• Issue 247 - February 2021

    01 February 2021



    Hi everyone, and welcome to the February issue of the Shanville Monthly! As usual, I have lots to report on and articles to share with you, including the month's BIG news, involving the release of the first Cirque Du Freak manga omnibus, which has been generating a lot of admiring feedback from those who've got their hands on a copy. I've provided lots of info about the manga -- in fact, I'm kicking off with three different posts about it, which I think might be a first in all the years that I've been producing the Shanville Monthly -- but before I get to the fun stuff, there's a little slice of heartbreak to deal with...






    It's with great sadness that I have to announce the death of my agent, Christopher Little, who died at home surrounded by his family on January 7th, aged 79.


    Almost 25 years to the day earlier, I had my first phone conversation with Chris. A few months earlier I'd sent a few chapters of a novel called Ayuamarca to five different agents, having chosen them out of the Writers And Artists Yearbook. Chris was the only one who asked to see more, and who then rang to say that he was interested in possibly representing me.


    Chris didn't sign me up straight away. I was very young (23) and raw. Instead, at no cost to me, he and his team worked with me for several months, providing me with feedback and encouraging me to rewrite and edit. As my skills began to develop, Chris then formalised the arrangement and became my agent, a post he held for the next quarter of a century.


    I wasn't an easy author to represent. I didn't write just one type of book, and I mashed up genres, making me almost impossible to pigeon hole. But Chris believed in the quality of my work, and he allowed me to send loads of different types of books to him -- horror, thrillers, sci-fi, fantasy, and others that defied any kind of simple categorisation. He worked hard with me on those that he felt had promise, and with his guidance we secured a deal for that first book I'd sent him, Ayuamarca, which was eventually released in February 1999. (It was re-released years later as Procession of the Dead. Chris always knew that was a better title for the book, but I could be a stubborn young man, and he was prepared on those occasions to let me have my way, and to back me, even when he knew I was wrong.)


    In the middle of 1997 I sent Chris the first draft of a children's book called Cirque Du Freak. Even though it was a dark, weird little book, it excited him and he took it to twenty different publishers -- all of whom swiftly turned it down. That should have been the end of my commercial career, but when Chris believed in a book, he fought for it, and he fought for Cirque Du Freak, setting up meetings with a few publishers so that we could chat with them and argue our case. That resulted in the editor at one of those publishing houses (HarperCollins) changing her mind and buying the book, which went on to become a worldwide smash, fully justifying the faith that Chris had showed in my work and in me.


    I was always impressed by Chris' professionalism. Obviously I was aware that one of his other clients was a certain J K Rowling, and I suspect most agents would have let their other clients go if they'd had to deal with the runaway juggernaut of the Harry Potter phenomenon. But Chris kept me on and always made time for me, and I never had the feeling that I was in any way secondary to any of his other authors. If Chris believed in you, he remained loyal to you and supported you to the best of his ability.


    We became close friends over the years and shared many a long, lazy lunch together, usually in the company of Emma and Jules, his long-serving allies. My fondest memories of him actually don't involve work or deals, just chatting about books and theatre and movies and Chris' fascinating life in the Far East before he became an agent. He was always in a good mood whenever we met, his eyes twinkling, gently ribbing Emma and Jules. And he always knew how to pick out the best bottle of wine (or two) on the menu.


    Chris rang me early in August last year to let me know that he was losing his battle with cancer and that the end was nigh. He spent a lot of time arranging my transition to a new agent at Curtis Brown, so that I would continue to be carefully represented in the years to come, but he also continued to work on my behalf almost right the way to the end. He was keen to tie up a deal involving a potential TV adaptation of Cirque Du Freak before the end, and he did indeed get it over the line, concluding negotiations in the middle of December, just three weeks before his death. Chris obviously knew at that point that he wouldn't be around to see the series rebooted if it goes ahead successfully, but he knew how much such a deal would mean to me, and he was determined to do right by me, even with the Grim Reaper standing by his bedside and impatiently tapping its hourglass.


    Regardless of talent, an author needs a few lucky breaks in their life if they're going to get anywhere with their work, and my luckiest break was when Chris decided to take a chance on me. Everything I've enjoyed since then -- the book sales, the adaptations, the financial success, even my family, as I met my wife through work when I was promoting Cirque Du Freak -- I owe to Chris. I was fortunate enough to be able to tell him that before the end -- it's nice to laud people after they're dead, but much nicer, I think, if you can tell them how much they mean to you while they're still alive.


    I'm going to miss Chris more than words will ever be able to describe, but at the same time I know I'm lucky to have enjoyed his company for such a long stretch. I also have the bonus comfort of knowing that when my time comes, and the Grim Reaper taps on my front door, he's going to be accompanied by a grinning Chris Little, who'll no doubt produce a contract and murmur mischieviously, "No need to worry -- I've negotiated you the best deal possible..."


    Even in death may he be triumphant!!!








    The first Volume of the Cirque Du Freak manga omnibus went on sale last month, on Tuesday January 26th -- hurrah!!! The omnibus will print two books at a time, so Volume One includes Cirque Du Freak and The Vampire's Assistant. Volume Two is due to be released in April, and Volume Three in July. Hopefully it will carry on all the way to the end, as the original manga books are now fairly hard and VERY expensive to track down -- some of the later books can sell for hundreds of dollars each!! So keep your fingers crossed, and spread the word as best you can, eh?!? :-)


    You should be able to order the omnibus from any shop that sells English language manga. CLICK HERE for the official Yen Press page for the book, which includes links to several American stores. Fans in other countries can either order through their local manga specialist, or through somewhere like their local Amazon store by CLICKING HERE or Book Depository by CLICKING HERE. At the moment, it doesn't seem to be directly stocked by global Amazon stores -- you can still buy it through sites like Amazon UK, but it ships from the American store -- so if you live outside of the USA, Book Depository might be the better option until and unless that changes...








    If you want to know a bit more about Volume One of the Cirque Du Freak manga omnibus, a fan on Twitter with the user handle of Hallowraith got hold of a copy not long after publication and shared some photos and the following info:


    "The first thing that jumped out to me was how BIG this book is, the Amazon page didn't have any photos, so I wasn't sure what to expect until it arrived! It's about two inches thick and a quarter larger format than the original manga. The images inside are bigger due to the larger print, and all high quality! Daresay the cover art is even more detailed than I remember? The printed leather texture is especially crisp across the cover, and there's new flavor text on the back to go along with the omnibus edition!


    "The translation of the manga has not changed from the original print english translation, which was already great! As advertised, the omnibus edition contains both manga adaptions of books 1 and two. A blank page separates the two 'books', omitting book 2's cover art.


    "All of Arai's afterwords / "making-of" mini-comics are at the end of each part, which I'm really glad they didn't omit! I remember being so excited to read those at the end of each harrowing (and often horrifying!) adventure in Darren's saga."


    I didn't realise the omnibus was going to be bigger than the original! (I haven't received my author copies yet.) I was excited when I found out -- the artwork will definitely benefit from the larger size.





    Finally on the omnibus front -- one fan very excited by the manga's resurrection was Aisling O'Connor, who wrote a lovely piece on Gonzo.Moe, talking about how news of the omnibus made her feel nostalgic. She talked about how much the books meant to her in her youth, how she used to lose herself in the worlds that I'd created, and how the manga helped her fall even further into those worlds. It's a sweet piece of writing, and I STRONGLY recommend you check it out by CLICKING HERE






    It's sweet when someone reads a book of mine and really likes it -- and even sweeter when they take to the internet to declare their love from the virtual rooftops!! :-) That's what a fan called Joshua recently did on a Darren Shan Facebook page run by fans, for fans. Here's what he had to say about The Missing Princess, which collects the three shorter books into a single chunky Volume:


    "Just finished the book and oh my god it's amazing! If anyone hasn't read it yet, I'd highly recommend you do! I love the characters, the world building was really good throughout the first volume. I can't wait for Volume 2!"

    It's been almost a year since I casually dropped the first three books of Volume One of my new Archibald Lox series on an unsuspecting world. I put them on sale towards the end of March, but didn't announce it until April 1st, and did it in such a way that many people thought it was an April Fools Joke!! If you haven't yet hooked up with Archie, the cheapest way to buy them will always be as eBooks, but I also released paperback editions of the three small books, plus a hardback and paperback version of the bind-up. Read on for where you can get the best deals... 


    1) If you're looking to buy a hardback edition of The Missing Princess, (which collects the three shorter books into a single edition) the best deal seems to be on Book Depository, which (at the time I'm writing this at the start of the month) is selling it at a 17% discount (about $26.23 instead of its regular price of $32), with free shipping worldwideCLICK HERE to be directed to your country's branch, where you'll be shown the cost in your local currency.


    2) You can get the paperback of The Missing Princess on Amazon or Book Depository at the same price ($16),and they seem to be the stores offering the best price -- CLICK HERE to be sent to your local Amazon store, or CLICK HERE to be directed to your local Book Depository branch.


    3) The cheapest way to buy Volume One in a physical edtion is to buy The Missing Princess, which collects the three shorter books into a single Volume, and is significantly cheaper than buying them individually. BUT if you would prefer to buy the three shorter books as individual books, I've produced paperback editions, but only through Amazon stores worldwide. CLICK HERE to buy Book 1... CLICK HERE to buy Book 2... and CLICK HERE to buy Book 3.


    4) As I said above, the very cheapest way to buy the books is in digital format. You can buy Volume One as three separate books (book 1 is always FREE if you want to try before you buy) or as one big bind-up called The Missing Princess. In either case, the price is the same, just under $5 or your local equivalent. Click on any of the links below to find out more about the books and to buy:


    Book 1 on AmazonCLICK HERE   Book 1 on Google PlayCLICK HERE   Book 1 on Apple, Kobo, B&N, etcCLICK HERE


    The Missing Princess on Amazon: CLICK HERE   The Missing Princess on Google Play: CLICK HERE   The Missing Princess on Apple, Kobo, B&N, etc: CLICK HERE






    Back in October, the staff at Books 4 People Bookstore in the UK listed five of their bestselling children's books series, books to "ignite kids' minds" as they put it. My Saga of Darren Shan series (also known as the Cirque Du Freak series) was one of the five, and it's still on sale from them at the incredibly low price of £17.75 -- that's for ALL TWELVE books, in a lovely slipcase!!! CLICK HERE for the Saga set, and you can CLICK HERE for the article, if you're curious to see what else they recommended: 


    Books 4 People only deliver to the UK, but Lowplex also sell the set at that crazy low rate, and they used to ship to most countries in the world, although that seems to have changed recently (maybe because of Brexit?). Still, worth having a look, just in case -- to find the books on Lowplex, CLICK HERE


    You might also find the UK set on Amazon stores worldwide, not quite as cheap as in the UK, but still at a very good price -- usually under $40. Search for The Saga Of Darren Shan if you're feeling lucky... :-)


    Oh, and a fan says you can also get the full set through Half Price Books for just $25, but I'm not sure if that's online or in the shops themsevles.






    I ran an end-of-year eBook sale on my very weird, very dark sci-fi novel An Other Place, released under the name of Darren Dash a few years back, and it proved a big hit with readers, especially in Canada, where it got to #3 on the overall science fiction chart -- sweet!! It also got to #1 on the metaphysical science fiction chart, which is rather niche I know, but did provide me with the joy of seeing one of my books share chart space with a Stephen King novel. King's my favourite author, so it was lovely to see one of my Dash books top a chart with one of his books on it -- even if that book WAS released 40 or so years ago... :-)






    Like any other avid reader, I'm always on the lookout for good book recommendations, so I was delighted when this list on The Reader Teacher was shared with me. It lists 100 recommended reads for Year 6 students (children aged 10 or 11 years old). Cirque Du Freak was one of the books, which was nice, but if you've already read that and are looking for your next cool read -- either for yourself or for a child of that age -- here are 99 more that will hopefully hit your freaky spot just as sweetly!! :-) CLICK HERE


    And although I usually shy away from self-promotion (oh, who am I trying to kid -- I self-promote like crazy all the time!!!), this seems like a good opportunity of mentioning that my new Archibald Lox series is also suitable for this sort of age bracket. Unlike with The Demonata and Zom-B, where I veered more into YA territory, I drew back from the gore with this one, and aimed for a tone more akin to the first half of The Saga Of Darren Shan / Cirque Du Freak series. So if you want to extend this list to 101 books, you know where to look next... :-)






    A few months ago, a fan called Morgan decided to re-read all 12 books of my Saga Of Darren Shan / Cirque Du Freak series, and to vlog about each one. The entries have been quite in-depth, averaging about 25 minutes per book -- in fact he spent a whopping 41 minutes on the final book! It's been a real labour of love, so if you want to go check out the videos and give them a thumbs up, and maybe even drop Morgan a nice comment or two, I'm sure it would mean a lot to him. :-) Here are the links for his final three reviews:   BOOK 10   BOOK 11   BOOK 12








    I finished my first edit of the third (and final) Volume of Archibald Lox last month. I'll have to go through it another 3 or 4 times or more before it sees print in 2022 (hopefully!), but it's looking pretty good to me, even at this early stage. As with Volume One (and Volume Two, which should see print this summer), I'll split it into three books when I first release it, before issuing it slightly later as a single collected edition. So there will be nine books in total, making up the three Volumes of the series.


    To celebrate finishing my first edit, I decided to feature some Archie fan art on my blog. I featured some Mr Crepsley chibis a while back, and happened to mention (light heartedly) that it would be lovely to see some chibis based on characters from my new Archibald Lox series one day. Step forward erstwhile Shan sribbler Amity Lee, who came up with these adorable doodles of the four royals of Sapphire -- Princess Ghita, King Hugo, Queen Pitina and King Farkas.


    If you haven't read the books, I can't say too much about the royals and the vital roles they play in the universe of the story, except to mention that these aren't facile figureheads like we have in certain countries in our world -- these ladies and gentlemen, and boys and girls, are crucial to the survival of the Merge (the universe that Archie crosses to and explores), and key to the entire series. In fact, the title of each Volume is going to reference a specific royal -- Volume One was called The Missing Princess -- but I can't reveal those just yet, as I don't want to give too much away too soon... :-)






    Schools are shut in Ireland at the moment, as they are in many other countries, while we struggle to contain Covid-19. Hopefully they won't remain closed for TOO long -- my son Dante is really missing his teacher and friends, and I'm sure most kids are in the same boat. Fingers crossed they can all get back to normal sooner rather than later. In between lockdowns, I was interacting with quite a few schools, as I normally do, even though I haven't been out on tour for a long time. For instance, the students at St Phillips wrote to me, and were pleased to receive a reply. I always reply to fan mail -- above, I've attached the letter that I wrote to them, to give you an idea of what my responses are like, and also to illustrate how bad my handwriting is -- my teachers always despaired when it came to my handwriting, and it hasn't improved over the years! :-)


    A couple of things for any teachers or librarians reading this...


    First, if you want to teach my books online during lockdown, that's absolutely fine. You can record yourself reading them and upload the videos for your students -- it really isn't an issue at the moment.


    Secondly, if your students want to write to me, you can find the address in the Contact form on my website. All I ask is that you send all the letters in one big envelope, and I'll reply with a single letter to the group. https://www.darrenshan.com/contact


    Oh, and finally, it's not just students who can write to me -- anyone and everyone is free to get in touch, and as long as you include your return address, you're guaranteed a (sometimes indecipherable) handwritten reply! :-)



    I haven't seen too many Estonian reviews of my books over the years -- they never really took off in Estonia, and only two were ever published there. But a blogger called Brixie set out to correct that situation in the middle of last year, with quite lengthy reviews of Cirque Du Freak and The Vampire's Assistant. The reviews are, naturally, in Estonian, but Google Translate provided a very accurate translation (I thought it might struggle with converting Estonian into English, but it did absolutely fine). I was tickled by the review's description of Darren as "not the sharpest pencil" -- cheeky, but correct!!! :-) If you want to find out what Brixie had to say about the books, just copy the text and paste it into your favourite online translation service.   BOOK 1 REVIEW   BOOK 2 REVIEW






    Time for a spot of video deja vu! This short video was put together by a fan of my books called Nate nearly 7 years ago. In it, he talks about his love for my books, and why he felt the movie adaptation was a disaster. It's very amusingly edited, with an outro that may well leave you laughing out loud. Trust me, you DON'T want to miss this one!! CLICK HERE


    I shared the video seven years ago. The reason I'm flagging it up again is that Nate got in touch with my recently to say that he's now a full-time YouTuber, with 289 thousand followers, and he traces his success back to middle school, when he was given an assignment to produce a video book review, and went overboard with it because he loved my books so much and wanted to properly express his excitement. Don't you just love to see a Shanster doing well?!? :-) If you want to visit Nate's channel to check out what he's up to these days, and how his style has evolved over the years, CLICK HERE






    There was a very interesting article about me on the You Don't Need Maps blog a while back, called... Let's Talk About Darren Shan. The blogger, Ellie, looked back on her favourite two series of mine, The Saga Of Darren Shan (Cirque Du Freak series) and The Demonata, recapped them for people who are unfamiliar with the work, and spoke at length about how they worked and what she liked in them, and which one is her favourite. If you're a fan of either or both series, I strongly recommend checking this out, and if you've never read either of them, it will hopefully intrigue you enough to drive you towards them. Oh, and while the language is mostly child-friendly, Ellie does drop one or two swear words -- just flagging it here, before you click, in case it's an issue... :-) CLICK HERE



    16 OUT OF 28



    There was a fun article over on Buzzfeed a while back, entitled If You've Read Over 28 Of These Books From Back In The Day, You're A Proper Bookworm. I scored 16 (I think), which I was quite happy about, but I guess it means I'm not a full-on bookworm... maybe I'm a book maggot?!? :-) Anyway, have a CLICK HERE and see how you score -- if nothing else, it might drive you in the direction of one or two new books...





    Bernie Sanders memes have been flooding the internet since he turned up to Joe Biden's inauguration in those adorable mitts, and to my delight a couple of Shansters were quick to get in on the act! First up, a fan with the uer name Vampire Council on Twitter shared the cover for the director's cut of the Cirque Du Freak movie, which inspired me to quip, "Name... not Lefty. Name... Bernie Sanders!" :-)



    The second meme was also shared with me on Twitter by the aptly handled Festival Of The Undead, who spotted a new Vampire Prince in situ on their most recent visit to Vampire Mountain... :-)




    IT'S A WRAP!



    And that's it for February. I shared the drawing above in my first post of 2021, back on January 1st. It was drawn by a fan called Keroromo, who's been cooking up a storm on the fan art front recently -- expect to see some more of their drawings on my blog and Facebook page over the next month or two, along with more of Amity Lee's Inktober drawings, and lots of other talented young artists too. I'll be back here at the start of February 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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