque Du Freak.








    I get Google alerts any time Cirque Du Freak is mentioned in a news story, and I got one recently concerning an upcoming run of the musical Hedwig And The Angry Inch in Pennsylvania in the USA -- CLICK HERE to find out more about that.


    Now, I'm sure many of you are wondering what on Earth Hedwig has to do with the Cirque, but as you'll see if you read the article, the music for Hedwig was composed by Stephen Trask -- who also composed the score for the movie of Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant. I know opinion differs greatly with it comes to the movie, but there's one thing about it that I think nobody would argue with -- the score is absolutely brilliant. Because the film wasn't stronger or more popular, I think the music went largely overlooked, which is a shame, because it's a stunner. You can listen to the soundtrack through most online music streaming services, I think -- there was a CD made as well, though that might prove more expensive to track down. If you can't access the entire album, or want to test it before you buy, you can find a taster of all the pieces on AllMusic by CLICKING HERE.





    It's twenty years since Cirque Du Freak was first released, but there are still new reviewers coming fresh to the series, such as this blogger with the user name of Popcorn And Paperbacks. It's nice that my books are still being "discovered" all these years later -- long may the word of mouth continue to spread!! CLICK HERE to read the new review for the old book!






    This one's a bit of a French oddity...


    The manga edition of The Saga Of Darren Shan (aka the Cirque Du Freak series) was released in French many years ago. I was sent the first six volumes, but no more, so I assumed that the publishers had stopped there. It wouldn't have been the first time that had happened to my series in France -- the books of the Saga were first published in 2001, but the publishers stopped at the fourth, and they were re-translated and re-published several years later, and this time they only got to the third book. The same fate befell my Zom-B series even further down the path, and again they stopped publishing them after the third book. "C'est la vie!" as my frustrated French freaksters no doubt groaned each time!


    But then, last year, a strange thing happened -- I spotted volumes 7 to 12 of the French edition of the manga online. (I think a fan shared the image with me.) I asked my agent to investigate, and it turns out they actually published all 12 volumes, but never sent me the second half of the series. That has now been rectified, and I've added them all to the Covers section of my web site, where I collect the covers of every edition of my books that has ever been published -- well, at least the ones that my publishers have actually sent to me!


    You can check out the entire French manga collection, together on my site at long, long last, by CLICKING HERE.





    "LORD LOSS, as one of the first horror stories I read as a kid, taught me the meaning of having hope, and the different ways we can and should pursue to heal."


    I love it when a reader truly GETS one of my stories. I think, a lot of the time, many don't. It's perfectly possible to enjoy a book for any number of reasons, yet not quite connect with what the writer really wanted you to connect with. Sure, my book Lord Loss has loads of cool action and horror scenes to thrill those who are looking to be thrilled, and there's a dark sense of humour which I hope tickles many a funny bone, and there are mysteries which keep readers intrigued, and... and... and...


    But really, more than anything else, what I wanted to do with this book was to say to my readers -- especially my teenage readers, who were going through a very challenging part of their lives -- that we can overcome any challenge that life sets in our path, and endure and move on from every loss that we will suffer. Boiled down to its very core, Lord Loss is a story about a boy who loses the people closest to him, then figures out a way to come to terms with that and live with it and move on with his life.


    Which is a very long-winded way of me highly recommending this review of Lord Loss, which appeared on a podcast called the LITCAST OF DOOM (cool name!) last month. Check it out by CLICKING HERE, but be warned, the language is a little bit mature in places...






    A fan of my books, called Patricia, wrote to me recently to say:


    "I have just finished reading and listening to the Zom-B series. I absolutely loved it! B quickly became one of my favorite YA characters, and I thoroughly enjoyed the way you approached her, the other characters, and the story as a whole. Even though I am nearly 40, I find that your creativity and way with storytelling continually draws me back to your writings. I feel a little bereft though, now that I have finished the Zom-B series, and I am absolutely dying to know more about xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx. Are you planning any sort of spin-off series? If so, do you have any idea when you might begin to publish it? (I sincerely hope you are.)"


    I had to redact part of Patricia's email, so as not not spoil the big finale for those of you who have not read the books yet. Basically, without giving too much away, the way the series ended, there was room to tell another story -- but I don't ever intend to. I was very pleased with the conclusion, and the fact that it left readers wondering and asking questions about what might happen next. I felt I walked away from the story at exactly the right juncture, so I can't see myself ever returning to it. Why mess with perfection?!? :-)





    As I said back in the January issue of the Shanville Monthly, it's been twenty years since the release of Cirque Du Freak. To celebrate that landmark, I'm going to be running more competitions than normal throughout the course of 2020, offering up an array of cool and unusual prizes. This month I'm going to focus on Mr Crepsley and the four book series about his life before he met Darren and Steve -- the books start with a very young, human Larten... they show how he hooked up with his mentor Seba Nile and became a creature of the night... and trace his dark and twisted path through life over the course of the next two centuries. Why focus on these books? Simply because I found a mouse mat in my office that is adorned with the UK cover of book 4 in that series, Brothers To The Death. I used this mat for a number of years, writing books, surfing the web, answering emails, putting together issues of the Shanville Monthly, and so on -- so you'll be getting a one-off, irreplacable piece of Darren Shan history if you win it.


    First prize will be the aforementioned mouse mat. The winner will also get the Turkish edition of Brothers To The Death -- I love these covers, which are very different to those used in other territories where the books were released.


    Second prize will be the Turkish edition of Oceans Of Blood (book 2 in the series).


    Third prize will be the Turkish edition of Palace Of The Damned (book 3 in the series).


    Fourth prize will be the Swedish edition of Palace Of The Damned -- this is a hardback, and adapts the UK cover.


    Fifth prize will be the Swedish edition of Brothers To The Death -- this is a hardback, and adapts the UK cover.


    I have signed and dated all of the books, with a special little (different) message in each to mark the 20 years anniversary. I also signed and dated the mouse mat, and added a little message to that as well, but it isn't in the photo above -- the winners will be the only ones to find out what messages I wrote, unless they choose to share the info later!


    If you'd like to be in with a chance of winning one of the above prizes, read on...


    1) Answer this question: "What was the name of Mr Crepsley's mentor?"


    2) Send your entry to: [email protected]


    3) Put your NAME in the SUBJECT BOX when you send your e-mail. Make sure you INCLUDE YOUR FULL POSTAL ADDRESS in the body of the e-mail, as well as the answer, so that I can easily send your prize to you if you win


    (4) Closing date is 11.59pm UK time, Tuesday, March 10th, 2020.


    (5) This competition is open to fans 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 Wednesday, March 11th, 2020. 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 and my blog 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 March. I found myself with a spare Sunday morning and afternoon in London recently, which is a rarity these days -- Mrs Shan and I used to bounce between Limerick and London like a pair of pingpong balls, but since we've had kids, we get over far less than we used to, and we normally don't have much free time on our hands when we're there. I took advantage of my temporary freedom to go for a nice long walk and pop into a couple of art galleries, including the Hayward Gallery in the Southbank Centre, which was hosting a very popular Bridget Riley exhibition, which is where I took the photo above. Don't look at it for too long or your head will start to spin! I'll be back here at the start of April with 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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