Plot Outline:With the darkness of John Connolly and the quirkiness of Neil Gaiman, Lady of the Shades is a dark supernatural thriller for adults from the number one bestselling YA author, Darren Shan.
Ed, an American author on the hunt for a story for his next book, arrives in London looking for inspiration. A stranger in a strange city, he's haunted by a deadly secret that refuses to stay buried, and no matter how hard he tries he cannot escape the manifest sins of his past.
What Ed wants is answers, what he finds is something he definitely didn't bargain for: the beautiful and untouchable Andeanna Menderes. Andeanna is a woman who is dangerously bound to one of London's most notorious crime lords, and if they are caught together it could mean death for them both.
Ensnared in an illicit affair that can only be conducted in the shadows, Ed's world is turned upside down as a series of shattering revelations blurs the line between what's real and what's not...
Author Notes:I started work on Lady Of The Shades on April 5th 1999, and finished my final edit on 29th May 2012. So it was just over 13 years in the making!!
Why so long? Well, my career as a children's author took off like a comet from early 2000, when Cirque Du Freak was first released. I was full of ideas for books for younger readers, I was having a great time writing them, and I ended up spending a lot of my time touring to promote them. That didn't leave a whole lot of time to focus on my adult books. Also, the first couple of books for adults that I released didn't do very well, so there was no real demand on me to write any more! But when I returned to that world with The City trilogy years later, I knew immediately that the next book I would want to release was Lady.
I'd never forgotten about the twisted love story. Although I've written several first draft books for adults which I will probably never return to, I always knew that by hook or by crook, I would release Lady of the Shades. It was important to me. As an author, you have to stand up for the stories you believe in, even if others are sceptical, and this was a story I believed in 100%. I was delighted when I got the chance to go back and rewrite it and edit it into final shape. When I sat down with it, it was like only a few days had passed since I'd last worked on the book -- the story sucked me straight back in.
Lady began as my attempt to write a book that captured some of the spirit of the old film noir movies that I loved so much, like Double Indemnity. Hell's Horizon had started life in a similar fashion, but both times I felt like it wasn't enough to simply ape what I enjoyed -- I had to find a way to put my own stamp on things, to make the stories work in a very different way, in MY way. The ghosts were the key in this instance. Without them, it was a familiar tale of a lonely, resourceful guy falling in love with a beautiful married lady, who tricks him into murdering her husband. But with the ghosts it became something else entirely, and I was able to take the story off in all sorts of crazy directions, to really mess with the minds of readers, and get them to question what is real and what is not.
I knew from very early on that I wanted my main character to be a writer. I try not to do that too often in my books, as I think a writer should try to put themselves into the shoes of a variety of people, not just write about writers all the time. But in this case the story required a writer to work the way that I wanted. And he needed to be a writer of horror fiction, who was researching for a new book. At the time I was a big fan of the magazine Fortean Times, and I looked to that for inspiration. It was important that the book-within-the-book felt real, that you could believe that it was a book that was being written, so I spent a lot of time thinking about the plot that the writer was working on, trying to make it almost as intricate as the main story -- indeed, I got into it so much that I have at times thought about maybe using that secondary plot in a different book one day! Who knows, maybe in the future I will...
Anyway, as I flicked through my back issues of Fortean Times (I didn't have access to the internet back in those dark days, so there was no surfing the web for me!) I was drawn to the subject of Spontaneous Human Combustion, or SHC, and decided that was what I would focus on. I drew together as many facts and theories about SHC as I could, then fired ahead and began to weave my twin plots, setting Ed (I'd chosen a name for him) off on his long and twisting journey into the shades.
There was much more about SHC in the first draft. It was important for me that Ed's book felt genuine in every respect, so I paid more attention to it than I really needed to. Ultimately I pared those scenes down to the bone, cutting out huge chunks about the book that Ed was working on. That happens quite a lot in writing a book -- you come up with more than you need, then trim it down to the essentials. While it might seem like a harsh job, cutting scenes that you've spent weeks or months working on, in the end it's all about what works and what doesn't. Everything in a finished book needs to serve the story. But it's rarely wasted work, even if you cut a scene entirely, as what doesn't make the final draft can be as important in defining the story for you, the writer, as what does.
Apart from the SHC scenes, I didn't have to alter the book too much when I returned to it after my time away. It needed a bit of updating -- I introduced mobile phones and the internet to the equation -- but not as much as I thought it might. The story, in many ways, is timeless, the way all really good stories are. Take away the minor technological references and it could have taken place in 1980, 1960 or 1940. Deception and betrayal never really go out of style!!
I often get asked which of my books I would love to see made into a film, if I had a choice. While the answer is that I would be happy for any of them to be filmed, if I could choose just one to be adapted, it would be Lady of the Shades. It was inspired by movies probably more than any of my books, not just the old film noir classics, but more recent fare such as The Sixth Sense and a 1990s Irish film that I can't name because it might give one of the big twists away! I think it would be a tricky film to cast, but if you get the central roles right, it could work a treat. Of course, like almost every other author, I DON'T have a choice, so I'm just going to have to wait and see if Hollywood comes calling. But hopefully, one day, Lady of the Shades will make it to the silver screen, where poor Ed can fall in love and be tormented all over again...