• Issue 244 - November 2020

    01 November 2020



    Hi everyone, and welcome to the November issue of the Shanville Monthly. I have lots of cool stuff to share with you this month -- Archibald Lox hardbacks, paperbacks and eBooks... a Halloween video... a trio of glowing reviews for a certain Freaky movie... news of a ten year anniversary... plus maybe the coolest competition I've ever run! There's a whole lot more as well, but let's start with those Archibald Lox editions...






    Archibald Lox Volume One: The Missing Princess is finally on sale -- hurrah!


    For those who might have missed it -- Archibald Lox is my new series. I released the first Volume as three short eBooks earlier this year, but have now collected the story into one big volume. You can now buy Archibald Lox Volume 1:The Missing Princess on Amazon stores worldwide, either as an eBOOK ($4.99), PAPERBACK ($15.99) or HARDBACK ($32), so hopefully there's an edition to suit everyone's preferences and/or financial circumstances!


    If you CLICK HERE you will be directed to your local Amazon store, where you will have the choice of buying the book in your preferred format. (In the Netherlands, you have to search separately for the paperback and hardback.)


    If you CLICK HERE you will see all the stores where the eBook is on sale -- Amazon, Kobo, Apple, Google, etc.


    And you can find the book on Google Play by CLICKING HERE.


    If you want a physical edition, but live in a country that doesn't have an Amazon store, or if you don't like shopping with Amazon on principle, I've released a paperback edition of the Volume through other shops too (you'll probably even be able to order it from your local bookseller if you wish), and you'll be able to order the hardback through other sellers too. I'll post links once they start hitting systems worldwide.


    Oh, one last thing -- the three short eBooks are still on sale through Amazon and loads of other eBook sellers (Apple, Google Play, Kobo, etc), and I've made them available as paperbacks through Amazon too, just in case anyone wants to buy them in that format. If you haven't yet started the series, I strongly recommend buying the Volume , which presents the story the way I would prefer it to be read-- with the digital editions, the price is the same whether you buy the eVolume or the three shorter eBooks, whereas with the paperbacks, it's substantially cheaper to buy the Volume.






    I recorded a Halloween 2020 video early on Halloween, in which I answered lots of questions sent to me by fans, plus I did a short reading from Archibald Lox. It ended up being a lot longer than I anticipated -- 45 minutes! I guess that will be a good thing if you're really into watching me answer questions -- but if you want to fast forward through it and just watch a few random segments, that's absolutely fine! :-) I start by answering questions about my vampire books, then Demonata, then some of my other books, then some random queries, finishing with the reading. You can view the whole thing (or parts of it!) by CLICKING HERE.






    As I said above, Volume One of Archibald Lox was originally released as three short eBooks earlier this year. Those three books were reviewed by The Bookbag recently. The Bookbag is one of those review sites whose feedback means a lot to me -- they review a LOT of books (over 15,000 and counting!) and their reviewers are well-read experts in their field. Of course every reader's opinion of a book is as valid as anyone else's, but there's no getting away from the fact that some are better informed. (I've met loads of librarians over the years, and I'm always amazed by how many books they've read, so when they offer an opinion on a specific book, I place a lot of faith in it.)


    So, when I spotted a link to Jill Murphy's review on The Bookbag of Archibald Lox and the Bridge Between Worlds, I braced myself, knowing that my stomach would sink if she hadn't enjoyed it. (It would have been a double sinking sensation, because Jill Murphy is also a very well-known author -- of The Worst Witch series -- and it's always a bit of an extra blow when one of your writing peers finds your work lacking.) Luckily, a minute later, I was wiping nervous beads of sweat from my forehead and smiling with relief, because her summation of Book 1 was:


    "Inventive and imaginative with plenty of jeopardy - as satisfying a read as we've come to expect from Darren Shan."




    Jill liked Book 2 too -- "even more pacy and exciting than the first."


    And she noted in her Book 3 review that "I read quite a lot during the seemingly endless lockdown but nothing made me smile quite as much as these first three instalments in the Archibald Lox series."


    And very little has made ME smile over the last several months as much as when I read Jill's reviews! :-) I've included the links for the three reviews below -- they're short and well written (of course!) and well worth the few minutes of your time that they'll take to quickly read through.


    Book 1: CLICK HERE Book 2: CLICK HERE Book 3: CLICK HERE






    Heads up, UK fans! The paperback of Archibald Lox Volume 1 (which collects the three parts published as eBooks earlier this year into one lovely big novel) is currently ON SALE at a hefty discount in the Amazon UK store for £10.90 instead of £12.99. I don't know why, or how long the sale price will hold, so my advice is to act quickly if you're keen on buying it! CLICK HERE

    #1 ON NETFLIX!



    The VideoInk site recently compiled list of what they consider to be the best vampire movies and TV shows on Netflix in 2020... and guess what the Number 1 movie was?!? (No prizes for guessing -- if the attached poster doesn't give the game away, then I don't know what will...) CLICK HERE


    I've got say, while opinions of the CDF movie among fans of my books was (and remains) decidedly mixed, since it moved to Netflix, it's attracted a whole new audience, people who weren't (and maybe aren't) aware of my books, who enjoy it when taken purely on its own terms. I'd even go so far as to say that it's showing signs of becoming something of a cult classic. In fact, now that I mention it...

    Halloween might be over for another year, but as far as I'm concerned, any time's a good time to watch some decent spooky films! But with so many to choose from, how do you pick the winners from the losers, the diamonds from the duds? Luckily for younger fans of the genre, Netflix Life recently published an article entitled: 5 best PG-13 Halloween movies to watch on Netflix. And guess which freaky little number came in proudly at #1 on their list?!? CLICK HERE to find out what they had to say about it, and what else made the list.
    As I said above -- the love for that movie keeps on growing and growing. It really MIGHT be seen as an early 21st century cult classic one day!!! In fact, now that I mention it (again)...





    There was an article on Inverse in the run-up to Halloween entitled: You need to watch the most underrated vampire movie on Netflix ASAP. Once again, no prizes for guessing which film they were talking about! You can read the article by CLICKING HERE


    While happy to highlight some of the Cirque Du Freak movie's flaws, the reviewer decides that ultimately "it's a riotous ride and the perfect Halloween watch." And who am I to disagree with a summary like that?!? :-)


    I get the occasional comment, whenever I link to an article about the Cirque Du Freak movie, criticising me for "publicising" or "promoting" the film. As I've said many times over the years, I wasn't involved in the adaptation, and I regret that it was so unfaithful to my books, but I did enjoy it on its own terms. I'm not "promoting" the film when I link to these types of articles -- it's worth bearing in mind that I link to the negative articles too, but surprisingly there aren't very many of those. I just like to share any opinion pieces that touch -- even tangentially -- on my books, as I know lots of you guys are as interested in them as I am. And, hey, while I know it might look as if I'm trying to build a case with recent positive posts about the movie to suggest that it's a lot better than its box office failure hints at, that's not ME pushing that view -- it's just the opinion of reviewers like these three. I can't help it if people like the movie, can I?!? :-)






    September 30th marked the 10th anniversary of the release of Birth Of A KIller, Book 1 of my Saga Of Larten Crepsley series. I've got to be honest -- I wouldn't have remembered if not for a fan called Mine Akatsuki, who drew this wonderful drawing to mark the occasion and shared it with me.


    Hard to believe a decade has come and gone since I went back 200 years to tell Mr Crepsley's life story before he met Darren and Steve at the Cirque Du Freak. When I was writing the original Saga Of Darren Shan, I never thought I'd go back and write about a young Mr Crepsley -- I usually run very shy of prequels, seeing them as cash cows that are normally churned out by writers desperate to milk a successful story one last bit! In fact, my Japanese publishers asked me to write about Mr Crepsley, at the height of the original Saga's mega success over there -- it would have been a nice little earner, but I said no, because I had no stories in mind and wasn't inclined to dredge something up just to make a few quick bucks.


    But then, over the next few years, I found myself thinking about Mr Crepsley a lot, wondering what his story was, how he'd become a vampire, and why he'd walked away from the clan when he did, on the verge of becoming a Prince. I didn't mean to write about him -- the questions just nagged at me, and I sought for answer purely for my own sake, not imagining I'd end up writing about him again. But eventually that search for understanding demanded I sit down and thrash out all the grisly details, as I could know no peace until I did. And that's how, 10 years ago, a Killer was Born...


    If you'd like to know more (a LOT more, in fact!) about the book's genesis, you can check out my author notes for it over on my web site. I write up notes for every book that I release (though I've yet to add notes for Molls Like It Hot or Archibald Lox -- they're on my To Do list, promise!). Here's the direct link for Birth Of A KiIller: CLICK HERE






    An avid reader called Samantha did a very amusing Vlogtober Spooky Readathon over on YouTube, chatting about some scary books in the run-up to Halloween. Two of my Demonata books were featured: Demon Apocalypse, and Death's ShadowTHIS is the direct link for the first video, and THIS is the link for the second -- they're both a lot of fun and certainly worth a look!


    One thing the reviews reminded me of is just how (pardon my French) batshit crazy The Demonata is!!! It's been a long time since I wrote these books, and I've forgotten a lot about them, especially as I haven't been touring in recent years and discussing them with fans. My eyes bulged as I listened to Samantha recapping some of the wilder moments from the books, and I was like, "No! That can't be right! Surely I didn't do THAT!"


    Heh heh!! I've always said I don't have a favourite series as a writer, but I've also often admitted that The Demonata is the one I'm proudest of. I pushed myself so far with these books, throwing in so much gore and preposterous plot twists that it should all have collapsed under its own weight after two or three novels. Yet somehow it all works and comes together, and although it all seems like a ludicrous dream when you think about the story afterwards, in the middle of reading, it all makes sense, and everything is there for a reasons, and everything clicks. Just don't ask me how I did it -- I look back at The Demonata now and it's almost as much of a mystery to me as it was to my readers. Maybe Lord Loss was pulling my strings... :-)






    A YouTuber called Morgan (with the YouTube handle AirspeedPrime) is doing a re-read of my entire Saga Of Darren Shan / Cirque Du Freak series, and vlogging in depth about each book. This is a real passion project for him, something he's been planning for quite a long time, and he's chatting about the books far more than the vast majority of reviewers ever do. Each review comes in around the half hour mark, so these aren't for the casual Darren Shan fan -- but if you're a dedicated Shanster who wants to hear from someone who is as obsessed with the books as you are, this if your chance! You also have the opportunity to post questions/comments to Morgan, and I'm sure he'll be more than happy to correspond with you if you do. He's posted reviews for the first three books in the series already, and the links for them are below:


    Book 1 - CLICK HERE Book 2 - CLICK HERE Book 3 - CLICK HERE






    There was a very nice post from a happy fan on the Darren Shan Discussions fan page on Facebook, after he'd read Lady Of The Shades, the last book for adults that I published under the name of Darren Shan, before switching to Darren Dash for my more maturely-themed stories: CLICK HERE


    I've always loved the diversity of my work. Ever since I started out, my agent and publishers have tried to get me to pigeon-hole myself, to just write straightforward thrillers for adults, or just write horror books for children -- or maybe, at a stretch, do both of those things, but no more than that. And they're absolutely right to try and drive me down those paths -- it's very hard to get your book into shops, and to become a commonly known name, and to convince people to return and take a chance on your future books. Lots of readers like to know exactly where they stand with an author, and pretty much all booksellers like to be able to easily present a new work from an established author as more of the same thing. That's the way the market works, and if you want to be a bestselling author, who need to bend around the market, as the market will almost certainly never bend around YOU.


    The thing is, I never worried about being a bestselling author. Don't get me wrong -- I longed for success, and I've enjoyed it immensely with those books of mine that have scored big, primarily Cirque Du Freak and its sequels. But I was never prepared to chase it at any cost. I recall a rejection letter from a very nice editor when I was still at university and sending out some early work. She said that she enjoyed the book, but it was too weird and unmarketable, and if I just toned down the weird stuff and wrote a straight-up genre book, I would get published. But even at that early stage of the game I wasn't willing to bend. I didn't want to be told what I should and shouldn't write. I just wanted to go where my imagination took me, and damn the rest.


    By my mid-twenties, I was hopeful of being able to make a very meager living as a writer, of making just enough to scrape by, and I was happy with that prospect. Money's nice, but it's never been a motivating factor for me -- I was never inclined to go get a "proper" job with a guaranteed big wage. I wanted to tell my tales, hopefully find a small audience for them, and just bob along quietly through life.


    Cirque Du Freak changed all that, and the Darren Shan brand became a juggernaut for a while. I was more than happy to ride with that particular wave, and sell millions of copies of my books, and travel the world. It changed my life and I loved every single minute of it. But even when I was at my most commercially successful best, I still wasn't writing FOR the market, which I think is pretty clear if you look at all the different places that the storyline went to, and then that The Demonata books went to. All the experimenting and different styles, even different genres -- although I got pegged as a horror writer with Cirque, I didn't write a TRUE horror book for kids until Lord Loss! And then I threw in fantasy and sci-fi and James Bond and all sorts of other stuff.


    I'm in a bit of a commercial lull at the moment. I've been self-publishing my adult books for a while now, and have had to do that as well with my latest books for kids and teens, the Archibald Lox series. I won't lie -- I'd prefer it if all those books were put out by traditional publishers, who could reach a much bigger audience than I can by myself, and which would leave me free to focus solely on the writing, which is what I enjoy most, and what I'm best at. But if the cost of that is not being able to release a thriller like Lady Of the Shades... then a weird sci-sci novel like An Other Place... then a Shakespearean-themed comedy like Midsummer's Bottom... then en epic, slow-building fantasy saga like Archibald Lox...


    Well, as my actions have shown, I'll take the off-road lanes of variety and diversity over the more run-of-the-mill safe and predictable lanes that run through the commercial middle of the book market. Because life is short, and money doesn't mean a thing at the end of your days, and I want be able to look back when I'm on my death bed and smile and whisper, "What a weird and winding road I took. Wasn't that a blast!"






    Oh, this Mr Crepsley / Steve meme is so wrong... yet so true!!! It made me laugh and wince at the same time. It was shared with me by a fan called Lacey, over on the Darren Shan Discussions Facebook fan page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/839821919370288 Thanks for sharing it, Lacey -- though I suspect blood's going to boil in the veins of many Mr Crepsley fans!!






    I came across the above photo on the Daren Shan Discussions Facebook page and thought it was too sweet not to share! The writer, Maria, definitely has much nice handwriting than mine -- I think, if I ever released a page of handwritten quotes, very few people would actually be able to read what I had written!!! :-) Here's what she said about the photo: "I have a habit of scribbling down quotes I like when I see them in books to save for when I need some positivity. I have about ten pages across various notebooks with Darren Shan quotes on them..."


    I love it when fans like Maria highlight old quotes of mine, not least because I'm often surprised by them -- there are very few that I actively remember, and sometimes I have no memory of them at all and have to ask myself, "Did I really write that?!?"


    I try not to labour too long over the lines that I write. My goal is always to set a good working pace when I sit down to write, and I find that when a story is going well, nice lines tens to unravel almost by themselves. Sure, I go through my drafts over and over and over again (at least 6 or 7 times before a books sees print), and I do a lot of rewriting and tweaking and fine-tuning, but more often than not a truly decent line springs naturally out of the story and needs little if any shaping by me. Indeed, I'd go so far as to make a musical allusion and say that with a really good story, I feel more like a composer than a conductor...






    A writing professor called Kath Rothschild asked the following question on Twitter last month: "What’s the first book you read WAY too young?" It generated an avalanche of replies, including some by several people citing my books -- Lord Loss tended to be the most-mentioned. That was nice -- as a horror writer, you always hope your books leave readers shaken! -- but it also made me wonder what book did I read at too young an age, and the answer came to me very swiftly...


    Salem's Lot by Stephen King.


    I'm not sure exactly how old I was when I took my first bite of Stephen King, but I was still at primary school, so I was at most 11 years old... which, for a book like Salem's Lot, is ridiculously way too young!!! But, hey, it was the 1980s, and we did things differently back then. There were no horror books being released for children or teenagers (at least none that I was aware of), so if you were a fan of the genre, as I had been since the age of 5 or 6, you tended to make that leap to adult horror rather sooner than you should have, to King, or James Herbert, or Dean Koontz (though I never really got into his stuff).


    I still vividly remember reading that book. I'd seen the second half of the 1970s TV movie adaptation of it a while back, which terrorised me (in an utterly delighted way). I'd no idea it was based on a book, or who Stephen King was, but then I saw THIS cover in a book store, recognised the characters from the film, and pleaded with my mother to buy it for me. These days, I think most parents would take one look at that cover and politely and quickly steer their child out of the shop and straight to a psychiatrist! But, hey, it was the 1980s, and mothers did things differently back then.


    She bought the book for me and I flew through it. Like the film, it gave me nightmares, but I LIKED having nightmares, so that was OK. I was in ecstasy when I finished it, and knew that I'd found new levels to the literary horror genre that I hadn't known existed, and that I was at the start of a long, bloody, magnificent adventure into the realms of the dark and the doomed. Soon after, I read my second King book, Cujo -- it was the 1980s, and dogs did things differently back then -- and that was a bit TOO adult for me (I could feel my cheeks burning when I was reading some of the juicier sections in the car or living room when my parents were around -- I didn't quite know what they meant, but I knew I was way too young to be dealing with such material). So I put the adult horror books aside for a while, until I was a much more mature 12 or 13, and then I returned (probably with a re-read of Salem's Lot) and have never looked back.




    I've given away some rare -- sometimes unique -- prizes in competitions in the past, but I think this is the first time that I've ever created a limited run edition of my books especially to create a prize!

    As you'll have read at the start of this newsletter, I recently released the paperback and hardback editions of Archibald Lox Volume One: The Missing Princess, as well as paperback editions of the three shorter Archibald Lox books that make up Volume One. Before uploading the paperback books to Amazon, I ordered proof copies (known as ARCs in the USA), to check that everything was OK. Normally I just order a single copy of a proof, but on this occasion I decided to order five of each, specifically so that I could give most of them away as prizes here.


    What I've done is number each book 1/5, 2/5, etc. I also signed and dated each. (I signed them on Halloween 2020, which is also the official release date for Volume One, which is a nice bonus!) I'll be keeping the four books numbered 1/5 for my own collection -- but I'm giving all of the rest away as prizes! The first four winners will receive a copy of The Missing Princess, the next four will get one of The Bridge Between Worlds, the next four will get one of The Empress of Suanpan, and the final four will get one of The Vote of Alignment. So -- sixteen prizes in total up for grabs! The books are marked Not For Resale (because they're proofs), but otherwise are exactly the same as the on-sale books. Oh, and these are also the very first copies of Archibald Lox that I have ever signed -- I'm still waiting for copies that I give away to friends and family to arrive, so I hadn't signed ANY copies of ANY of the Archie books before these twenty babies!


    I hope you're all as excited about this competition as I am. I thought it was a really cool idea when I came up with it -- and I still do! In fact I think it might be the coolest competiton I've ever run -- I've given away proofs and first edition copies of my books before, but they've always been from editions of hundreds. If you'd like to be in with a chance of winning, read on...


    1) Answer this question: "What is the name of my new series?" (This isn't a trick question -- it really is that simple! Two words. Together they form a name. It's there in big gold letters on each of the books that you can see in the photos at the top of this entry.)


    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, Monday, November 9th, 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 Tuesday, November 10th, 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 November. Now that Halloween is behind us, roll on Christmas! I've been featuring a lot of cosplaying Shansters on my blog over the past month. Why? Well, because a lot of Shansters have been cosplaying! You can see a few of them above -- Morgan as B Smith, Molly Marie as Mr Tiny, and Blaise as a young Larten Crepsley. To see larger images, along with the others who have cosplayed as various characters from my books, check out my blog by CLICKING HERE and scrolling back through the October entries -- there'll be a few more in November, so watch out for those too. I'll be back here at the start of December 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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