• 15 July 2010
    This was a piece I wrote for www.kidsreads.com in November 2005.

    I remember somehow catching the hammy Vincent Price film, "Theater Of Blood," when I was 6 years old. It's the one where he plays a lambasted Shakespearean actor who sets out to silence his critics with artistic murderous licence. In one scene he feeds a critic the mashed-up remains of his beloved poodles, on which the poor man duly chokes. I was blown away! This was story-telling as I'd never experienced it, and even at that tender age, while other kids were glued to nice, safe, anodyne stuff, I knew I wanted more!!!

    That thirst for "more" has never left me. As a child and teenager I sought out all the horror that I could, be it in movies, books or comics. I craved creepiness. If nightmares were the result - all the better! Over the years, I moved on and found other loves (horror is fun, but it can be limiting), though nothing ever had the same effect on me as those old Hammer movies, or Stephen King's early novels, or the short stories of Edgar Allan Poe.

    When I came to write Cirque Du Freak, I had only one mandate in mind: I was going to write the sort of book that I'd have loved to read as an 11/12 year old. It didn't matter that, as a twentysomething, I wasn't as stoked-up by horror as I'd once been. I wasn't writing for twenty year olds: I was writing for kids, and for the kid I'd once been - and I was determined to treat them to the sort of gruesome helter-skelter ride I believed they deserved.

    Cirque Du Freak isn't a reckless, irresponsible book. Although it's about vampires and circus freaks, I wasn't interested in sickening readers or pushing back the boundaries of what is acceptable. It explores such themes as friendship, the im-portance of family, and the need to make personal sacrifices for the good of oth-ers. But, like "Theater Of Blood," it certainly isn't for the squeamish! While there are no poodles in the book, there are vampires and poisonous tarantulas; a savage Wolf Man and a Snake Boy; one character winds up in a coma, whilst another gets buried alive. It's a book designed to play on a reader's emotions. There are out-and-out scary scenes ("boo! moments" as I like to call them), but also darker, less bombastic scenes, which will linger in your mind for days (and nights!) to come.

    That, for me, is the secret of good horror: the subtle menace between the sudden bursts of action and violence. Cirque Du Freak is designed not just to thrill you, but to set your nerves on edge. It's sometimes shocking, but also thought-pro-voking. Because that's where I believe the greatest horrors lie: not in having something leap at you out of the darkness, but in staring into the shadows of the night and brooding about what lurks within...waiting...staring back...

    © Darren Shan. 9 November 2005.
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