• Issue 272 - March 2023

    01 March 2023




    Hi everyone, and welcome to the March issue of the Shanville Monthly! As usual, I haver plenty to report in my latest online newsletter. I reveal a few tantalising details about what will hopefully be my next book release... there's a Hungarian Archibald Lox trailer to enjoy... I chat about the evolving and much-varied Darren Shan signature... it's not too late to book me for a World Book Day virtual event, and I outline how you can request such a visit... I have some practical publishing advice for young authors... and I explain where that doozy of a black eye came from!!! But let's start with that next book, as I HOPE that's what will be of most interest to you!






    Early last month, I decided enough was enough. I’ve ploughed through a rough couple of months since my house fire in November, and dealing with the fallout of that has taken up a lot of my time. But I’m sick of logistics - time for some writing!!!


    It’s been more than three years since I last released a Darren Dash book for adults, so I figured I should prioritise that, and get the next one out this year if possible. I have several first drafts of books that I wrote in my twenties, so I went back and picked the first one of those to grab my fancy, and launched myself into my first edit. I won’t give too much away at this stage, except to say that it’s a shortish sci-fi novel about time travel and a very powerful computer, and one of the characters, if memory serves me right, is a young Albert Einstein!! I can’t say for certain that this WILL be my next release — it’s been a very long time since I even looked at it, and it’s very different in style to my other work, so I’m not going to know for sure if it’s any good or not until I’ve got to the end of the first edit. But I’m reasonably confident that it will pass muster, and fingers crossed we’ll be seeing it in print before the end of the year.


    More details to follow as work progresses and I figure out where exactly I stand with it.






    Volume 1 of my Archibald Lox series goes on sale in Hungary on May 15th. The publishers have put together an informative post about the book, and also included a short video trailer for it, all of which you can check out by CLICKING HERE. (If you copy and paste the text from the page into Google Translate, you'll get a highly legible translation of the article.)


    I'm VERY excited about this release. I must admit, after all the obstacles I faced while trying to get the Archibald Lox books published, and eventually having to go down the road of self-publishing with them, I never expected them to be translated. I'm absolutely THRILLED that my Hungarian fans are getting this chance to read Volume 1 in their own language, and hopefully the book will do well enough to enable the publishers to go ahead and also translate and release Volumes 2 and 3. But, even if that doesn't happen, the world is going to be one beautifully translated and packaged book fuller after May 15th, and I think that's a surprising and wonderful thing!!


    If you live in Hungary and would like a copy of the book, you can pre-order now through the publisher's web site.







    A fan called ALFIE wrote to me recently. He'd bought a rare first edition of Hell's Horizon (the second book of my The City Trilogy for adults, which was published way back in February 2000). To his surprise and delight, he found the book was signed when he opened it, with my full, REAL name -- Darren O'Shaughnessy. But was it a genuine signature or a forgery?!? He wrote to me and I was happy to confirm that it looked like a 100% genuine signature to me -- hurrah!!!


    My general rule of thumb, when signing one of my books, is to sign whatever name is on the cover, which is one of four candidates -- Darren Shan is the one I sign most often, of course, as it's the name I've used for all of my of YA releases, which have fared considerably better from a commercial point of view than my books for adults! On the adult front, I originally released two (Ayuamarca and Hell's Horizon) using my real name. Years later I then re-released those two (Ayuamarca was retitled to Procession Of The Dead) and City Of The Snakes as D B Shan. (They were later rebranded and reissued as Darren Shan books, as was Lady Of The Shades, a stand-alone supernatural thriller.) And these days I release my books for older readers as Darren Dash.


    If you weren't aware that I wrote for adults as well as children, and are interested in tracking down some of my books for adults (nine released so far, with the tenth to hopefully see print later this year), the Darren Dash books are all currently exclusively sold through Amazon stores worldwide, either as eBooks or paperbacks -- you can find out more about them here: http://www.darrendashbooks.com/


    You should be able to order the latest printings of The City Trilogy or Lady Of The Shades through your local bookseller, or an online site like Amazon -- as I said, those four books these days boast the name of Darren Shan on the covers.


    If you'd like to get your hands on a first edition of any of those four books with a different name on it (Darren O'Shaughnessy or D B Shan) you'll probably be able to find them on a site like Abebooks or Alibris. Happy hunting!!!






    Although my books have sold in huge numbers around the world (somewhere in the region of 30 million at the last count!!), "Shanmania" (YES! that's a real word!!! OK, it's not, but it SHOULD be!!!) took quite a while to kick in. I didn't really start troubling the charts in the UK until The Saga Of Darren Shan was almost finished, and didn't enjoy a really big hit until Lord Loss. And although Cirque Du Freak hit the New York Times Bestseller chart when the first book came out, it was a bit of a slow burn after that, until word of mouth spread and the later books started selling in the same sort of chat-hitting numbers.


    But in Japan it was an entirely different situation. The first Cirque Du Freak book had a modest enough first print run of 20,000 copies, but it found favour immediately, leading to first print runs of ten times (and more) that number for subsequent books in the series!! And it wasn't long before one of the sequels hit the overall #1 spot on the bestseller chart, outselling every book for adults as well as books for children!! Indeed, in Japan, my core audience was actually 18-30 year old women!!! Children read my books too, but adults latched onto them in massive numbers as well, which was why sales went so crazy so swiftly. Happy times!!!


    The books first came out in hardback, but when they were eventually released in a paperback format, my publishers included a surprise bonus for collectors. The books came with lovely wraparound covers, but if you removed those covers, you found an extra illustration on the book within it -- and if you pieced all twelve of the books togetgher, as a fan has done in this photo, you ended up with a gorgeous massive one-piece picture. That's the kind of ultra-cool bells-and-whistles treatment that really only a bestselling author gets to enjoy! I was so, so lucky to experience all that -- I still sometimes look back on those days and wonder, "Was it really only in fact all a dream????"






    I'm doing quite a lot of virtual school events this month -- World Book Day always spurs teachers and librarians into action!!! :-) But there are still some available slots, so if you are a teacher or librarian interested in setting up an online Darren Shan event, 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.






    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 9 reviews in previous posts -- now here are the links for the final three reviews of Books 10, 11 and 12.


    Book 10: https://reviews.booksthatburn.com/2022/12/shan-lake.html

    Book 11: https://reviews.booksthatburn.com/2022/12/shan-shadows.html

    Book 12: https://reviews.booksthatburn.com/2022/12/shan-destiny.html


    The reviewer is careful not to give away any spoilers, but that does mean they can't go into any great details about these three books, since they form the series' conclusion, and to talk about them too much would mean spoiling twists from the earlier entries.
    I was pleased to note this comment for Sons Of Destiny, the final book in the series:


    "The ending is the reason I wanted to re-read this series. I loved it as a kid and I'm so glad it mostly held up now that I'm an adult. It's not the only series that has this kind of finale, but it does it very well and it was the first such ending I'd read."


    Heh heh!! Yeah (I'm being careful here not to provide any spoilers myself!), I too have come across a few similar endings in other books or series over the years, most especially in Stephen King's Dark Tower series, but I like to think I did it in a way that no one else has done. It's certainly my most misunderstood ending, as...


    OK, there's no getting away from this...


    SPOILERS!!! If you haven't read book 12, and don't want to know how it finishes, read on no further!!!


    Some readers misinterpreted the reboot at the end of book 12 as me saying that Darren's life never happened or had any meaning. They thought I'd written him out of history when Little Person Darren went back in time and scared away "ME" Darren from the Cirque Du Freak. Thats not actually the case. As I explained earlier in the book, the actions of major historical figures remain etched in history, even if they get replaced by a meddlesome time traveler. What I wanted younger readers to go away with was that anyone could now replace Darren, i.e. maybe one of THEM would end up filling his shoes. I think most readers DID get it, but just in case YOU were one of the ones who didn't, and has been raging for years about how poor an ending I left you with, you might want to go back and give book 12 a quick re-read, bearing the above in mind...





    A Norwegian fan of my books asked the following question over on Twitter: "if you had written the Saga of Darren Shan today, do you think you would have included more trans characters or lgbtq+ themes in the story?"


    I actually wanted to include lgbtq+ characters back when I wrote the books a quarter of a century ago. While I've loved seeing the world change so much over the last 25 years when it comes to the representation of the gay community in books, movies, etc., it was a subject close to my heart even back then -- I've always been a firm believer in equality, and have consistently tried to make my books inclusive. I figured, from a sociological point of view, that many of the vampires in my books would be gay, since there are so few female vampires, and the creatures of the night try to have little to do with humans. I was going to have this mentioned to Darren when he first visited Vampire Mountain, where he would have spotted a number of small rooms where the consenting vamps retired to when they wanted to have some fun time with each other. I also, later in the series, had Debbie hooking up with Alice -- it wasn't something I'd planned from the start, but it just seemed a natural place for them to get to once I started writing about their characters.


    Sadly, publishers 25 years ago were VERY reluctant for me to include any kind of sexual references in my books, no matter how mildly I phrased them -- and, in fairness to them, they were as set against heterosexual references as they were against homosexual. They were of the opinion that my books were escapist books for boys, and that we'd face objections from parents and teachers if I mentioned anything sexual in such books. Violence was fine, but the world of sex was taboo!!!


    I like to think that attitudes have changed since then, and that my publishers wouldn't have blinked if I'd included such scenes if writing the books today, but back then my hands were tied -- as a struggling young writer, there were certain lines I had to toe, and rules I had to obey, if I wanted my books to see print. So, yes, if I'd written the series more recently, we would most probably have seen more variety among the cast's sexual orientation -- not because my views on that front have changed over the years, but simply because the world has changed to a point where I'd probably be allowed to express those views in my books without it being any kind of a big deal.


    As for trans characters... Well, there's a strong trans slant to Lady Of The Shades, one of the books I released for adult readers. And... MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD FOR THE END OF MY ZOM-B SERIES!!!




    Still with me? Ok!! There was a group of sexless babies in my Zom-B books. At first they appeared monstrous, but we learnt more about them over the course of the series, and they ended up being incredibly sweet -- albeit in a weird, they're-cold-blooded-killers-but-we-love-them! kind of Darren Shan way!!! At the end of the books, they supplanted homo sapiens and took over the planet. In short, the ultimate takeaway message of Zom-B was...


    The future's TRANS, baby, TRANS!!!


    But ssshhhh!! Don't tell J K Rowling!!!! :-) :-) :-)






    BUZZFEED ran an article last year entitled 24 Blockbuster Movies That Flopped (and Where To Watch Them). A bit of an odd gathering in my opinion, but to be fair, it does contain lots of films I've never heard of, so I guess its author, Ken W Hanley, chose well if judged by his own stated criteria: "I've assembled 24 notable studio releases that were dead on arrival and remain mostly forgotten today!"

    The Cirque Du Freak movie is one of the 24, and even though I had nothing to do with its making, I do feel a little sad that it's popped up on such a list -- I much preferred it when it was rubbing shoulder with Citizen Kane in the last such list like this that I linked to!!!

    You can check out the full list by CLICKING HERE

    In terms of where the movies can be watched... I'm a bit late in linking to the article, so I'm sure that info will still be relevant. I'd suggest checking out Just Watch to find out where you can see any of these movies if you're interested in watching them: https://www.justwatch.com/






    A fan got in touch with me last month to ask the following question: "I am about to publish my own work and I was wondering did you have to pay something to get your work published? or am I being scammed?"


    By the way the question was framed, I assume she had approached what in the old days we called a VANITY PUBLISHER, which is basically a person or company who charges authors to publish (and sometimes market) their work. While some very famous authors have, in early stages of their careers, gone through vanity publishers in the past (and perhaps some still do), as a general rule of thumb my advice is to avoid them like the plague!! They're fine if you simply want a printing service and have a very defined audience -- for instance, if you write a family history, and want to print 50 or 100 copies of your book to give to family and some friends. But those who pretned to be REAL publishers, who tempt you with the dream of getting your work into bookshops and prominent placing on eBooks stores... the vast majority of those certainly WOULD qualify as scam artists in my opinion.


    For me, there are two viable roads forward for any aspiring author, either one of which can lead to healthy sales and a growing, devoted audience. One is the way of the traditional publishers. You try to get an agent who will submit your works to editors at various publishing houses. If you find one willing to take you on, THEY will pay YOU and cover all publishing and marketing costs. You might not get paid very much, and you might end up disappointed if they fail to land your book on the bestseller lists, but you should NEVER have to pay them anything towards any of the traditional costs associated with launching and marketing a book.


    The other road is that of self-publishing, and that is far simpler and cheaper than it has ever been -- and thanks to eBooks, some writers even enjoy huge sales and massive commercial success when self-publishing. I have two friends, both of who were struggling writers while they were traditionally published. They began self--publishing and both have become bestseller, earning life-changing amounts of money. BUT, as with those who go the traditional route, most self-published writers WON'T enjoy anywhere near that degree of success. As an example, take ME!! I've been self-publishing for a while now, first with my Darren Dash books for adults, more recently with my Archibald Lox series. I've learnt a lot, and got better at it, and managed to slowly grow my base and increase sales, but I haven't sold anywhere near as many books as I have through my traditional publishers, and earn nowhere near enough from those books to be able to write full-time if I was relying on their sales.


    Both roads can be bumpy. Both have pros and cons. Self-publishing requires more research and trial and error, and some authors (like myself) just aren't natural business people and are more suited to traditional publishing, while others will thrive and quickly unlock the secrets of the online publsing world. But BOTH are preferable to paying money to be published by a vanity publisher. The reality is you'll almost certainly sell no more copies by going with a vanity publisher than you will by self-publishing, and you can have a lot more fun by doing it yourself, as well as save yourself an awful lot of money.


    That's my view anyway, though if there are any authors out there who have had a different experience with vanity publishers, and wish to sing their praises, do please feel free to respond and tell me I'm calling it all wrong...







    Following the above post, I had a few queries from people wanting to know how to go about getting an agent. My advice, if you're a writer who wishes to go down the traditional route and look for a publisher, is to first look for an agent. Many publishers won't even LOOK at a manuscript unless it's been submitted through an agent. And if someone at the publishing house HAS been assigned the job of looking through unsolicited manuscripts, it's probably a student on temporary work assignment there -- so, y'know, it's very unlikely to make it any further than that person, even if they like it.

    If you live in the UK or Ireland, there's a book that gets published annually called THE WRITERS AND ARTISTS YEARBOOK. It provides loads of practical advice, along with the names and contact details for all the various legitimate agents in the UK. It also tells you some of the authors they represent, and the types of books they are interested in. (It lists details for all the publishing houses too, but as I already said, you're better off just targeting agents.) This is the URL for their website: https://www.writersandartists.co.uk/

    In the USA there is a similar book, again published annually, called WRITER'S MARKET. I've never looked through one of those, as I used the UK version, but I believe it provides much the same info. This is the link for that website: https://writersmarket.com/

    I haven't looked at the Yearbook for a while, but if memory serves me right, they will also list an agent's terms. Basically, as with publishers, you should never pay an agent -- if you make money, they make money. If an agent is looking for payment upfront, my advice is to strike them from your list and look for another agent. In the old days, agents typically earned 10% of whatever their writers made. These days that tends to be between 15% and 20%. Sounds like a lot, doesn't it?!? But trust me, a good agent is worth every penny, and since they only make money if YOU make money, their job is to help you make as much money as you possibly can, so they'll look out for your interests in a way that publishing houses just can't replicate.

    When I was nipper, first submitting my work, I read through all the agent listings in the yearbook, drew up a shortlist of 5 based on authors that they represented, genres they were interested in, and the look of their name. (Yes, it can be THAT unscientific!) I sent a covering letter and a sample (usually a couple of chapters, no more than 30 or 40 pages) to them and sat back and waited, fully expecting to have to draw up another shortlist a few months later. To my delight, although four agents DID either say they weren't interested in representing me, or didn't even respond, one DID get in touch to ask to see more of the book. His name was Christopher Little, and he became my agent for the next 25 years, until his death.

    I wish you as much luck in your search for the perfect agent as I had with mine.







    This is what happens when you let your guard down and get attacked by a pack of vampaneze when you're on your way home late at night!!! :-) :-) :-)


    No, seriously, I went out for a special dinner with Mrs Shan last month, to celebrate the 21st anniversary of our first ever date. Six courses, with wine pairing. Lovely. The food was very nice, as was the wine, and we chatted away merrily, before rolling home about 10.30pm and going to bed a bit later.


    In the middle of the night, I woke feeling a bit sick. Nothing to worry about, I thought, just my stomach reacting poorly to too much rich food and vino. I headed for the bathroom to get sick in the toilet, thinking that would be the end of the matter. But when I got there and started to throw up, I felt weak, so I knelt down to rest.


    Next thing I knew, I was lying in a small pool of blood, and a VERY concerned Mrs Shan was kneeling over me, asking if I was OK, and if I'd had a stroke. I'd fainted and banged my head on something on my way down. It took me quite a while to recover, and as you can see from the photos, I've been left with a nasty scrape and some bruises which are going to turn a perfect shade of vampaneze purple before they fade.


    I've been in touch with my doctor, who doesn't think it's anything much to worry about, but I'm going to go in for some tests regardless -- I meant to do that last year, when I turned 50, but have been procrastinating. Maybe this was the vampire gods' way of telling me to get a move on!!


    While this will probably turn out to be an isolated incident, and hopefully not a signal for something seriously wrong internally (although of course you can never be certain until you're tested), it did set me thinking about my mortality. As I think I've made pretty clear in my body of work, the axe can fall for any of us at almost any time. We're all just temporary visitors to this world, and we can be called away at any given moment. I hope MY moment is still quite a few decades away (I'd like to get to 100 if I can, though I'd say that's doubtful), but it COULD have easily come last night if I'd fallen a bit more heavily, or on a sharper object.


    Anyway, when my moment DOES come, and assuming you guys are around to hear the news (I imagine most of you will outlive me, as I'm quite a bit older than the vast majority of my followers here), and assuming you still care about what happens to the old Shan man (hey, you might not, if it's 20 or 30 years down the road!), here's how I would LOVE you to respond, if you're inclined to bid me a fitting farewell. Shed a few tears if you wish, but please not too many, and when you're ready, head for the great outdoors -- your back garden, or the front of your house, or wherever -- and roar up to the heavens...




    And if your neighbours, or complete strangers, stare at you oddly and ask what the hell THAT was about, I'd like you to smile at them and say, "There was this guy called Darren Shan, and he was always fascinated by spiders..."


    :-) :-) :-)


    Tread carefully, my friends, be ready for the end when it comes, but make sure you enjoy the time before that as much as you possibly can, because there's no point overly worrying about death until there's nothing else TO worry about.



    IT'S A WRAP!


    And that's it for March. I'm still smarting from the bash to my head -- although there was almost no pain the first day or two, it's been stinging a fair bit since then. My doctor says it will probably be several weeks before the bruising entirely clears, so I'm not going to be at my most picturesque when doing events this month!! Ah well, I was never much of a beauty to begin with, so I'm sure that won't be any great loss!!! :-) I'll hopefully see you all back here at the start of April. 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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