• Issue 271 - February 2023

    01 February 2023



    Hi everyone, and welcome to the February issue of the Shanville Monthly! I'm still only starting to get back to normal after my house fire last November, but I finally had wifi installed in my new temporary home in the middle of January, so I'm beginning to ease back into more of a normal groove now -- hopefully I'll get some editing or even some new first draft writing under my belt this month, but we'll see!! In the meantime, here's my latest newsletter to keep you up to date with everything that's been going on in my world over the last 31 days. If you're quick, you can nab all three of the Archibald Lox Volumes at an amazing discounted price... you get to ponder the question of whether or not the Cirque Du Freak film was a comedy... you can discover my favourite three reads from 2022... and you'll be astonished to learn that according to one Worst Of movie list, the Cirque Du Freak film is on a par with Citizen Kane!!! Read on to learn more...








    Heads up, bargain hunters!!! To link in with a BOOKBUB listing for Archibald Lox Volume 1: The Missing Princess I've temporarily reduced the prices of ALL THREE OMNIBUS VOLUMES of the series -- until February 6th, you can buy the entire series at the cheapest price it's ever been offered at!!


    Volume 1 (which collects books 1, 2 and 3) normally costs $2.99 in the USA, £2.49 in the UK, and a similar price elsewhere. During the sale, it will cost just $0.99 in the USA, £0.99 in the UK, and a similar price everywhere else in the world.


    Volume 2 (books 4, 5 and 6) normally costs $4.99 in the USA or £3.99 in the UK, while Volume 3 (books 7, 8 and 9) usually costs $5.99 USA or £4.99 in the UK. During the sale, you can pick up each Volume for just $2.99 in the USA, £1.99 in the UK, and a matching low price everywhere else in the world.


    You should be able to buy the books through any online store that sells eBooks -- to make it easier for you, I'm listing links for Volume 1 on some of the most popular eSites. Happy shopping everybody!!!


    Amazon / Apple: http://getbook.at/ArchieVolume1


    Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/archibald-lox-volume-1-darren-shan/1137946386?ean=2940164496340


    Kobo / Google Play / Scribd / Indigo / Angus & Robertson: https://books2read.com/u/bzgLx9







    The Cirque Du Freak movie pops up on all sorts of Best Of and Worst Of lists, but there was a list on Buzzfeed a while back which genuinely has me scratching my head with bewilderment. It was entitled 26 Movies That Looked Good But Were Mega Disappointing. They were movies that, in the opinion of the "Buzzfeed community" were overhyped and crushingly disappointing. You can check out the full list by CLICKING HERE -- and please DO check it out, as I want to know if YOU are as confused by it as I am!!!


    OK, so we get some properly bad movies which, in my opinion, definitely deserve to be on a list like this -- Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker is easily the worst film in that series, such a terrible way to wrap up the story of the original three trilogies. The first Suicide Squad film was as joyless as the reboot was joyful. I don't think the Eragon movie worked for anyone. And I too thought Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children was a misfire.


    But then you get Napoleon Dynamite -- whaaaaaat?!? The first Lord Of The Rings movie -- huh?!? Boyhood... A Quiet Place... The Shining... all films I'd expect to find on a Best Of list. (Although I must admit I've never seen why so many people go gaga for The Shining. A very good film, certainly, but I far preferred the book.)


    And then... there it was... my eyes boggled and I had to do a double take... CITIZEN KANE. Yep, Citizen Kane, on a Most Disappointing Movies Ever Made list. Now, I DO think Kane is ever so slightly over-rated, and I wouldn't list it in MY top ten films of all time, but hell, it isn't TOO far outside that list! It's an immaculately made, incredibly modern film that almost seems timeless -- hard to believe it was made 80 years ago!


    All I can say in summation is.. if the Cirque Du Freak film is rubbing shoulder with Citizen Kane on ANY list of movies, I don't care WHAT that list is called, I think everyone associated with the film can be very proud of themselves indeed!!!!!


    Right -- I'm off to find out when do we get a double bill of Cirque Du Freak and Citizen Kane playing at my local cineplex?!?!?!?!?






    This is a bit of an odd one! There was an article on Screen Rant a while back, about vampire movies, which included the Cirque Du Freak film among its list of included titles -- nothing strange about that, as the movie often pops up in lists of this sort. But THIS list was called... Day Shift & 9 Other Comedies Featuring Vampires!!!! Really?!? I know the CDF film was much lighter in tone than my books, but I wouldn't class it as an out-and-out comedy. Everyone is entitled to their own view, of course, but... I dunno, what do you guys think?!? Regardless of whether or not you liked the movie, would YOU class it as a comedy? You can check out the full article by CLICKING HERE






    There was an article on BUZZFEED a while back, entitled 25 Book Series That Actually Got Better As They Progressed. I was pleased to see the Cirque Du Freak series in among the mix (at #20), although I frowned at the comment "They lost it around Books 7 through 9." :-) :-) :-) You can check out the full list, and what they had to say about Cirque Du Freak, by CLICKING HERE


    It's my sincerest hope that ALL of my series improve as they go along. I design each one to read as one massive story line, and put a lot of thought and work into the overall structure, carefully building up as I go along, not merely replicating what has already worked in the early books. I try to take my characters on ambitious story arcs, and use readers' familiarity with them to my advantage -- with many series, you always know that the main characters will sail through each book intact, which can lead to a dilution of interst in later books, where the writers can simply be going through the motions and allowing all their big money-earners to escape death YET AGAIN. But that's not the case with my books, and that Sword Of Damocles which hangs over the head of every Shan character allows me to play with readers' nerves in a way which most authors don't. Those readers don't always thank me for what I do to their favourite characters, but hey, I think my willingness to treat even my major players the same way I would a minor player -- i.e. they're expendable!! -- is a large reason why my books have resonated with so many readers and stuck in their memories so solidly. We never forget the ones who break our hearts, eh?!?






    Look at these happy students from The King's School in Pontefract (which is in West Yorkshire, in England). After reading Cirque Du Freak, their teacher encouraged them to write letters to me, and this is a photo of them with their finished products. I've got to say, I don't recall ever being THIS happy to be given a homework assignment when I was a kid back in school!!! Then again, we never read a book like Cirque Du Freak when I was a nipper, so maybe THAT is the freaking difference!!!!! :-)


    I haven't been doing any virtual school events recently -- since my house fire back in November, I've been a bit of a nomad, without an office. We've moved into a lovely house now, which a kind aunt of mine is letting us use while our house is being restored, but we're still settling down, and were only connected for broadband in the middle of January. But, slowly, things should are starting to return to normal.


    In short, if you're a teacher or librarian interested in setting up an online Darren Shan event, my doors opened for business again, so feel free to get in touch if you wish to make an enquiry. You can contact me by email: post at darrenshan dot com -- if you're not able to format that into a working email address, then you're probably best to steer clear of virtual events!!! :-)


    My online events run for 30-35 minutes. I do a reading, chat about myself a bit, then take questions from the students. They're always fun, and always free -- I don't charge anything for them.







    So, now that the dust has settled on 2022, here's my reading round-up for the year. In total I read 47 books. There were some 1 and 2 star duds in among the mix, though I doled out mostly 3 or 4 star ratings over on Goodreads. Ultimately I only gave 5 stars to a trio of books, which were, in the order I read them...


    RIVER GOD, by Wilbur Smith.

    GIRL A, by Abigail Dean.

    PROJECT HAIL MARY, by Andy Weir.


    If you'd asked me at the start of the year if I thought any of those books would be among my top 3 reads of the year, I'd have given you massive odds against it. I hadn't read a Wilbur Smith book for more than 30 years... I hated Andy Weir's previous offering, the woefully misjudged Artemis... and I hadn't even heard of Abigail Dean!! But hey, isn't that the beauty of books? If you give them a chance, and don't go in with any strong preconceptions, they'll always have the ability to surprise and amaze you...







    A Shanster by the name of BRITTANY messaged me on Facebook last month to say she was reading my Zom-B series. She noted a couple of things which I thought were worth sharing.


    1) She said, "I feel so bad for B, and in a way I think she is self centered, but I love her."


    This was music to my ears!! B Smith is one of my most complex leading characters, a contradictory figure who is loathsome in many ways at certain times of the story (especially at the start), but who I hope readers come to love, or at least respect and admire, over the course of the series. There's no doubt she proved too unlikeable for some readers in book 1, who couldn't get over the fact that she didn't immediately take a stand against her racist father -- but I wanted to explore what it would be like to be raised by a hateful person, to be brought up in a house where you had to mimic their vile rhetoric or be severely punished, and how difficult, but essential, it would be to finally stand up to them and do the right thing.


    In these polarizing times, when many people are being led astray by hatemongers and scaremongers on the far right fringes, I think it's important to remember that people CAN change, especially when they're young and less entrenched in their ways and views, and to cling to hope through the adventures of fictional characters like B that at least some of those who have fallen for the lies of dangerous ringmasters and parents WILL see truth, and sense, and basic human decency, and choose to change.


    2) Brittany mentioned that she's been borrowing the books from her library to read them, but had to buy the eBook of Zom-B Circus because her library didn't stock it. This came as no surprise to me, as a physical edition of Zom-B Circus has never been available to buy. It was only ever issued as a free giveaway in the UK with a copy of SFX magazine, so I imagine almost no librarians have ever added it to their stock. BUT the eBook remains on sale, at a VERY low price -- down around the one dollar/one pound/one euro price point. You should be able to easily buy it in your eStore of choice if interested.


    For those of you who haven't read/have never heard of Zom-B Circus... It's a short, additional book in the series, not an essential part of the main storyline, but it does tie in with it neatly, following one of B's teachers, who captures the eye of a certain Mr Dowling... I wrote it for World Book Day, but the people who choose those books read the synopsis and immediately decided to reject it, without reading any further!!






    Whatever one's opinions about the Cirque Du Freak movie, released back in 2009, there's no denying it had one heck of a talented, well-established cast of HUGE cinema and TV stars -- John C Reilly, Salma Hayek, Josh Hutcherson, Ken Watanabe, Kristin Schaal, Ray Stevenson, Jane Krakowski, Orlando Jones...

    But there were also some young up-and-comers who have since gone on to feature in some major movies and TV shows. For instance, how many of you clocked that Morgan Saylor, who played Darren's sister Annie, turned up a couple of years later in a major role in the Homeland series?!?

    The latest to rise like a cinematic moon is LO GRAHAM, who made her (uncredited) movie debut in CDF as a student in the hallway and classroom. She's carved out a nice career for herself since then, nabbing a starring (and credited!!!) role in Unhuman last year, a Blumhouse horror movie. There was a sweet interview with her in DISCOVER LAFAYETTE around the time of the film's release, which you can read by CLICKING HERE






    I replied to some fan mail one day last month, and in the order I went through them, the letters came from... Sweden, the USA, England, Japan, and New Zealand. Now that was a fairly cool geographical sweep, wasn't it?!? One of the things I've loved over the last couple of decades if getting lots and lots of fan mail, and I'm constantly amazed by how widely my books have travelled, and how I have fans in so many different parts of the globe.

    I've never guaranteed responses to emails (though I do actually reply to most), but I ALWAYS reply to letters with handwritten letters of my own, as you can see from this example from several years ago, when some students of MacMerry Primary School wrote to me. In this age of technological wonders, a letter is a rare and wondrous thing, and I always appreciate the time and effort it takes for a fan to send one to me -- hence my happy willingness to reply in kind.

    If YOU would like to write to me, you can find my address on the Darren Shan website, here: https://darrenshan.com/contact Of course, you can email me if you prefer, or drop me a quick line through Facebook or Twitter, but wouldn't a handwritten, signed note from me in return be worth the bit of extra trouble, time and expense that sending a letter would involve?!?






    A reviewer on REVIEWS THAT BURN, which is an offshoot of the Books That Burn podcast, has been working their way through my Saga Of Darren Shan / Cirque Du Freak series, reviewing each book in turn. I've shared links for the first 6 in previous posts -- now here are the links for the reviews of Books 7, 8 and 9.

    Book 7: CLICK HERE   Book 8: CLICK HERE   Book 9: CLICK HERE

    The reviewer is careful not to give any spoilers away, though that does mean that, unlike with the reviews for the earlier books in the series, these reviews involve more recapping than in-depth analysis of the stories. It's a tricky task, reviewing book 9 of a series -- I don't envy the reviewer one tiny bit!!!

    I did treat myself to a wry little smile near the end of the review for book 9, when the reviewer carefully notes that "the ending has a lot of very stressful stuff happening. It's brutal, physically and emotionally for the characters, and emotionally for me as a reader." I don't know WHAT scene they might be referring to. Do YOU?!? :-)






    A Tweeter with the handle @MetalZero2023 posted this comment last month: "I’ve just finished reading Zom-B Goddess by @darrenshan. The ending made me really happy and also a bit emotional. I love how the story ended."


    That was sweet music to my ears! It's always a pleasure - and a relief! - when the ending of a long series lives up to a reader's expectations, because I know there are plenty of readers who have been disappointed with the grand finales of various series over the years!!! I've experienced it myself on occasion. It's a hard thing, when you've invested so much time in a long series of books, if the ending of the final book doesn't live up to what you had hoped for. Sometimes that can be the writer's fault, if they simply come up with a poor resolution to their story, but I think sometimes it can be our (readers) fault too, if we yearn for something ultra-mega and demand an impossibly brilliant tying-up of all plot-lines. "Damn you for not giving me perfection!!!" :-) :-) :-)


    Anyway, the ending of Zom-B clearly worked for this particular Tweeter -- phew!!! I must admit, I was very pleased with how it ended too -- as I've said before, I actually had a different, far bleaker ending in mind right from the very beginning, but when I got to book 12, the character of B wouldn't let me wrap it up the way I'd planned, and demanded I come up with a whole other conclusion. While that made my job harder than it otherwise would have been -- it isn't easy, coming up with a brand new denouement when you've already written 99% of a series!!! -- the ending that exists is much better than the one I was going to go with, so I didn't mind too much.


    Speaking of endings... I'm curious now, to hear from you guys. I've written several long series -- The Saga Of Darren Shan/Cirque Du Freak, The Demonata, The Saga Of Larten Crepsley, Zom-B, Archibald Lox, and The City Trilogy for adults. If you've read all of them -- or at least more than one -- do you have a favourite series ending out of them? Or, alternatively, one that you absolutely hated?!? It's too late now to change any of them (not that I ever would anyway!), but it would be interesting to hear what you, the readers, have to say on the matter -- you can drop me an email, or a post through Twitter or Facebook.


    Oh, you want to know MY favourite, to kick things off? Well, I don't have an out-and-out fave, as I've liked the way all of them have finished, but the one that perhaps makes me smile fondly more than any other if I ever go and look back at them is the ending of The City trilogy. Though I might have a different answer if you asked me tomorrow!!






    A YouTuber called James Tullos posted a video a while back called All The Types Of Vampires, in which he... um... talked about all the different types of vampires!! :-) (Thanks to Shanster Adrian for alerting me to its presence.) It's an interesting piece, in which he tackles vampire lore and how it differs from book to book and series to series. There's a section on Cirque Du Freak, starting around the 11 minutes 45 seconds mark. It only runs a minute and a half, but James packs a lot into that short time frame. He also mentions it again later in the video, in the segment that starts just after the 16 minutes mark. You can see the full video by CLICKING HERE






    There was a LONG Spanish language review of my Saga Of Darren Shan / Cirque Du Freak books a while back, on the site La Biblioteca de Mictlán. It includes a lengthy summation of the series, and the author spends a lot of time focusing on the character and concept of DesTiny, and how that added a vital fascinating element to the books for them. You can read the whole review in Sapanish by CLICKING HERE -- if, like me, you can't read Spanish, simply copy the text and paste it into a translation engine like Google Translate, for a fairly accurate English translation:


    I found it interesting that the author starts by saying they never liked vampires, but these books won them over. At one point in the article, they explain: "for the first time, vampires are really interesting to me. I liked this version of vampires a lot, since they are a warrior species, with many customs that were created and adopted by them."


    I think this was a key to the series' success with many readers. As much as I looked to vampire literature and movies for inspiration, I also looked at warrior tribes and how they functioned sociologically, figuring that a tribe of night-dwelling, blood-drinking, centuries-living individuals would most resemble a group like the Samurai, Masai Mara or Ancient Celts. This seemed to resonate a lot with readers, and while the first three books did very well when they first came out, the series' popularity just blossomed and thrived once we struck out for Vampire Mountain and began delving into the day-to-day (well, night-to-night!!) lives of the members of the Clan.



    IT'S A WRAP!




    And that's it for February. Over the Christmas period, I visited the Wild Lights at Dublin Zoo, which was a seemingly endless parade of Chinese Lantern-style sculptures of animals, insects, flowers and more. It was utterly fabulous, and I can't recommend it highly enough if it returns next year. They had plants and animals of all shapes and sizes, and of course there was no way I couldn't have my photo taken with sculptures of a giant spider and a wolf!! I'll hopefully see you all back here at the start of March. 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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