Plot Outline:Blood Beast is set about a year after the events recounted in Slawter. Grubbs Grady is back in Carcery Vale. His life seems to have settled down at last. He's getting on well with Dervish. He has lots of new friends at school. He's sweet on a girl and he thinks she might fancy him too. Apart from a few bad nightmares, all should be fine.
But it isn't.
Grubbs has been struggling to contain the magical talent he discovered in the town of Slawter. He doesn't want to become a Disciple and he hopes his abilities will fade if he hides them long enough. But they're starting to bubble to the surface and he suspects he's reaching a crisis point.
He also suspects he might be turning into a werewolf.
So much for an easy life!!!!
Things come to a head when a playful treasure hunt leads Grubbs and a couple of his friends to the find of a lifetime. But there's more to this treasure than meets the eye. When tragedy strikes, Grubbs's life threatens to spin out of control. There are a number of strange, seemingly malevolent forces at work. Dervish stands by Grubbs and tries to help him through the tough times, and he receives further help from an quarter. But has he finally faced one beast too many????
Blood Beast is the first half of a two-part storyline. It ends on a HUGE cliffhanger. The story will be concluded in Book 6.
Author Notes:NOTES -- PART ONE -- "ORIGINS OF THE BEAST"
Blood Beast was the third Demonata book that I wrote, after Lord Loss and Bec. It started life around the same time as Bec, after a visit I made to Mitchelstown Caves. (You can read more about that in the Bec notes in the BOOKS part of the DEMONS sub-site). I thought it would be cool to write a scene where humans have to fight demons in a cave. As I played around with all sorts of stories which would allow me to write such a scene, I came up with the threads of a book set in the past, which became Bec, but I also toyed with the notion of doing a book set in the present.
As I've said before, I never planned to write a series of connecting stories. When I first contemplated ideas for this book, Grubbs wasn't going to be the main character. I thought I'd probably work Lord Loss in, but even that wasn't a definite in the early days. But as I teased at the story and worried it like a dog gnawing a bone, I realised this was a perfect story for Grubbs Grady. When I finished Lord Loss I assumed that was the last I'd ever write about Grubbs, but he wouldn't go away inside my head, and the more I thought about the new story, it seemed like they were a perfect match for each other. Once I made that link, the story developed swiftly as I saw how to fit Grubbs and other characters from Lord Loss into it -- and also, crucially, how to connect the new story to Bec. When I wrote Bec, I didn't plan for it to tie in with Grubbs's story -- it was going to be a stand-alone book. But now that I had returned to Grubbs, I realised I had to either not publish Bec or else find a way to link her story to that of Grubbs -- otherwise it would make no sense. Well, obviously I didn't want to sacrifice my Celtic book, so I put my thinking cap on and luckily I came up with some answers.
Finding links is the really difficult, magical part of writing. The question I get asked all the time is, "Where do your ideas come from?" But, as I always answers, everyone has ideas. We all have dreams and nightmares, and our minds wander and we imagine ourselves kissing a beautiful lady or fighting a monster or whatever. What I do differently is try to make stories out of those ideas. I do that by asking questions and trying to come up with stories to link scenes together. Sometimes it's easy -- with Cirque Du Freak I had a couple of early ideas, about a boy meeting a vampire at a circus, and walking off with the vampire as his assistant. It was relatively easy to link those ideas together -- boy has to meet vampire, boy has to do something to get vampire interested in him, something has to happen to make the boy agree to become his assistant, etc, etc.
It was harder with this book. A LOT harder. There were no logical links with Bec. For a long time I couldn't think of a way to build a bridge between the two novels. I figured out early on that Bec and Grubbs could be distant relations (that's why I went back later and put in the scene with the werewolves in Bec -- that wasn't in the first draft), but in terms of a connected series that was a fairly thin link. That wasn't reason enough to release Bec. I had to give readers more than that. Bec had to be more than an interesting experiment -- I didn't want to write a historical novel and then return to the present and just dismiss it as a side-story.
Finally I saw how I could do it. Like everything in life, it was obvious in retrospect, but figuring it out was one of the hardest and most complicated things I've ever had to do. When you read this book, and book 6, it will all be clear. My master plan will reveal itself and you'll have no problem following the flow of the story. In fact you'll probably think, "Of course! Why didn't I see that coming? It had to happen that way. It couldn't have worked any other way." But, trust me, nothing was clear early on -- for a time I was juggling ideas wildly and it was complete chaos inside my mind! I'm still not sure how order emerged out of the mayhem, how I whittled the ideas down and pieced the links together. But a writer doesn't need to know HOW his brain works -- just as long as it DOES work!!
Once I had most of the kinks figured out, I sat down on the 12th of January 2004 and wrote up my plot notes -- three pages, outling the full story. I started writing the book soon after that. I'm not sure when exactly I realised that the long story would work better if I split it into two, but at some point I made that decision, and after a short break I began writing book 6 in March 2004.
PART TWO -- "TEENAGE ANGST"
One of the things that interested me most when I was toying with the idea of writing another Grubbs Grady book (and remember, "Blood Beast" was written BEFORE "Slawter", so this was the second Grubbs book that I wrote) was exploring the relationship between Grubbs and Bill-E. Relationships are central to most of my books -- "The Saga", for instance, was built around the bonds between Darren and Mr Crepsley, Darren and Steve, Darren and Harkat, Darren and Debbie, etc. I think those books have proved so popular not just because they were fast-paced and action-packed, but because fans liked the way Darren interacted with other characters -- you could see him fall out with Steve, suspect and then grow close to Mr Crepsley, and so on. For a story to be interested, you need interesting characters, and over the course of a series you need to see the relationship between characters change and evolve, like relationships do in real life.
In "Lord Loss", Grubbs and Bill-E connected instantly, because Grubbs was lost and lonely -- he would have become friends with anyone who was nice to him at that time in his life. Bill-E was also lonely -- I didn't make a big deal of it in the book, but I think the fact that he hung out with Dervish so much, and never mentioned any other friends or brought them around to see Grubbs, hinted that all was not as coolio in his world as he was letting on. Fan opinions on Bill-E after "Lord Loss" and "Slawter" have been divided -- a lot of you think he's just a wiseass, a smart-alec, a bit full of himself.
But Bill-E is actually one of the loneliest, saddest characters I've ever created. Like many teenagers, I wasn't especially happy. I did have friends, and I enjoyed school, and I was never reall bullied. But I became self-conscious in my teenage years. I withdrew from the world a lot. I found it hard to make new friends, and my relationships with those I had from when I was younger underwent a lot of change -- a guy might be my best friend one month, then we might be hardly talking to each other a month later. It was a weird, chaotic time. The ground felt like it was shifting beneath my feet. I never knew what the next day was going to bring, or when a friendship might fall apart. I often felt out of place, awkward, lonely. It was a hard, sometimes miserable time -- but the good news for any of you going through similar trials is that things DO change -- teenage angst ISN'T forever, and better days ARE ahead -- you just have to sigh and see out your teen years, then get on with the rest of your much more adjusted and evenly-keeled life.
But back to Bill-E. Although he had a big role in "Lord Loss", I felt there was much more I could do with him and Grubbs. And "Blood Beast" was my chance to explore their relationship in real depth. Grubbs has grown a lot by the start of this book. He's become popular at school. He has other friends. He hangs out with a cool crowd, and there's a girl he fancies -- and he thinks she fancies him! He's more confident than he was before, enjoying life again, more like he was when we first met him at the very start of "Lord Loss".
But Bill-E isn't part of Grubbs's new group. Bill-E has always been an outsider and he can't change, even though Grubbs wishes he could, so that they could still be friends. Grubbs hates the way he's losing Bill-E. He wants them to be just like they were, best friends. He wants Bill-E to be part of his new gang, to hang out with him, to laugh at his jokes. He can see what nobody else can see in Bill-E. He feels sorry for his small, shy friend. But, being a typical teenage boy, he can't verbalize his feelings or do anything to help -- he just lets the world roll over him.
"Blood Beast" is by no means a slice-of-life story. This isn't a gritty, realistic book about the hell that school can be. It's a book about magic, transformations, secrets, death and horror. But it also covers ground which I haven't really explored in most of my other books. I think it comes closer to the real world than any other book of mine. And I think that will lend it an extra depth -- I hope fans will really FEEL for these characters and identify with them, and that when bad things start to happen (as they always do in a Darren Shan book), you'll share their sense of desperation and hurt -- because you'll have seen that for all their magical trappings, underneath it all, these people are just like YOU.
Bill-E Spleen might not be a fan favourite right now. But I think that might change with "Blood Beast".
PART THREE -- "BITS AND PIECES"
Book 5 is where the storylines of the first 4 books start to come together. It won't become crystal clear until the sixth book, but eagle-eyed readers should be able to spot many of the links and start drawing the story threads together by themselves. Pay attention to the minor details -- there are clues everywhere!!!
Remember Lord Sheftree's legendary stash of buried treasure from "Lord Loss"? How Bill-E and Grubbs went hunting for it regularly until events distracted them? If you thought that was just a bit of side-nonsense which was never going to be mentioned again ... you were wrong!!!!
This book is set about a year after "Slawter". Although I've never mentioned Grubbs's age, I think it's pretty clear that he's in his mid-teens, so he's about 15 or 16 in this book. And, like most teenage boys that age, he's interested in girls! One girl in particular!! And he gets to put the moves on her in a game of Spin The Bottle!!! But anyone who thinks this is going to turn into a slushy chick-lit kind of story is gravely mistaken!!!!!!
Some familiar faces pop up again in this book -- in some ways it's going to be like Book 8 of "The Saga of Darren Shan2, when I started bringing back characters from earlier in the story. Only not all of the old faces are going to be familiar straight away -- as I said above, pay attention!!!!!
There will be some new demons to look forward to, and I can pretty much guarantee that they'll be grosser and more disgusting than ever!!
I played around with a number of names for this book. "Blood Beast" was a working title from quite early on (I think!) but I considered a number of other options. One of them -- the earliest -- was "Of Wolves and Demons". That's a clue to the plot!!!
Book 5 ends on a HUGE cliffhanger -- so be prepared to left tearing your hair out at the roots!!!!