• Issue 277 - August 2023

    01 August 2023



    Hi everyone, and welcome to the August issue of the Shanville Monthly. I was on holiday early in July, and will be heading off on another break during August (primary school kids in Ireland get eight weeks of a break in the summer, so we try to work in a couple of trips away each year, to break up the long stretch at home), but I've been doing plenty of work while at home, including wrapping up my very final edit of my next Darren Dash book for adults. I was going to hold back the title until much closer the book's release date, but when I started sending the book out to reviewers near the end of July, I figured it would only be fair to share the name with my followers as well, especially as it was bound to break if I hadn't, and I always like my Shansters to get news of my work first! You can find that title in the first entry of this newsletter, and there's plenty else to tuck into too, including news of an upcoming major interview, plus a date that will be of interest to fans in the UK who might like to come catch me in action at a public event next year...






    In a world exclusive scoop towards the end of last month, I revealed that the name of my next Darren Dash book for adult readers is... drum roll please...




    I also revealed that I've set the release date to be... OCTOBER 18TH


    And if all that wasn't enough, here's the book blurb as it currently stands -- this will probably be tweaked closer to publication, but here's how I'm currently pitching the book:


    "Cassique is a time travelling Fixer in AD 2853. It's his job to nip back into the past and fix problems which threaten to wipe out the world of the twenty-ninth century. But the longer Cassique spends in those past times, the more he comes to wonder if the docile, VR-obsessed people of his present would actually benefit from a reset. It's a dangerous thought, because that would mean taking a stand against Father, the world-running super-computer, and Father takes a very dim view of any form of rebellion.


    "When Cassique teams up with a couple of relatively famous figures from the past, they start trying to formulate a plan to make time travel work in their favour, and return the reins of control to humanity. But they have to be exceedingly careful, because Father might be listening...


    "A darkly comic cross between 1984 and Time Bandits, this science fiction work shines a light on the dangers of putting too much power in the hands of a computer, and is more timely than ever when framed against the recent debate concerning the rise of AI."


    The book is currently rolling out for pre-order across Amazon, Apple, B&N, Google, Kobo, Smashwords, etc. Unlike my other Darren Dash books, the ebook will be widely available, NOT confined to Amazon, so you'll be able to buy it through your seller of choice. (I'm also working on making all of my other Darren Dash novels more widely available, for those of you who prefer to shiop elsewhere for your reading material.) There will also be a paperback edition, though I'm still deciding whether that will be published by Amazon or a company that can distribute it more widely.






    I've often been asked over the years, especially back when I was releasing the Cirque Du Freak books, why vampires are so popular and have continued to endure for well over a century in modern books, movies, comics, TV shows, etc. It's a tricky question to answer, and I usually don't manage much more than a "Well, they're really COOL!!" kind of response. But I think one of the key reasons why they've thrived is their flexibility. Although Bram Stoker pulled together ideas from lots of places and created the archetype of the modern vampire which writers like me have all been riffing on ever since, they've been adapted in all kinds of different ways. A vampire can pretty much be whatever its latest adaptor WANTS it to be.


    An online article which illustrated this quite neatly appeared on the CBR.COM site last October (yeah, I'm a *bit* late sharing the link, but if you give me any grief about that, I'll rip open your jugular!!). It listed ten movies in which vampires have been treated VERY differently. Cirque Du Freak was one of the ten movies, but what's interesting is reading the entries for all ten -- they're by no means in-depth descriptions, but they do show just how much fun an imaginative person can have playing around with the vampire stereotype. The article also provides us with a diptych photo (see above) of vampiredom's cutest couples -- Bella and Edward, and... Mr Crepsley and Darren Shan?!? I know that's not going to go down too well with some Twilight-haters out there, but it certainly tickled MY fancy!!! :-) :-) :-)


    You can check out the full list by CLICKING HERE






    Like every other writer (or so I imagine), I absolutely LOVE it when a reader takes the time to post a review of one of my books online. Word of mouth is still the most powerful publicity tool in a writer's arsenal -- I don't think anything encourages a reader to go out and try a new book more than a genuine recommendation from a fellow reader.


    While Amazon and Goodreads are the big players in the world of reviews, they're certainly by no means the only players -- especially in countries where English isn't the main language. So I was delighted when my Hungarian publisher drew my attention to MOLY, a site where readers can post reviews in Hungarian. Volume One of my Archibald Lox series was released in Hungary a couple of months ago, and there have been lots of reviews for it on Moly, and thankfully almost all of them are 4 or 5 stars -- hurrah!!! Although the reviews are in Hungarian, if you're interested in checking them out, you can copy and paste them into a site like Google translate, for fairly accurate translations.


    Moly also very helpfully provides links to various stores where the book is on sale, and highlights the different discounts that are available for it, making it very easy to pick up a copy at the best price possible.


    For the reviews and buying links for Archibald Lox Volume One, CLICK HERE






    CBR.COM ran an article a while back entitled: 10 Young Adult Movie Franchises That Failed After Their First Movie. It started by saying: "If the '90s were the age of teen rom-coms, then the first two decades of the New Millennium were the era of the young adult fantasy flick. Following the massive success of film series like Harry Potter and Twilight, studios started to greenlight dozens of potential franchise-starters in search of the next big money-maker. While some film series like The Hunger Games found success, most young adult movie franchises crashed and burned with their first release. Unfortunately, this meant that the franchises failed to take off after being critically panned and poorly received by fans."


    Cirque Du Freak is one of the ten listed movies, and there's certainly no denying that it deserves its place on such a list. I always reject the mistaken notion that the CDF film was, as some critics at the time sniffily insisted it was, a Twilight cash-in, as the film had been in-the-making for several years by the time Twilight became a phenomenon -- it was just happenstance that it came out in th emiddle of the Twilight success bubble. But Harry Potter was definitely an influence on the studios, who cast their nets far and wide to find something else with a similar potential. Indeed, the books were first optioned by Warner Bros, under the production arm of David Heyman, the producer of the Harry Potter films -- he tried hard for a few years to get a script written that they could press forward with, but sadly none of the writers who got attached were able to knock it into a shape that pleased the studio, and David had to reluctantly allow the rights to revert back to me in the end. (Unlike with the later Universal team, I got to meet David a few times, and got on very well with him, which is why I semi-named a character after him in my book Slawter a few years later.)


    While the list doesn't shed any great insights on why the movies flopped, it's a nice, handy way of reminding us that lots of other cool books suffered the same fate as mine did, and serves as a grim testament to the fact that a great book doesn't always translate into a great movie -- well, not first time round, anyway!!! You can check out the full article by CLICKING HERE






    Some months ago, a vlogger called KRISTIAN set out to do an in-depth video review of my book, Birth Of A Killer -- the first book in my Saga Of Larten Crepsley series. Kristian's very ambitious goal was to record a video reflecting his thoughts on each chapter of the book. He devoted an average of 10-to-12 minutes to each review, although one of them ran to more than 23 minutes! I remember wondering at the time how far Kristian would get with the project -- I was pretty sure he wouldn't make it to the end, and I was proved right, but I assumed he'd lose interest after just 2 or 3 chapters, and Kristian proved me wrong on that front, making it all the way to chapter SEVEN!!! While it's an unfinished project, it's also a fascinating one, and I highly recommend it if you're interested in the Crepsley books and want to listen to what another fan made of their start. I'm including links to all 7 of the chapters -- happy listening to those of you who commit to taking the journey with Kristian!!


    One: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zO5gpgkPgj0

    Two: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Ipl0Ql1nXg

    Three: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PkWptAPwFoY

    Four: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cm7ty8R2BsY

    Five: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=glgHsuKdJUw

    Six: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=glgHsuKdJUw

    Seven: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=glgHsuKdJUw






    There was a lovely post on TwitLonger a while back, from a reader called JAMES PENDLEY, who used to hate reading, until his teacher told him (and the rest of his class) that he had to pick a book series to read and then write an essay about. James chose Cirque Du Freak, and forced himself to start reading, expecting it to be an agonising assignment -- instead he fell in love with the story, which led him to revise his view of reading, and he's even started writing! It's a great essay, and you can read the whole thing, in James's own words, by CLICKING HERE


    As a writer, it's always extra special when you manage to connect with a "reluctant reader" and turn them on to the love of reading. I was always a natural reader, and never thought anything of trying new books and authors. But if a person hasn't been introduced to the love of reading early in life, and grows up seeing the world of books as an alien world, one they want nothing to do with, and then are nevertheless drawn into it against their will by the sheer power of a story... It's a very special achievement when that happens, and one that always touches me deeply when one of MY books proves to be the book that changes a mind and maybe even the direction of a life.






    As most of you are all too aware, I've done extremely few in-person events since the end of my Zom-B series. I try to squeeze in one or two a year, but that doesn't always happen -- this year is looking like I might not get to do any at all. :-(


    BUT good news is just around the corner for the those in the UK who would like to catch me live!! I've signed up for SFW XV next March, a sci-fi weekender in Great Yarmouth. Details of what I'll be doing there are yet to be confirmed, but I imagine I'll be appearing on a couple of days, doing a few panel events, maybe even a solo event or two, and of course signing lots of books!!


    I did SFW a few years ago and really enjoyed it, so I'm delighted to have been invited back. It's a very relaxed, welcoming festival, with LOTS going on, loads of people from the sci-fi/fantasy/horror worlds of movies, TV, books, comics, etc. Most people (maybe everyone?!?) who attend camp over the weekend, and I chatted with some who went to it every year and treated it as a holiday, the same way that some people do with music festivals.


    If you're interested in coming, you can find all the info you need by CLICKING HERE. I can't guarantee good weather at that time of year, but I can guarantee more access to me than you'd get at a normal event, more time to ask questions and have your books signed. You might even spot me in a restaurant, at the bar or on the dance floor and get a chance to quiz me one-on-one -- but be warned, I take no responsibility for crushed toes if you get too close to me while I'm dancing!!!






    There will be an interview with me in the next issue of the horror, fantasy and sci-fi magazine, PHANTASMAGORIA, which is due to see print at some point in August if all goes well. It features my biggest print interview in quite some time, so should be worth looking out for! I'll provide more info and buying links in next month's newsletter, but in the meantime, you can check out the Phantasmagoria website by CLICKING HERE.






    There was an interesting interview with author REBECCA PROENZA recently, on Bold Journey. She talks in it about self care, her work, the attributes she feels a person needs in order to develop, and (the reason the interview caught my eye, and the main reason I'm sharing the link) a book that played an important role in her development. The book she highlighted? Hunters Of The Dusk, the seventh book in my Cirque Du Freak series, but the first one she read. You can check out the full interview by CLICKING HERE


    I know that lots of my readers, like Rebecca, have come to one of my books for the first time either without realising it's from the middle (or even near the end) of a series, or realising but deciding to try it anyway. It's why I've always tried to provide just enough background information in each book for new readers to catch up on what's been going on with the main story. It can be a tricky juggling act sometimes -- you never want to shoehorn in TOO much back-story, as it can slow the pace and annoy readers who have been there from the start -- but I think an author should always assume that there will be people coming aboard at every stage of a series, and feed them just enough old narrative rope so that they don't feel entirely afloat at sea without any clear direction forward.






    I love interacting with my fans, and appreciate every comment, tweet, email, letter that comes my way. But sometimes one of you will send me something that puts an EXTRA big smile on my face, and this email that dropped through my inbox recently was one of those times. It's a lovely, lengthy, literate letter from a guy called TIM who has been a fan of mine a long, LONG time, and is now getting ready to hopefully pass on the freaky flame to his son. Feedback like this is a sweet reminder of why I do what I've been doing the past 35 or so years. (It's also a great reminder of the wonderful work that librarians do out in the field, and how crucial they are to connecting books with children and helping spark that love-of-reading flame in the first place.)




    Dear Darren Shan,

    I hope this email finds you well. I wanted to tell you my deepest appreciation and gratitude for the profound impact your Cirque Du Freak book series had on my life.

    When I was 10 years old a local librarian visited my school and read the first chapter of a dozen or so books. I wasn't a reader back then at all, but something about the first chapter of Cirque Du Freak really captured my imagination.. maybe because it all started on a toilet? Maybe it was the soccer? I honestly don’t know, but I was instantly drawn into the world you created filled with vampires, twists, suspense, and even heartbreak. I can’t tell you how hard it hit me when our favorite mentor and teacher sacrificed himself to save his closest friends.

    As I dove deeper into your books something really special happened, something we often hope happens to all young people: I discovered the joy and the love of reading. Your stories ignited a passion for literature in me, and I became such an avid reader from that point forward. Your books became my companions during both truly happy and extremely challenging times in my life.

    Your characters and their journeys taught me such valuable life lessons about bravery, friendship, and the consequences of choices. Your writing showed me the power of imagination and the limitless possibilities it offers. Through this book series, I learned to appreciate the written word and the beauty of storytelling.

    Looking back, I can absolutely say that if it weren't for you and your incredible series, I would not be the person I am today. Your books played such a significant role in shaping my interests, and really broadening my horizons; they kindled a lifelong love with literature and books.

    In June I turned 34 years old. My original Cirque Du Freak series I’ve had since I was a child, along with The Demonata series, and some of your other books sit on a shelf in my study. I have a son that’s turning ten in January who has already received that spark, that love of reading; but I’m so excited to be able to share this wonderful gift you’ve given to the world with him.

    I am truly grateful for the profound influence you've had on my life, and I wanted to take this moment to express my heartfelt thanks. Please know that your talent as a writer has left a mark on countless readers, and I am just one of the many whose life you've touched.

    Thank you, Darren Shan, for sharing your extraordinary gift with the world and for touching my life in such a meaningful way. Your books will forever hold a special place in my heart.








    I read The Anomaly, by Herve Le Tellier, while on holiday last month, and thoroughly enjoyed it. A thought-provoking piece of lightly-sci-fi, with a very large cast of characters, that takes its time in revealing what it's actually about and where its story is going to lead. I rated it 5 stars on Goodreads, and it's not too often I hand out top marks to a book!


    The book also resonated with me for other reasons. Back in the 1990s, when I was writing furiously and trying all different kinds of genres, I wrote a HUGE, crazily ambitious sci-fi one-off, with a massive cast, spread across the space of a few hundred years, which demanded an awful lot of readers, in terms of asking them to make connections between the characters in the different time periods and drawing all the various, seemingly random strands together inside their own imaginations to weave them into a complete, carefully structured, interconnected tale. It ran to more than 205,000 words, and baffled and bored the few people who I shared the first draft with at the time. In retrospect, I shouldn't have shared it with anyone until I'd edited it a few times and knocked it more into shape -- I'm sure it's incredibly lumpy and overly wordy as it stands.


    Although much of the novel is a mystery to me -- I haven't even looked at it since I finished work on the first draft a quarter or a century or so ago -- I've never forgotten about it, and it's always been in line for a heavy rewrite and lots of editing and eventual release, unlike some of the other first draft books I knocked out back then. I thought it might be one of the first Darren Dash books that I'd turn to, but I've been running scared of it, knowing how big it is and how much work I'll have to put into whittling it down and making it more of a fun read (while still demanding an awful lot from my readers).


    But The Anomaly has convinced me that such a story CAN work, and that featuring a large cast, where the connections between them only gradually reveal themselves, doesn't have to be as off-putting as I feared. It's got me excited about the book again, and while I'm not saying it's definitely going to be the next Darren Dash book that I release -- I quite like the fact that I haven't released two books in a row in the same genre under my Darren Dash handle, and as I've said above, the book coming out later this year is sci-fi -- I don't think its day in the moonlight lies TOO far off in the future... Watch this space!!






    I have subscriptions to three magazines -- Empire (movies), National Geographic (world events), and Mojo (music). My latest issue of Mojo arrived last month, and when I tore it open, I found myself staring at the back cover, an advert for Blur's upcoming new album, which is called... THE BALLAD OF DARREN!!! Awww -- how sweet of them to name an album after me!! I never knew they were such big fans of mine!!! :-) :-) :-) In all seriousness, while I'm sure that title has absolutely nothing to do with ME, I'll still definitely be having a listen to the album, as, although I wouldn't describe myself as a massive fan, I'm a long-time admirer of the band, have listened to most of their stuff over the years, and even saw them live in Hyde Park a long time ago. With a name like that, it can't fail to be a classic!!!





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    A fan called OWEN shared these snaps with me last month. They were taken way back in 2001. Look how young I was! How dark my hair was!! And how awful my dress sense was!!! :-) :-) :-) I used to wear silk shirts all the time back then, several of which were eye-popping Versace shirts like this one. They didn’t really suit me, but they were part of who I was at the time, so I look back on them with fondness — though I don’t think I’ll ever start wearing them again!! I was delighted that Owen had held onto the dedicated photo — what an amazing memento! It made me smile, seeing it again more than two decades later.
    May be an image of 11 people, monument and skyscraper  May be an image of 5 people
    I’ve wanted to go into Battersea Power Station for most of my life. It’s such a cool building, and there have been various plans to renovate it since I was a child, but they kept falling by the wayside. It got the green light to be brought back to life some years, and I finally got to venture inside in July when the Shans visited the area while on holiday in London. It’s as fabulous inside as out - well worth the wait. Of course there was another reason why I was so excited to see it, which readers of my Zom-B series will have clocked immediately. One of the later books was set in the power station, and it features some of the darkest, most disturbing scenes, in what was a very dark, disturbing series!!!


    IT'S A WRAP!


    And that's it for August. When Mrs Shan and I first started dating many moons ago, we found we had a shared love of going to gigs to see live music, and although we're both a lot older now than we were then, that love of live music remains. We got to a couple of big gigs last month, to see Madness near the start of July, and Kaiser Chiefs near the end. We had a fabulous time at both, though we ended up a lot drier at the Kaiser Chiefs event, since it was held beneath a big tent, while the Madness gig happened outdoors on a typically rainy Irish summer's night!! We've no gigs planned for August, but we'll be rocking out to Muse in September, Josh Ritter in October, and Billy Bragg in November -- great times ahead!!! Before the rocking commences, I'll hopefully see you all back here at the start of September, for the latest round of 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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