Waterstones York will host an evening with ‘master of horror’ Darren Shan on 1 May. The writer’s work features the deadly, the unnatural, and the drop-dead horrifying. Wearing vivid jackets, Shan’s sagas have sold millions of copies throughout the world. Focusing on the author’s latest publication, Brothers to the Death, this is your chance to meet the bestselling author, and his twisted tales.
Writing as Darren Shan, the name also given to one of his protagonists, the author’s real name is Darren O’Shaughnessy. His slim books can be found on the shelves of the children, young-adult, and even adult sections. The same might be said of his characters. The writer’s coming-of-age stories feature protagonists at awkward times of transformation. Born in England, but now living in Limerick, Shan’s interest in the macabre revealed itself at the age of fifteen, when he won runner-up in the scriptwriting competition ‘A Day in the Morgue’.
The August publication of Lady of the Shades, a book for adults, will see the author return to the beginning of his own story – when his first novel, Procession of the Dead, was published in 1999. Publishers Weekly described it as ‘an excellent, twisting foray into a world of deceit, murder, and mystery.’ He began writing for children only as a side-project. Shan’s real breakthrough came when, having been rejected by twenty publishers, HarperCollins decided to take up his new book. On publication, the tale was backed by J.K. Rowling, who found it a ‘compelling’ book ‘full of satisfyingly macabre touches,’ all of which ‘leaves the reader hungry for more.’ The writer’s young audience has been going crazy for his books ever since.
The author’s first, freaky book for children, A Living Nightmare, tells of a schoolboy who sneaks away to the forbidden Cirque du Freak. There’s a Bearded Lady, a spider called Madame Octa, and a wild wolfman that wants to rip them all to shreds. Even more strangely, one of the unusual circus performers really is a vampire. The Saga of Darren Shan is a series of twelve quirky books that follow the central character as his fate is pulled out from underneath him. In just one night, Darren’s human saga ends, and a new, unpredictable one begins. In The Irish Times, the author explains that ‘much had been written about adult vampires, but very few writers had tried to capture what it would feel like to be a child in a world of blood.’ There is, after all, much at stake. The vampires, Darren realises, are at war – with the savage, purple-skinned Vampaneze.
Darren Shan writes compulsively. His books are about treachery as much friendship, and about inhumanity as much as being human. One even ends on the death of a child. He’s also written The Demonata, a series of nightmarish tales, and two stand-alone volumes. The author’s latest publication is the final instalment of The Saga of Larten Crepsley. A prequel, this marks the closing chapter for a character that first appeared in the Darren Shan series. ‘We’ve come through an awful lot together,’ the author reveals – from at time when he ‘could barely afford to buy paper to print out the first draft, to ‘a point where his and my name are recognised in more countries around the world than I can count.’ Shan has now signed a seven-figure deal with Simon & Schuster to publish a book every three months for the new series Zom-B.
He is, according to The Telegraph, ‘the man giving your children nightmares.’ Crossing and re-crossing the lines between life and death, Shan’s inventive tales feature vampirism, demons, lycanthropy, and many more monsters. Real life ‘doesn’t care about heroes and happy endings and the way things should be,’ he writes bluntly. But he’s always defended the morality at the core of his fiction. For all of their gruesomeness, the author’s books also have an impish sense of humour. Plainly written, Shan’s action-driven tales rattle along at speed. And, having sold the film rights, he, too, could only watch as The Vampire’s Assistant, inspired by three books in the first series, made its cinematic debut in 2009.
He’s the Irish author most borrowed from Ireland’s libraries for the third year running. He never stops writing. And the appetite for his fiendish fiction is only increasing. Join Darren Shan for an evening of reading and book signing at Waterstones this Tuesday.
This ticket-only event is on Tuesday 1 May, 6.30pm.