Friday 17 September 2010

E14 Interviews: Darren Shan

Darren Shan released his first novel, Cirque du Freak, back in 2000. It was fantastically well received and ten short years later, he is one of the world's most famous writers for children, and Cirque du Freak has been adapted as the major Hollywood movie Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant. Despite being super famous and awesome, he was kind enough to take a few minutes for a chat with Emotionally Fourteen's Kelly Prior.

E14: Children all over the world are avid fans of your work. I myself have been reading your novels ever since Cirque Du Freak arrived on the scene all those years ago. Now, as an adult, I can also see the appeal your stories have on the adult readership. What is it about your books and the way you tell a story that so appeals to adults as well as children?

DS: I always write for the child and teenager within myself. When I was in my teens, I was caught between the worlds of childhood and adulthood, the same as everyone else of that age. I loved reading books for adults, by writers like Stephen King and Clive Barker, but I also still loved the works of Roald Dahl, Robert Westall and many others. What I try to do with my own books is bridge those two worlds.

I tell stories that hopefully mirror the best of the writers whose works I loved as a teenager. I write books that are fun, quick reads, but which also contain all the darkness of the more mature novels which I read when I was thirteen, fourteen, fifteen years old. I think that's why my books appeal to such varying age groups -- there's something in there for everyone to relate to!

E14: You are often put in the same category as J.K. Rowling. "If you like Harry Potter, you'll love Darren Shan"- this sentence has brought so many readers your way over the years. Do you credit your success to Rowling in that sense? Was she, in any way, an inspiration? Or do you feel you would have reached this level of success had the Harry Potter books never existed?

DS: She certainly wasn't an inspiration -- I had written the first nine books of The Saga of Darren Shan before I read my first Harry Potter book! I've read all of the Harry Potter novels since then, and enjoyed them greatly, but she's a more recent find for me. It's hard to know how my books would have fared commercially in a world without Harry Potter. I think they certainly would have found an audience, but I don't know if they would have succeeded as swiftly as they did, or on such a large scale.

The Harry Potter books proved to publishers that children's books could be "events", that they could be promoted like adult books and sell in big numbers in the short term as well as in the long term. Traditionally children's novelists had to settle for a slow build -- their books didn't sell in large amounts when first published, but grew over a longer period of time. In fact that's still the case for the vast majority of children's authors. Most publishers are still loathe to invest great sums in giving a children's book a big push -- they'd rather spend their resources on works for adults, since those are seen as easier books to promote quickly. But J K Rowling's success helped shift the goal posts at least a little bit, and I definitely benefitted from that.

E14: Now, we at Emotionally Fourteen love blood and gore, which is why we love all the nasty bits in your books. Do you think this need for such graphic horror is something inherrant in most people, and that this is something you can be proud of in your books? After all, not a lot of modern authors describe gore quite as intensly as you do!

DS: Well, they didn't used to, but that seems to be changing! There was a lot of unease from publishers when I was first trying to sell Cirque Du Freak. They were worried that it was too dark for younger readers, that there might be a public backlash. As we've seen, that isn't the case.

Children love horror, the same way adults do, and they can handle it just as capably as adults as long as the books they're reading are written with them in mind. As you say, most authors don't throw as much gore into their books as I do, even writers for adults! But I don't pack my books with gore just for the impact that such scenes might have. I think my work would have got boring long ago if that was all that I could do. I'm interested in exploring the after-effects and consequences of violence, of using an extreme scene as a springboard to explore more emotional material. My books are gory horror outings on the one hand, but on the other they're books that deal with issues that children and teenagers will face in their lives -- for instance, the loss of family or friends.

I think you can do pretty much anything you like in a children's book, as long as you're sensitive to the mindset of your readership. New age, sensitive gorehound -- that's me in a nutshell!!!

E14: Your new book, Birth of a Killer, is the highly anticipated first installment of The Saga of Larten Crepsley. John C. Reilly played Mr. Crespley in the recent film adaption of the ...Darren Shan books. He certainly made the character intense, unique and charismatic. Was this how you imagined Larten all these years? Were you happy with his portrayal of the character?

DS: I was very happy with how John C. Reilly played Mr Crepsley. He really got into the spirit of the books -- he read every single one of them and became quite a fan. He pushed all the way through filming to have the character remain true to the way he appears in the novels. Much was changed in order to squeeze the plots of three books into a single film, and the Mr Crepsley character was tweaked as well, but John did all that he could to keep him in line with the orange-haired grouch we know so well from the books! I thought he was the best thing in the film by far. I liked the rest of it too, but he was the stand-out for me.

E14: Everybody wants to be a writer these days. What tips do you have for our readers, avid fans of horror, fantasy, science fiction and all things Emotionally Fourteen, on how to become a writer? Is it true what they say, that to be a writer, you have to read everything you can get your hands on? What do you use for inspiration?

DS: Yes, it's important to read widely. I've always had a special spot in my heart for horror, fantasy and sci-fi, but I read a lot of non-grenre work too. It's important to expose yourself to as much of the world as you can, as you then have a far wider palette of ideas to draw from. Aside from reading lots, you also need to write lots. Planning a story is all well and good, but you only really start to develop as a writer once you get stuck in. It's like playing football -- you have learn loads about the game by watching lots of matches, but you won't actually be able to develop your skills unless you get out on a pitch and start kicking a ball around! Less thinking, more writing -- that's the way forward for any young writer!

Darren Shan's The Saga of Larten Crepsley: Birth of a Killer is out on Thursday 30th September.

Interview: Kelly Prior


In Saw 3D, the seventh chapter, a deadly battle rages over Jigsaw’s brutal legacy. A group of Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) survivors gathers to seek the support of self-help guru, and fellow survivor, Bobby Dagen (Sean Patrick Flanery). Soon though, the survivors really must help themselves as Dagen’s dark secrets unleash a new wave of terror...

The Saw franchise once more sets an industry record by being the first theatrical feature to be shot exclusively on the cutting-edge SI-3D digital camera system. Saw 3D brings the horrifying games of Jigsaw to life like never before, psychologically testing the viewer as Jigsaw does his victims. By adding another sensory dimension to the already overwhelming experience of viewing any Saw film, Saw 3D truly pushes the boundaries.

Saw 3D is released on October 28th.


The new point-and-click adventure from the makers of the Secret Files series!

The year is 1936. The Nazis are sending expeditions to the farthest reaches of the earth in search of occult weapons to aid them in realising their maniacal plans for world domination. When Fenton, a former British soldier and a hapless smuggler, sets off in search of his friend Richard, missing since an expedition to Tibet, he has no idea that he is embarking on an incredible adventure that will lead him across three continents to the hiding place of an ancient secret that threatens to destroy the world!

Thanks to our friends at Deep Silver, we've got three copies of Lost Horizon to give away! For your chance of winning a copy, send your name and full postal address to before midday on Friday 24th September. The first three names out of the electronic hat will win a copy each!

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