• Issue 54 - January 2005

    01 January 2005

    First of all, my deepest condolences to anyone who lost friends or family in the recent tsunami. I was on holiday when this happened, out of contact with the rest of the world, and only learned about it on December 30th. I watched, stunned, in a hotel room in Entebbe, almost unable to take it all in. A tragedy of this magnitude is hard to get to grips with. It drives home the fact that this can be a big, tough, ruthless world, and that for all our advances and intelligence, we're still just lodgers who have no real control over nature. But, as horrific as it was, it also shows mankind at its best -- people of all countries coming together, trying to help, moved by the plight of strangers, desperate to do what they can to make life easier for the survivors. If any of you want to help out, and haven't done so already, you can click here: http://www.google.com/tsunami_relief.html
    And so begins 2005 ...
    Right -- down to normal business. HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYBODY!!!! I hope you all had a fabulous Christmas and New Year's, and aren't feeling too glum now that the celebrations are over. I had a busy December, rushing to tie up lots of loose ends before I went on holiday, then hauling my not-so-skinny ass up and down mountains in Uganda and Rwanda! Plenty of news to report this month, along with a holiday report, my annual round-up of the year's Shan news, and more. So without any further dilly-dallying, let's get stuck straight in ...


    In the U.K. book 12, Sons of Destiny, has been longlisted for the WHSmith Children's Book Of The Year award!!! I'm not sure who draws up this list, or how the shortlist is chosen, but I remember book 1, Cirque Du Freak, made the shortlist back in 2000/2001. (One of the Harry Potter books won.) I'm not too confident of this one making the shortlist -- but it's nice to make at least the longlist!!!! And who knows -- maybe it WILL sneak in ... I'll let you all know if it does!!!!


    The Times in the U.K. came up with an interesting list of recommended Year's Best children's books for Christmas -- and Sons of Destiny was one of the books recommended! I don't normally get such official nods (most critics don't believe there's any value in horror novels), so I was very pleased to see it pop up there!!! Of course, I'm assuming everyone in the U.K. and Ireland reading this will have already read book 12 (the curse of the vampaneze on you if you haven't!!), but if you're looking for some other good books to read over Christmas, click here: http://www.amandacraig.com/pages/childrens/xmas_novels_04.htm
    Book 12 was also recommended for Christmas by the Camden New Journal. You can read the short review, and see what else they recommend, by clicking here: http://www.camdennewjournal.co.uk/121604/r121604_01.htm
    There was a long, fascinating article about my books (and horror in general) in The Observer in the U.K. (December 5th). Written by Kate Kellaway, it featured an interview with me, interviews with some other people involved in children's horror books, and her thoughts about horror and violence in kid's novels. It's definitely worth reading -- even though I think she imagines more horror in my books than there actually is!!!! If you can't get your hands on a copy of The Observer, you can check it out on the web by clicking here: http://observer.guardian.co.uk/review/story/0,6903,1366533,00.html
    That makes two positive mentions in "respectable" papers - The Observer and The Times - in the same week!!! Bloody hell -- what's going on?!? Are my books becoming "acceptable"?!?!? Am I now considered mainstream, wholesome, family entertainment?!?!? Maybe it's time to up the gory ante and drive my books back underground, where high-brow critics won't touch them with a barge pole!!!!! Oh, wait, that's what I've done that with Lord Loss!!!! Heh heh heh!!!!!!!!

    My biggest gripe with the Observer piece is that Kate Kellaway describes me as "shortish and roundish"!!!! The cheek of the woman!!!!!!! I'm a veritable male model, me!!!!!!


    The draws have been made and here is a full list of the winners of the Shanville Monthly December competitions!!

    1 - Susanne Arndt - Germany.
    2 - Anna Steinert - Germany.
    3 - Laurence Bezinover - USA.
    4 - Gavin Jackson - Ireland.
    5 - Lela Champion - USA.

    1 - Belen Garcia - Spain.
    2 - Sandra Maldonado Martinez - Spain.
    3 - Rachelle Forbes - Australia.
    4 - Kristina Knirk - USA.
    5 - Andrew Hubbard - USA.

    1 - Kuo Fang-Yin - Taiwan.
    2 - Wong Pui Shan - Hong Kong.
    3 - Wong Hiu Kwan - Hong Kong.
    4 - Samantha Jeffery - Canada.
    5 - Gavin Fitzgerald - Ireland.
    6 - Anthony McGuire - USA.

    1 - Asheligh Kelley - USA.
    2 - Nick Berntson - USA.
    3 - Nika Ip - USA.
    Congratulations to all the winners, and commiserations to those who didn't win -- better luck next time!!!!!!


    The votes have been counted and the winners can be revealed!!!! The poll on the Sons of Destiny microsite to find the fans' favourite character, and their favourite UK cover, resulted in the following statistics.
    FAVOURITE CHARACTER: 1,664 (one thousand, six hundred and sixty-four) of you voted in this category. The race for winner was a tight contest between my good self (i.e. Darren Shan) and Mr Crepsley, but the old grouch won out in the end, garnering 25.4% of the vote. Darren ran him a very close second, earning 24.9%. A long way behind in third place was Vancha March with 8.7%, then Harkat Mulds with 8.2%, and everybody's favourite villain, Steve Leopard, was in 5th place with 6.4%. After that came Kurda Smahlt, Evra Von, Mr Tall, Arra Sails, Mr Tiny, and, in 11th place, with a suprisingly low tally of 1.9%, Debbie Hemlock -- it seems Darren thinks a lot more of his girlfriend that most readers do!!!
    FAVOURITE U.K. COVER: 1433 (one thousand, four hundred and thirty-three) people voted for their favourite U.K. cover. The three faves were the three most recent books, which will surely please the good folk at Harper Collins -- it shows they constantly improved as the series progressed, and didn't just sit on their laurels!! The winner was book 12, with 17.9 %, then book 11 with 15.2%, and book 10 with 14.6%. The big surprise for me was book 7, in fourth place, with 10.1% -- although I liked the cover, I wouldn't have listed it as one of my top 5. Book 5 was 5th, then 8, 6, 9, 1, 4, 3, 2.
    Thanks to everyone who took the time to vote -- it was very interesting and enjoyable to get your feedback!!


    I went on holiday to Uganda and Rwanda over Christmas. And here's what I got up to ...

    Flew into Entebbe on the 20th. Because I was going to be handling chimps later in the holiday, I had to have a series of special injections and health checks before I went. One that I didn't have time to have done at home was a chest x-ray to prove I didn't have TB, so my first few hours in Uganda were spent bouncing between a doctor's surgery and an w-ray unit! Luckily I came up all clear!!!! After that, Lady Bas and I were driven to Lake Mburo by our dirver/guide (a lovely guy called Chaus), where we did a short game drive and stayed overnight in a tent.

    The next day we faced a long drive to Rwanda. Interesting to see the change between the two countries as we got to the border and crossed over. Rwanda is much poorer, but the scenery is much more dramatic, with volcanoes sticking up seemingly everywhere you look. The people were extremely friendly too -- kids were waving to us from the roadside, almost non-stop -- my hand felt tireder than it does after a two hour signing session!!!!!!

    Then came the first of our 3 gorilla treks. We'd been told the treks could be long and hard, and so had been in training for months beforehand. (Well, to be honest, Bas had been in training -- but I'd been more than a touch neglectful, and was quite worried that I might not be able to keep up!) We set out through fields, walked for 20 minutes or so, then entered the rain forest. 10 minutes later, we found the gorillas!!! It was AMAZING!!! There were about 15 of them in a clearing, and we got to move about through their ranks as they fed and went about their buinesses. At times we were as close as 2 or 3 feet (1 metre) -- we were supposed to stay further away than that, but it's not always possible to keep your distance. We spent an hour with them, and it was absolutely incredible -- far different to seeing animals in a zoo, or even through a car window on a game drive. We were actually IN their world, operating on their terms. They're massive beasts and could have squashed us like ants if they'd been so inclined. But they let us stay and watch them. It was a privilege, and the feeling was ... well, pretty indescribable!! The only time I've ever experienced anything like it was when I had a one-on-one encounter with a hippo some years back -- but that's a different story!!!!

    We tracked again the next day, and this time went to see the group which was furthest away. This was more like what we'd been expecting, and we ended up marching straight uphill, through dense growth, for three and a half hours!!!! It was exhausting, especially as we climbed to a final height of 3,700 metres, where altitude sickness kicked in!! I managed to keep going, but only just!! Then, just when we thought we'd have to turn back, we found them. There weren't as many as in the first group, but we had brilliant views of 2 huge silverbacks. They really are majestic -- too immense to be frightening!! I had to retire early, because of the altitude -- otherwise I might have thrown up over a silverback!!! But I didn't mind -- seeing those two emperors of the mountains more than made up for the hard slog and sickness.

    The next day we made another long drive, this time to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda, where, on Christmas Day, we trekked after gorillas for the third and final time. This was the longest of our 3 treks (eight and a half hours!!), but it was at a lower altitude, and the path was much wider and clearer than in Rwanda, so although it was tiring, I didn't find it overly exerting. We only saw 5 or 6 gorillas this time, and they were in the trees where they weren't so easy to see, but it was still magical.

    From there we drove to Queen Elizabeth National Park for a couple of less action-packed days. Got to see a stunning cave full of bats -- there were thousands of them, literally within reach, so we got to see them in all their glory as they slept and fidgeted around. Went on a nice boat cruise, seeing loads of wild elephants and hippos, and lots of exotic birds.

    Then, for our final activity, we went to Ngamba Island, home to 39 chimpanzees. All the chimps have been rescued from poachers, circus owners, and other various miscreants who stole them from their natural habitat (often killing their parents and other members of their group in the process). A couple of acres of the island are set aside for human carers and guests -- the rest is the domain of the chimps. We got to watch them being fed, and also went on forest walks with the infant chimps on two mornings. It was BRILLIANT!!! Some of the younger chimps climbed into our arms or onto our backs (I think they view us as free rides!), and played with us, while the others scurried through the trees. They were incredibly cute, and we got a real understanding of their nature and personalities (each is an individual, with different moods and behavioural patterns). In its own way, this was just as mind-blowing as the gorilla treks. I wasn't even too put-out when one on the chimps - Nakuu - decided, while riding high on my shoulders, to use my back as a urinal, and relieved herself all over me!!!!!! Lady Bas thought it was hilarious -- she's still laughing about it!!!!!!!!!

    We spent one final night in Entebbe after the chimps, and then flew back home -- in business class, courtesy of a last-minute upgrade by our airline (because the flight was overbooked!). The perfect end to a most stimulating holiday!!!


    The Darren Shan touring show will continue across the globe in 2005 -- there really is no rest for the wicked!! Plans are already being made for me to visit a number of countries around the world on book tours next year. Latest addition is a return trip to Taiwan!! Here's what I currently have lined up (N.B. dates, venues and times are subject to change -- please keep checking back for updates).


    January 21 (Friday) -- Interviews.
    Tokyo -- Saturday, January 22, Maruzen Book Shop, Marunouchi Main Shop, near Tokyo Station. http://www.maruzen.co.jp/home/tenpo/index.html The signing sessions will be at 10:00-12:30 and 13:30-16:00. There will be a limit of 250 people per session. You will need a ticket to get your book signed. The bookshop (Maruzen Marunouchi Main Shop) will distribute 500 special tickets to people who buy book 12 there on the launch date -- 17th December. Because of the numbers involved, when you come to the signing, you will only be able to get 1 (one) book signed.
    Osaka -- Sunday, January 23rd, Junkudo Book Shop Main Shop, Dojima. http://www.junkudo.co.jp/kaisya2.html The signing sessions will be at 11:00- 13:30 and 14:30-17:00. There will be a limit of 250 people per session. You will need a ticket to get your book signed. The bookshop (Junkudo Main Shop) will distribute 500 special tickets to people who buy book 12 there on the launch date -- 17th December. Because of the numbers involved, when you come to the signing, you will only be able to get 1 (one) book signed.
    January 24-26 (Monday - Wednesday) -- Visit Kumano and Koyasan, and maybe fit in a School event there (but that is still to be confirmed, and may not be possible).

    March 31st - April 4th. More details to follow.

    Thursday, April 21st, 2005 -- arrive Budapest.
    Friday, April 22nd -- fly to Debrecen for events that day.
    Saturday, April 23rd -- Budapest International Book Fair, Budapest Congress Centre. 10:00 – interviews, dedication. 17:00 – dedication in Mammut Libri Book Palace.
    Sunday, April 24th – Budapest International Book Fair, Budapest Congress Centre. 10:00 – dedication.

    Details to follow.


    I have added LOADS of new covers to Shanville -- and not just the covers of Darren Shan books!!! First, check out all the various UK covers (of the trilogies, proofs, and original jackets), including the cover of Vampire Destiny (the 4th and final of the collected trilogies), and my brand new book, Lord Loss (to be released in the U.K. in June) at http://www.darrenshan.com/gallery/shancovers/otherukcovers.html
    Then you can get into the REALLY obscure areas of the world of Darren Shan by clicking here: http://www.darrenshan.com/gallery/shancovers/othercovers.html This features trilogy covers from a few different countries, books in which work of mine has appeared, the covers of my adult books, and more!!! There are things in here which NO Shanster (not even Nate!!) has ever seen before!!!!!!!
    After that, it's worth having a look through the various book cover pages, because I've added several of the latest releases, such as the paperback American covers from the first 4 books, the Japanese front and back covers of book 11, and the Taiwanese covers of books 10 and 11. Click here: http://www.darrenshan.com/gallery/shancovers/book11.html then work your way through the rest at your convenience!!

    2004 SUMMARY

    JANUARY: The year started with me promising to reveal how many books there were going to be in the Saga. As things turned out, I wasn't able to reveal this information in any of the Monthly issues (because it might have complicated plans for publishers in certain countries, where they wished to break the news themselves, in their own good time), but I think most regular users of this site managed to work it out eventually, regardless of which country they lived it!!!!
    FEBRUARY: I revealed to delighted UK fans that book 12 would now be released in October 2004, not February 2005, as was originally planned. The Darren Shan Fan Book went on sale in Japan this month -- a truly beautiful book, full of pictures of yours truly, some amazing art work, and translated versions of the Shanville Extras stories.
    MARCH: I appeared on Irish kid's TV show, Sattitude. The Ultimate Book Guide came out in the UK -- it features reviews of hundreds of great kid's books, written both by professional reviewers and authors, and included a few reviews written by me. You can still buy it by clicking here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0713667184/shanville/026-4525549-6370813 I went to Thailand for the Bangkok Literary Festival near the end of the month, which was very enjoyable.
    APRIL: Started the month in Taiwan, where I had a very successful tour, meeting loads of fans and signing their books. Book 8, Allies of the Night, hit the #1 spot on the Bestseller chart -- including adult books as well as children's!!! In Japan, book 10, The Lake of Souls, was a #2 Bestseller. In America, books 1 and 2 of the Saga were released in small, affordable mass market paperback editions, which have proved highly popular and helped increase sales. I finished the month in America, where I launched myself into a 3 week publicity toru of gargantuan proportions!
    MAY: Book 7, Hunters of the Dusk, went on sale in the States, while I worked my way from West Coast to East promoting it. The hard work paid off, with the book climbing to #7 on the New York Times Children's Bestsellers chart! I had a great time on this tour -- extremely busy, but it was fab to meet so many enthusiastic fans, and to be treated so well everywhere I went.
    JUNE: I appeared at the Hay On Wye book festival for the first time. Book 11, Lord of the Shadows, was released in the UK and spent a month inside the children's top 10, peaking at #7. (Based on copies sold, it would have reached a much higher position most other months of the year, but there were lots of big books released around the same time!) In Ireland it got to #2 on the children's bestseller chart, held off the top spot by Curious Incident of the Dog -- the first of my books since Trials of Death not to be a #1 bestseller in Ireland!!!! Mark Haddon had better hope he doesn't run into me in a dark alley any night soon ........ :-) Away from work, I went on a week's holiday to Orlando, where I thrilled to the various superb rides and attractions there -- especially those in the Universal theme parks!
    JULY: My Taiwanese publishers released the first issue of the Darren Shan Newspaper this month!!!! I found out that there were illegal, Arabian versions of my books on sale in Iran (we're still trying to organise a legal version of the books there, so that I can add them to my list of offcial adaptations). This was a month of music for me -- went to see the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Metallica, Pixies, Tom Jones, Simon & Garfunkel and some other bands. Great stuff!!
    AUGUST: Appeared at the Edinburgh Book Festival for the fifth year in a row. Did two events, including one in the biggest tent at the festival -- my first time to be honoured with such a star venue!!! Book 11, Lord of the Shadows, got to #3 on the Japanese Bestsellers chart.
    SEPTEMBER: The Shanville Monthly celebrated its 50th birthday this month (50 issues, that is, not years!). Apart from that, I kept a low profile, working hard to finish some writing and editing before my tour in October.
    OCTOBER: Book 12, Sons of Destiny, was released in the UK and Ireland, to great excitement, a huge tour, and top-notch sales. I spent virtually the entire month on the road, going from book stores to libraries to schools to theatres, giving lots of interviews, doing various TV and radio shows. Met thousands of Shansters and signed tens of thousands of books. Sales of all my books in the UK broke the one million mark. Book 12 was the #1 Children's Bestselling Paperback for 2 weeks. The most exciting part for me of the month, though, was managing to get home for my first Halloween in Limerick for five years, and go trick-or-treating with my young cousins!!!
    NOVEMBER: I did some more radio and TV shows this month, and some more interviews with me appeared in UK and Irish newspapers. Spent most of the month hard at work at my PC, catching up on my writing commitments. Did manage to get to see one of my favourite singers play live though -- the incomparable Nick Cave.
    DECEMBER: Found out that Cirque Du Freak had won Wyoming's Soaring Eagle Award for best children's book of the year. Decided to split my message board in two, creating one board for discussions about my books, the other for general chit chat and other such matters. Went on a gorilla-trekking holiday to Uganda and Rwanda. And, of course, Shanta Claus paid his brief annual visit to Shanville!!!!!


    And that's it for January! I hope you've all recovered from the Christmas and New Year's festivities, and are looking forward to the year ahead. 2005 should be an interesting year for me -- it's when I'll find out, when Lord Loss is released, whether or not there's life for me after The Saga Of Darren Shan!!!! I think fans are going to enjoy my new offering (response to the proof edition, from those who've managed to get their hands on a copy through ebay, has been VERY positive!), but I won't find out for sure until June!! Nervous??? You'd better believe it, buddy!!!!!! (UPDATE: I just had an e-mail from my American editor while I was writing this, regarding their plans for the Saga and Lord Loss. I don't want to say too much until matters are finalised, but if things work out, I think there are going to be some VERY happy American Shan fans this year, who might be getting a bit more to read in 2005 than they'd bargained for ...)
    But, of course, life for the Saga will go on -- the books are still coming out in many countries, and I'll be promoting them in various places across the world over the next 12 months. In the U.K. I think my publishers will be giving Cirque Du Freak a new-look hardback release in 2005. And, who knows, maybe I might even have some movie news for you all sometime in the not too distant future!!! So, on that hopeful, wishful note, I'll wish you all one final Happy New Year! And, until February, all the bloody best, Darren Shan x x x