• Issue 287 - June 2024

    01 June 2024

    GREETINGS!

     

    Hi everyone, and welcome to the June issue of the Shanville Monthly! Summer is coming to Ireland, but although I'll be doing lots of stuff with my children over the warmer months and school break, I won't be abandoning my writing duties completely -- work will continue on The Terrified Troll picture book, and while I must admit that the artist, Eva Byrne, is the one who has to put in most of the hard graft at this stage, I'll be chipping in too, offering feedback on the pages as she prodcuces them, and tweaking my text when I feel it can be improved. I'm also beavering away on another project, which I haven't said anything about on my social media -- I don't want to say too much about it here just yet either, except if all goes well, I might have something else to excite you Shansters with, even before The Terrified Troll sees the light of day... But that's news for a future issue of the newsletter. For now, let's focus on what I can talk openly about, which includes... the 27th anniversary of the start of Cirque Du Freak... a radio interview with me, where I talk about some of my favourite books... info about how to come on a personal Bec tour with me... I talk about the role of the vampets in my vampire books... a Cirque Du Freak quiz... and I reveal who would win in a to-the-death battle between zombies and Peppa Pig!!! For all of that and more, read on!!!

     

     

    27th ANNIVERSARY

     

     

    Twenty-seven years ago, on May 8th 1997, I was sitting in a car, babysitting a young cousin who was asleep in the back, when I had an idea for a book about a young boy who runs into a vampire at a circus and ends up reluctantly becoming his assistant as a creature of the night. A few days later I began writing the first draft of the book that I had decided to call... Cirque Du Freak!!

     

    I had no idea at the time that this would change my life forever. I'd been writing full-time for a couple of years, and had written lots of books, all intended for adult readers. I was making a bit of headway with them, and assumed they would be my bread-and-butter if I was going to be able to make a career out of this writing lark. Cirque Du Freak was a side-project. I didn't think there was any money to be made writing for children, and I wasn't sure if I'd be any good at it -- I thought it would be difficult to rein in the darkness of my adult work. But, what the hell, I thought I could have some fun with it, so I went ahead and wrote it regardless!

     

    When I'd finished my first draft, I asked my agent Chris if he'd like to have a look at it. He said he would, and he really enjoyed it. He saw commercial potential that I hadn't seen, and submitted it to twenty different publishers in the UK, hoping to start a bidding war for the rights... only for all twenty of them to reject it!! It looked like my experiment in books for children had been a huge failure, and commonsense told me to push it aside and focus on my books for adults again.

     

    But I'd already written the first draft of the second book (I worked FAST back in those days!), and Chris didn't want to let it drop, as he still believed in its potential. So he set up meetings for me with three of the publishers who'd rejected it, to chat about what they had liked ot hadn't liked, and if they might be interested in other work from me. One of those editors, a lady called Domenica De Rosa, re-read the manuscript ahead of our meeting, to refresh herself with the material, and second time round it snagged her interest. She made a few very helpful suggestions -- such as making early mention of Darren's love of spiders, which didn't appear in the first draft until he was at the Cirque Du Freak and saw Madam Octa.

     

    Buoyed by this, I went away and did a re-write, and Domenica ended up commissioning it for HarperCollins. She then went off to have twins and never returned, and her replacement didn't like the book and tried to sell the rights back to us! But Chris stood firm and insisted they go ahead and publish it, and although they sat on it for a couple of years, they did put it out eventually, and... well... it did OK when it started appearing on bookshelves of shops, didn't it?!?

     

    Happy birthday, Cirque Du Freak. Thanks for bringing so much dark joy into the lives of millions of readers around the world, and giving me a fairytale kind of life that I couldn't even have imagined in my wildest dreams back in 1997, when I was drawing unemployment benefits and living with my parents.

     

     

    NEWSTALK

     

     

    I appeared on The Hard Shoulder, a show on Irish radio station NEWSTALK, last month. I talked about two of my favourite books -- longtime fans of mine probably won't be too suprised by my choices, but newer fans might be caught off-guard by at least one of them! I also mentioned what I was reading at the moment, and we covered some other stuff too.

     

    The interview has been archived as a podcast, so you can now listen to it at your leisure, no matter where you live in the world, by CLICKING HERE

     

     

    FIRST BEC TOUR

     

     

    I did my first Bec tour last month, with a lovely lady called HEATHER and her son THEO, and it was a wonderful day. We wandered lazily through Craggaunowen, taking in all the places there that inspired scenes in the book, and I read out extracts to demonstrate how important the park had been in my research. We met a few of the resident artisans -- people who dress like people in teh past, and who practise and demonstrate anicent skills. One of them was the guy in the attached photo, a blacksmith -- he wasn't there back when I was putting the book together, which was a pity as one of the characters in Bec is a blacksmith and it would have been great to chat with his modern-day counterpart in advance of writing it! I even ended up driving Heather and Theo back to their campsite -- the first time I've ever played chauffeur at one of my events!!!! :-)

     

    If you're wondering what on Earth a Bec tour is, and how Heather and her son wound up on one... It's one of the perks I offered in my Terrified Troll fundraiser late last year. For €250, fans were able to book a tour of Craggaunowen with me as their personal guide. Although the fundraiser has finished, I'm still offering the chance to book a tour if anyone is interested -- it lasts about 2 hours, and the price includes entry into the park and a snack and drink at the end. I tell you all about how Bec was created, and you can ask me loads of other questions too. Oh, and of course I'm happy to sign any of my books that you choose to bring along! All profits go towards producing the first ever Darren Shan picture book, which artist Eva Byrne is hard at work on. If interested, email me at [email protected] and we can discuss options.

     

     

    DREAMOLOGY

     

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    Had an enjoyable meeting yesterday with the Dreamology Pictures team. (They're the guys who are trying to turn The Demonata into a TV show.) Bounced around lots of thoughts, ideas and plans about how to take the books forward as a TV show. Still lots of big decisions to be made, but we are edging closer to the point where we’re going to start work on a script… or, more likely, scriptS, as it might be that we bang out a few very different drafts to give ourselves a better idea of what might work and what might not… Watch this space — but please be patient too, as genius can’t be rushed!!!! :-)

     

     

    BEYOND THE SPINES

     

     

    There was a lovely review for Father Of The Future, my latest Darren Dash novel for adult readers, on BEYOND THE SPINES REVIEWS. It was the first of my books for older readers that the reviewer had read, and while at first uncertain of what to expect, she enjoyed it immensely in the end, as best illustrated by this little snippet:

     

    "For me, this book felt like 1984 meets Netflix’s Loki meets 2001 meets I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, except that I enjoyed this novel more than any of those four fictions."

     

    High praise indeed, especially as 1984 and 2001 were BIG influences on my work in general, and Father Of The Future in particular!! If you'd like to read the full review, you can do so by CLICKING HERE

     

    And if you'd like to read the book, you can buy the very reasonably priced eBook on Amazon, Apple, Google Play, Kobo, Smashwords and lots of other sites. Or you can get it as a hardback or paperback through Amazon stores worldwide.

     

     

    CIRQUE DU CHOO-CHOO!

     

     

    A mother of a student went to his school recently, and was impressed to spot a "literary Tube map" -- this is like the famous London Tube Map, only every "train line" represents a genre of books, with various novels and schools dotted along the way.

     

    The Shantastic parent sent me a picture of part of the map, and I was delighted to see a freakishly fabulous book at the start (or end) of the black horror line! All aboard for the Cirque Du Freak!! Choo-choo!!!!!

     

     

    NO MORE FREE FREAKS!

     

     

    I had a few people asking me recently if the Cirque Du Freak audiobooks were being removed from Audible. No they're not -- but, as you can see from the screenshot that one fan sent me, they HAVE been withdrawn from the FREE downloads list.

     

    I've got to be honest -- I know next to nothing about audiobooks! I don't listen to audiobooks, and had little to do with those of mine which have been recorded and released by my publishers over the years, aside from rubber-stamping their choice of narrators. But I'm aware that fans on Audible have been able to listen to the Cirque Du Freak books for free, for a few years now. (Don't worry -- I do still get paid!) Or at least some fans in some countries have been able to, depending on their subscription model.

     

    That has now changed -- but I don't know if it's everywhere or just in certain zones. But the books ARE still on Audible -- you just have to pay for them now, or use your monthly credits to download them if you have that set up. (As my wife does. She's always keenly looking around for new audiobooks to spend her credits on, though I don't think she ever spends them on mine!! Then again, I did read a few of my books to her on long car journeys years ago, so I suppose when you've have a private Darren Shan narrating experience, every other narrator will inevitably come up short!!!)

     

     

    BUZZFEED RE-READ

     

     

    There was a nice little article on Buzzfeed recently, about people's favourite books, although it had a rather cumbersome heading: Here Are 15 Books That Are So Good, People Wish They Could Relive Reading Them Again For The First Time. That header writer needed a good editor!!! :-)

     

    Anyway, there's a sweet mention for Cirque Du Freak in among the mix. To read what they had to say about it, and to check out the other books that got highlighted, CLICK HERE

     

     

    OLD FOR YOUNG

     

     

    Nice to see Cirque Du Freak make a list of "old" series on Gamespot entitled: Introduce Your Kids To Some Of The Most Popular Books From Your Childhood This Summer -- even though I still find it hard to believe that almost a quarter of a century has passed since Cirque Du Freak was first released!!

     

    The set that they've included an Amazon link for is actually the boxset of the British editions, where the series is known by its original and official title -- The Saga Of Darren Shan. (Though I'm happy to refer to it as the Cirque Du Freak series too!) As long as you don't mind the covers, which are VERY different to the American covers, it's incredibly good value -- all 12 books, in a stylish slipcase, for about $45?!? Yes please!!!! For the article and the Amazon link, CLICK HERE

     

     

    AN EVIL RECOMMENDATION

     

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    This meme, posted by a fan called SARA JO, is maybe the best recommendation for The Evil And The Pure (one of my Darren Dash books for adult readers) that I've ever seen!!! :-)

     

     

    ALLIES RE-READ

     

     

    What's Allies Of The Night (the 8th book of my Cirque Du Freak series) like if you re-read it as an adult?? A fan called LUKE decided to find out, and documented his take on the book -- CLICK HERE

     

    ***SPOILERS ***

     

    I'm going to talk about events from the book here, so if you haven't read it, and don't want spoilers, my advice is to stop reading NOW.

     

    Luke raises a very interesting point about the Vampets, and their similarity to fascists like the Nazis. This was definitely deliberate. Luke doesn't like it, because it casts the Vampaneze as out-and-out bad guys, and he felt I'd been much more nuanced in my presentation of them up to that point. He's absolutely correct, but at the same time I think he's misinterpreted what's going on with the vampets, and the reason why I went all-out bad with them.

     

    The vampaneze are NOT automatic bad guys. They have different beliefs to the vampires, and I'd absolutely be more with the vampires than the vampaneze, but they're not inherently evil. But that changes when Steve comes into the mix. Because of Mr Tiny's prophecy, and their belief that their Lord will see them conquer the vampires, they follow Steve blindly, which allows him to corrupt them. The Vampets are HIS henchmen. HE ordered their recruitment, and directs their actions. The vast majority of the vampaneze disapprove of the Vampets, but Steve is their Lord, and his word is law, so they allow it to happen.

     

    Although I didn't get into politics heavily in Cirque Du Freak, the state of the world WAS on my mind all the same, and I addressed it with the Vampets and the negative impact they have on the vampaneze. They're a warning not to put too much power into the hands of our leaders, as corrupt officials can then lead us disastrously astray, as happened with Germans in the 1930s. I don't think any groups of people are inherently bad -- we're all one big family, and we sway the same ways. But the systems we implement can allow individuals in positions of authority to move big groups in sinister ways, and what I was saying with the Vampets was that we should never have a system where our leaders are granted God-like powers, where they're placed above our laws and rules, because such systems will always, eventually, be abused, to the harm of the wider populace.

     

     

    VIJAY REVIEWS

     

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    A short but sweet review of Tunnels Of Blood, by a YouTuber called VIJAY. Have a look by CLICKING HERE, and if you like it, give him a thumbs up to thank him for his time.

     

     

    ZOMBIES VS PEPPA PIG

     

     

    This made me chuckle!! A school librarian (Ms. Yingling Reads) tweeted the attached photo, with the message: "End of school year! Always make sure that @darrenshan ZOM-B series doesn't spend the summer next to @WendyShang books. You can never be too careful!"

     

    I assume this is because Wendy Shang's books are aimed at younger readers, and the librarian is worried that, in her absence, an 8 year old could walk home with Zom-B by accident and start reading!!! :-)

     

    This reminds me of when Zom-B got pulled from a major supermarket chain in the UK many years ago, around the time that Zom-B Baby was released. (The hardback of that book has an especially grisly cover!!) Supermarket workers don't take the same care with placing books that a seasoned librarian takes, and they were simply stacking all the books for children together in one section, which meant Zom-B Baby was being stacked next to Peppa Pig books -- and the cover was traumatising toddlers and angering their parents!!! Enough parents complained for it to become an issue, and rather than train their staff to stack books correctly, the chain simply pulled Zom-B from their shelves.

     

    So, if you've ever wondered who would win in a war between zombies and Peppa Pig... :-) :-) :-)

     

     

    HOW TO READ

     

     

    With work ongoing on a potential TV adaptation of The Demonata (still VERY early days, so don't go getting TOO excited!), this might be a good time for a re-read of the series, to refresh yourselves with the storyline, if only to be able to accurately judge just how savagely it ends up being butchered!!!! :-) :-) :-)

     

    But with ten books to work your way through, you might not recall where to start or in what order to proceed from there. Luckily, the HOW TO READ ME site has listed the running order, along with a brief synopsis for each book -- plus they've also listed the chrnological order, in case any of you want to read the story in the way the time would have unfolded, rather than in the backwards-and-forwards way that I structured things.

     

    (I think the BEST way to read the series is the way I structured it, but it might be fun to start with Bec and work forward from there, especially if you've read the books before.)

     

    For your directions in the demon-ravaged darks, CLICK HERE

     

     

    CIRQUE DU QUIZ

     

     

    Ther are two teachers in California, KEVIN and JENNIFER, happily married and teaching in the same school. Every year, for the last 17 years, they have read Cirque Du Freak to their students, and are still enjoying it after all this time! They get the kids to send me a letter when they've finished the book, and I always love replying.

     

    They also give the kids a Cirque Du Freak QUIZ each year, and the one who scores highest wins a copy of the Cirque Du Freak omnibus!! They sent me a copy of this year's quiz, and I have to say, it's INCREDIBLY hard!!! There are 16 questions in total, and I think most readers will struggle to get even half of those right! (I didn't dare test myself, as I don't want to fail it!!!!)

     

    But hey! if you want to prove me wrong, I've attached scans of the quiz here, so go ahead and test yourself! Just, please, no cheating! It's a fun quiz, designed to find out how much you've actually retained abut the book. So no peeking or Googling the answers!!! Take on the challenge squarely, as any vampire of good standing would, and see how you fare. I'll be eagerly awaiting your scores in the replies to this post -- just don't expect any free books from me at the end!!!!

     

     

    IT'S A WRAP!

     

    And that's it for June. With the holiday season kicking off in earnest, I hope you all have a wonderful time if you have any trips planned -- the Shan Clan will be returning to Disneyland Paris this month, having visited last year and enjoyed it immensely. I'll see you back here at the start of July for the annual BIRTHDAY issue of my monthly newsletter, celebrating both the Shanville Monthly's entry into the world, along with MY entry into it some years earlier! 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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    {monthly_events show_future_entries="yes" show_expired="no"}Issue 287 - June 2024More information...{/monthly_events}