• Issue 58 - May 2005

    01 May 2005

    No time for greetings!!! This is probably the longest edition of the Monthly there has ever been, packed with loads of news, interviews and reports from my many travels in April!! There's lots of good stuff in here, so make sure you at least scan through all the headings, or you might end up missing something important, like news of an upcoming signing in Limerick in Ireland ... or the latest info on my October tour to America ... or the name of the second Demonata book ... or ... well, all sorts of stuff, really!!!!! Dig in!!!!!!


    I had two Number One bestselling books in April, in very different parts of the globe!!! First, in Taiwan, book 12, "Sons of Destiny", got to Number One on the overall bestsellers chart (adult as well as children's books!), knocking The Da Vinci Code off of the top spot!!! The era of Dan Brown has come and gone -- roll on the age of Darren Shan!!!!!!!

    Then, in the Netherlands, "Sons of Destiny" got to Number One on the children's bestsellers list!!!! Book 1, Cirque Du Freak, also got into the top 10 chart in the same week, climbing up to #7!!!!!


    Book 9, Killers of the Dawn, goes on sale in America THIS MONTH!!!! Yes, the waiting is finally over!!! It is already in many shops across the States, having been released in lots of places a bit earlier than scheduled. It should definitely be in ALL shops by the middle of May. If you don't see it on the shelves of your local bookshop, go up to a member of staff and demand (politely!!) that they order copies in!!!! Alternatively, you can order it from Barnes & Noble by clicking here: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbnInquiry.asp?userid=FK15sOq9Fq&isbn=0316156264&itm=1 or from Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0316156264/qid=1114205942/sr=2-1/ref=pd_bbs_b_2_1/103-4042062-0509407 You can also read fan reviews of the book on both sites, and post your own reviews if you wish. As you'll see from early reviews, book 9 is one of the most popular books in the series -- miss it at your peril!!!!!


    Lord Loss goes on sale at the start of June in the U.K. and Ireland (and Japan too -- the first time that any other country has released one of my books at the same time as my UK publishers!!!!), but it MIGHT sneak into some book shops in late May -- so keep a close eye out for it!!!!

    As part of the promotions in the U.K. there will be a limited edition version of Lord Loss on sale at Waterstones for £25!!! On Tuesday, April 26th, I went in to the HarperCollins offices and signed and numbered 666 (a suitably beastly number!!!!) copies of the book, which will be specially bound and on sale exclusively through Waterstones book shops. The title page is different from the regular books -- it states on the page that it is a special edition, and has the number /666 printed in the lower right corner. I signed my name in the centre (a nice big signature on each!!) and also scribbled in the numbers 1 to 666 to the left of the /666. (i.e. 1/666, 2/666, etc) I'm not sure which branches it will be available in, but my advice is to enquire about it NOW if you live near a Waterstones store, and get your order in early!!! Amazon are also listing it, so it MIGHT be possible to buy copies from people who get them at Waterstones and offer them for sale -- although, of course, the price will probably be a LOT more if you buy it that way!!! If you can't get a copy through Waterstones, and want to try Amazon, the link is http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0007209843/shanville Alternatively, you could always try Ebay -- though I expect these to go for quite a lot more than their cover price, so you might want to start saving!!!!

    For those who don't give a hoot about special editions, and who just want to pre-order a regular copy through Amazon UK, the link is http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0007193211/shanville They're currently offering it for the bargain price of £7.79!!!!! (retail price is £12.99) I'm not sure if that price will hold (I doubt if it will!!!), so if you're going to order it from Amazon, this is the perfect time to do so!!!!!


    As I revealed last month, the name of my new series, of which Lord Loss is the first book, is The Demonata. This month I can reveal that the name of the second book is ........ DEMON THIEF. It goes on sale in the UK and Ireland (and, most probably, Japan) in January 2006, but you can pre-order it now on Amazon UK by clicking here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/000719322X/shanville


    The BBC still haven't settled on an exact date to show the final of Junior Mastermind (on which one of the finalists will be answering questions about my books as their specialist subject -- see the March issue of the Shanville Monthly) but the date I last heard being mentioned was Saturday, May 21st. So look out for it this month, and if it's not on, I'll try to find out what the re-scheduled date is and let you all know in June!!!


    In America, a book of collected short stories and essays has gone on sale, called "Guys Read" (or, to give it its full title, "Guys Write for Guys Read"). It's edited by Jon Scieszka. All the writers are guys, and they've written about what it's like, or what it means, to be a guy. The book is aimed at young adults, especially - of course - young guys!! I've written a short piece for it called Guyifesto, which is a lot lighter and funnier than my usual fare -- in fact, it's the complete opposite of most of the stuff I write!!! If you want to check it out, as well as stuff by other guys like Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Brian Jacques, Matt Groening, Eoin Colfer and a LOT of others, you can buy it from Amazon in either hardback format by clicking here: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0670060070/qid=1113663681/sr=2-2/ref=pd_bbs_b_2_2/002-1269520-5024015 or paperback by clicking here: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0670060275/ref=lpr_g_1/002-1269520-5024015?v=glance&s=books If you prefer buying from Barnes & Noble, you can buy the hardback by clicking here: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbninquiry.asp?userid=QD1V0hIBRi&isbn=0670060070 or the paperback here: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbnInquiry.asp?userid=QD1V0hIBRi&isbn=0670060275&itm=4

    To learn more about the Guys Read background and aims, click here: http://www.guysread.com/


    "The Saga of Darren Shan" is coming to Russia!!! Rosman Publishing in Russia recently bought the first 3 books of the series. I'm not sure what their publication plans are (i.e. when they plan to release them), but I'll let you all know as soon as I find out!! Russia becomes the 28th country which my books have been sold to (not including countries such as South Africa and Malaysia, which import versions from other publishers, or Iran, where there are bootleg Arabian copies available!!), and my books are now available in 21 languages -- again, not including unofficial versions!!!


    I'm not going to be doing very many signing events in the UK or Ireland when "Lord Loss" is released in June, for a variety of reasons. The main two reasons are that my publishers thought it was too soon after my last big tour to go on another similar tour (and I agree with them). The other was that I need to spend a lot of time at home this summer, to write!!!! But I thought it would be a shame if I didn't do a home event, considering that this is the start of a whole new series. So, in collaboration with O'Mahony's on O'Connell Street in Limerick I will be doing a signing at their store on Saturday, June 4th at 11.00a.m. I'll be happy to sign as many of my books as each fan brings, although because of an expected big crowd, I'll only be putting a dedication and message in one book per fan (I assume most people will want it in "Lord Loss", but I'll just as happily put it in one of the Saga books if anyone asks.) This will very probably be my only signing event in Ireland in June to promote "Lord Loss", so don't miss it!!!!!!


    Latest news from my American publishers, Little Brown -- The cities which are currently in the front-running for my October tour to America are: Washington DC, Philadelphia, Chicago and Seattle. Nothing has been decided for definite yet, so there's still time to read through my tips and get your plea in (click on THIS LINK) -- but the faster you act, and the more teachers/librarians/booksellers you have backing up your petition, the better!!!!!!


    The Darren Shan touring show continues across the globe in 2005!! See below for the list as it currently stands. N.B. dates, venues and times are subject to change -- please keep checking back for updates.

    Saturday, June 4th -- 11.00a.m. -- O'Mahony's, O'Connell Street, Limerick -- public signing.

    Tickets will go on sale to the public on JUNE 17th!!!
    Friday, August 19th -- 5.00p.m. -- Edinburgh Book Festival -- http://www.edbookfest.co.uk/
    Saturday August 20th -- 1.30p.m. -- Edinburgh Book Festival -- http://www.edbookfest.co.uk/

    (These dates and times are subject to final confirmation and MIGHT change. Check the final, confirmed schedule on the Book Festival site when it is made public on June 16th.)


    Details to follow. Click on THIS LINK for tips about how to arrange a Darren Shan visit!!


    April was my busiest month of the year on the touring front -- in just over a month, I went on 15 different flights!!!! I spent almost as much time in the air as I did on the ground!!! Below are reports from my tour -- including a MASSIVE one about Hungary!!! I had a truly fabulous time in all of the places I went to -- the reason I've given Hungary more space than the others is that my reception there was entirely unexpected and quite staggering!!!


    I started the month with a whirlwind tour of Taiwan. I gave several interviews on Friday, April 1st -- interesting questions, from reporters who had actually read my books, which was a nice bonus!!! Had dinner with several of the Crown staff. Crown are my publishers in Taiwan, and do a brilliant job of marketing the books and publicising them. My first event on Saturday, in Taipei, at the Kingstone bookstore, was my busiest -- about 250 fans turned up to have their books signed, and I was there for three and a half hours, instead of the expected two hours!! It was fun to meet fans who had come to my events last year, and also to meet lots of first-timers!! Next up was FNAC. I read out a bit of Lord Loss at this event, translated by my erstwhile assistant, Emily Chuang. Then I signed afterwards, and was there for 2 hours in total. At 22.00 I did my final event of the day in Eslite. Crown had pulled out all the stops for this one, my first-ever late night event. They put on a dance show for the crowd, the dancers performing an original routine based on my characters and books. Then I emerged out of an amazing, especially built coffin!!!! I read out a passage from the second book of The Demonata -- Demon Thief -- it was the first time I had ever read a passage from the book, anywhere in the world!!! Then it was more signing, and I finished up shortly after midnight.

    On Sunday we drove down to Taichung for a signing event at the Eslite store there. This was another biggie, with about 200 fans turning up, and I was signing for three and a half hours again!!! After that we returned to Taipei, and hit the KTV -- their version of Karaoke!! I wailed and groaned my way through a few songs, and when everybody returned to the room and removed the ear-plugs, we had a brilliant, entertaining night!!! I even learnt a few new drinking games!!

    I had some more interviews on Monday, including one for Next and Cosmopolitan (!!!) magazine. And then, after a quick goodbye to the Crown staff, I headed back to the airport and commenced the 20 hours flight home ... Short as it was, I really enjoyed my second trip to Taiwan. The fans were friendly and enthusiastic, the interviews were fun, and the whole thing was superbly organised by Crown. I had hoped to do some travelling around and see a bit more of the country, but because of other work commitments, that wasn't possible. Hopefully next time!!!!


    I went to the Netherlands 3 or 4 years ago and had a disastrous time (not the fault of my publishers, who didn't arrange the visit -- I made the mistake of letting somebody else set up events for me -- the first and last time I've ever done that!!). So I was a bit nervous about making a return visit. But this time I let my publishers, Fontein, organise it all, and I had a great couple of days there!!! I did a signing in Donners in Rotterdam, which was lots of fun -- loads of people turned up, the fans were enthusiastic and full of questions, and it all went super-smoothly!! At the end of the event, there was a draw for prizes, and the main prize was a dinner date with me that evening!! The winner was a young boy, and he, along with his parents, brother and best friend, got to come to dinner with me and some of my publishers that night.

    The next day, in Amsterdam, I gave a couple of interviews. Both the interviewers -- for Aktueel and Elf Fantasy Magazine -- asked lots of in-depth questions, not just about the books but about my world views and all sorts of stuff, so hopefully they'll make for fascinating reading when they see print!!!! I've definitely overcome any reservations I had about doing events in the Netherlands, and I'd be delighted to return again in the future, if asked!!!!


    I did a couple of Irish events at the Wexford Book Festival on April 15th. Had a blast!!! It was extremely well organized, all the people were friendly, there were large crowds, and loads of kids bought or brought books -- perfect!!!! It was also nice to meet up with Eoin Colfer again there -- he's one of the guiding forces behind the festival, and works really hard over the course of the week. I'm glad I'm not in his shoes for those seven days of the year!!!!!!


    WOW!!!! That's the only word that accurately describes my recent trip to Hungary. I knew my books were popular there, but since it's a relatively small country, they have sold far less copies than, say, the UK or America or Japan. So I was expecting relatively small crowds at my signings. I would have been happy if 50 or 60 people had come to each event (I was doing 5 signings in total), and delighted if 100 had come. But I wasn't sure they would, and was preparing myself for the possibility of low turn-outs. How wrong I was!!!!!

    I arrived on Thursday and saw a bit of Budapest, going on a walk around the castle section of Buda. Had a great lunch, then relaxed at my hotel for the night. On Friday, after a quick press interview, I was driven to Debrecen, which is the second largest city in Hungary. We got to the book shop about half an hour early, and I was astonished to find a huge line of people spilling out of it!!!! Wasting no time, I immediately started signing, and was still doing it FOUR AND A HALF HOURS LATER!!!!! It was my longest-ever signing. I'm not sure how many people came, but I'd guess between 250 and 400 fans -- 5 to 8 times the amount that I'd been hoping for!!!!!!

    The next day I went to the Budapest Book Fair more hopeful than I had been going over on the plane. I wasn't sure if we'd get as many people as we got at Debrecen, but I was prepared for more than just 50! But in case lots came, I had a plan. In Debrecen, if a fan came up with all 12 books, I wrote messages in 3 or 4 of them, and signed the rest (my usual routine when I have a crowd of 100 or so fans). On Saturday I decided I would only write messages in 2 books, which would speed the process up considerably. So, in the unlikely event that we got a crowd as large as the crowd in Debrecen, it would probably only take me 3 hours to process everybody.

    We got there half an hour early (again) and there was a huge crowd (again). So I started signing ... and I signed ... and I signed ... After a couple of hours, I had to be moved from my publisher's stand, into the main hall of the conference centre, where there was more room and my fans weren't in the way of other publishers' stalls!!! I decided at that point to put a message in just one book, and sign the others, to speed things up and bring things to a swift close -- my hand was starting to hurt!!! But fans kept coming and coming and coming ... the line never seemed to diminish ... and I kept signing and signing and ... FIVE AND A HALF HOURS!!!!!! With only a couple of very brief breaks, to move stands and go to the toilet, I was signing at full speed for FIVE AND A HALF HOURS!!!! I have no idea exactly how many people came to that event, but I would guess it was anywhere between 350 and 500. NOT including parents who were just there to accompany their children!!! I was absolutely astonished. Delighted, of course, but too weary at the end to feel anything but numbness!!

    Except, it wasn't the end!!! I had another event one hour later, at the biggest book store in Hungary!!! And my editor, Attila, with a wicked little chuckle, told me that this second signing session would be the BIG event of the day!!!!!!!! I thought he was joking. Surely every hardcore Darren Shan fan in Budapest had come to see me at the first event. There was NO WAY we could get another crowd as large as the first one!!! It was an absolute impossibility that we could get an EVEN BIGGER crowd!!!!!! Oh no it wasn't!!! I've been told there were about 600 fans at the second session. I expect that's an accurate count. But I can't say for certain, because the whole thing became a blur for me. When I arrived, and saw a GINORMOUS line of people coming out of the store and spiralling around the shopping centre, I almost fainted!!! The crowd being so huge, and there being a limit on time (the shop couldn't stay open until midnight!!), we had to declare a limit of one book per person. I always feel uncomfortable doing that (as fans who've seen me in action at smaller events know, I'm always happy to sign every book that a fan brings), but at larger events (like in Taiwan and Japan) it's sometimes a necessity -- you can't ask people to wait in line for 6 or 7 hours!!!!

    So I started signing again ... and signed ... and signed ... and signed. After about 2 hours or so, I reached breaking point. My hand was throbbing, my back was aching, my eyes were burning. But there were still a few hundred people waiting in line! So I had to go into fast-track mode, and only signed my name on the covers of the books. It's the first time I've ever not written messages for fans, and I didn't like signing so quickly, processing the fans like cattle, but it was either that or not sign for them at all!!! And, as I told some of the fans there, I almost never sign the covers of my books - I usually write my name inside - so those fans who only got a signed cover actually have some of the rarest Darren Shan signed books in the world!!!!!

    Even working at fast-track speed, I was signing for three and a half hours at the second event -- making a grand total of NINE HOURS for the day!!!!!!! If you've ever wondered what it would be like to sign books for 9 hours in one day, let me tell you -- it's exhausting!!!! I felt like I'd been in a fight with a heavyweight champion, and all I could do was stagger back to my hotel, grab a quick bite to eat, then fall into bed and sleep like a log!!!

    On Sunday, I thought I might have a quiet day -- surely now, after 9 hours of solid signing, I had got through every Shan fan in Budapest!!! There couldn't be anybody left in the city who didn't have a signed book of mine!!! Oh yes there could!!! While the line wasn't quite as long as on Saturday, it wasn't much shorter. I put a message in only one book per person (but signed them all) from the beginning, but it still took me FOUR hours to get to the end of the line!!!! Mind you, after the previous day's marathon efforts, that felt like a walk in the park, and I trotted away happily afterwards, whistling to myself, delighted to have "only" been signing for four hours!!!! Then it was on to another book store, which had been added to the itinerary only the week before. Since it was such a late addition, and most fans wouldn't have heard about it, I thought this time, surely, there would be only a handful of VERY hardcore fans!!! But, no, you guessed it -- about 100 or 150 people turned up!!! Small by the crowds at my previous sessions, but still a LOT of people for a signing!!! Because I had to catch a plane, we limited the signing to one book per person, and I sped through the crowd in less than an hour and a half. It's a sign of just how surreal the weekend was that a 90 minute session seemed anticlimatic and easy -- normally, I'd be over the moon to get 150 fans at an event!!!

    There's no doubt about it -- this was easily the busiest, most unexpected signing tour of my life!!! I thought it would be an easy weekend for me in Hungary, but instead it was my hardest-working weekend EVER!!!! I've never seen such fanatical (or should that be SHANatical?!?) fans. They came in great numbers, lined up patiently, and not one of them complained of having to wait in line for 2 hours ... or 3 ... or 4 ... or 5!!!!!! I might have expected that many fans in a much bigger country, like Japan or America ... but in a country of 10 million people, where my books have sold approx 10 thousand copies each ... it was incredible!!!! I'd like to thank all of my Hungarian fans who came to make this such a remarkable weekend for me. I'd also like to say sorry to those who only got their cover signed, without a message (although, as I said above, those copies are RARE!!!). Plus I'd like to say a BIG thanks to my publishers, Mora, for organizing it all and making sure things didn't spin out of control. And, finally, while I'm signed-out right now, and glad to be able to take a break for a while, in the immortal words of that poet of the big screen, Arnold Schwarzenegger, "Hungary -- I'll be back!!!!!!!!"

    But I'll bring more pens next time!!!!!!!!


    You might remember that last October, Ottakars ran a competition where you had the chance to win a lunch date with Darren Shan (me!!!!). The winner was Ethan Cruxton, and we met in London on Wednesday, April 6th. Ethan came with his Dad, John, and mates David Emms and Matthew Woods. We went for lunch to TGI Friday in Covent Garden. As a TGI veteran, I warned the boys in advance that they probably wouldn't be able to eat everything that they ordered -- and I was right!!!! Though they certainly had a good stab at it, and even managed to squeeze in a dessert!!! I had lots of fun (honestly!!) and I think the boys did too!! We went on a very quick tour of the area after the meal, and I ended up climbing up on one of the lions in Trafalgar Square to have my photo taken with them!!!! I'm just delighted I didn't fall off and make a right idiot of myself!!!!!


    You can read a recent interview with me, which was conducted by Reuters (they're a news agency, and supply newspapers around the world with stories), by clicking here: http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=topNews&storyID=8127035 There are 2 pages -- you can find the link to the second page near the bottom of the first.


    There was an interview with me and a few other writers in The Irish Times on Thursday, March 24th. If you missed it, here is a copy of the online version:
    These men scare your children

    Children's horror fiction is hard to avoid at the moment, but it is of varying literary merit, writes Arminta Wallace.

    Ghoulies, ghosties and long-leggety beasties? Forget it. Today's kids are more likely to be reading about shape-shifters, shadows and streetwise vampires. Horror is the new Harry Potter. The green slime department is becoming a permanent fixture of many bookshops as publishers scramble for a slice of an increasingly lucrative market; and with the age range targeted by horror fiction writers now stretching from six to adulthood and beyond, monsters are moving into areas where no monsters have gone before. "Reader Beware! You're in for a Scare!" is the tag-line on the cover of the Goosebumps series. Scoff if you like. The Goosebumps books clocked up average sales of half a million per volume internationally - which, when you think about it, is a pretty scary number of real live children.

    The problem for parents is two-fold. Bring your children to the bookshop - or even the local library - and you'll find it difficult to avoid this type of literature. On the other hand, with electronic wizardry grabbing more and more of your children's time and energy, you may be happy if they read anything at all. Even Darren Shan? "Yep," says Darren O'Shaughnessy, long-time resident of Limerick and creator of a top-selling 12-volume vampire saga. "Occasionally I get a critic saying 'Oh well, it's good that boys are reading - even if it's only Darren Shan'. But as people who are actually out there trying to get kids to read will tell you, kids are very demanding. If a kid doesn't like a book he'll put it down right away."

    A regular visitor to schools and libraries all over the world - he's huge in Japan - O'Shaughnessy was bitten early by the vampire bug, and says he spent his teenage years up to his neck in "vampire movies, fantasy and adventure books. By my early 20s I'd got a bit bored with vampire books, because so many of them just repeated the same old Dracula story. I mean, Dracula was a brilliant book, but it's been done over and over and over. So I wanted to do something a bit different. But I still loved the idea of vampires." Why would any sane person love the idea of vampires? He laughs. "Vampires are cool. There's no other way to put it. The fact they drink blood, that they come out at night; they're more believable than a lot of other monsters, you know? Zombies and so on?"

    Drogheda-born Oisín McGann, author of The Gods And Their Machines and The Harvest Tide Project, also cites childhood reading as a major influence on his adult writing career. "The writers who made me want to write were the likes of Roald Dahl, and Tolkien, and CS Lewis - so I suppose when the imprint has been made, that's the one that's going to stick with you." Parent, beware? "I've never seen any formal proof that if children read anything at all, they'll inevitably progress to reading something 'better'," says Robert Dunbar, a regular reviewer of children's books for The Irish Times. "On the other hand, I suspect there's a large body of people who read Point Horror and then go on to Stephen King, or whoever - and good luck to them. Adults who read literary fiction are very much in the minority of readers, in any case." Even within the category of "horror" fiction, says Dunbar, there are books which have some literary merit and books which have none at all. On the whole, it's pretty easy to figure out which is which. Books which rely too obviously on formula, contain racist or sexist overtones, or are produced by a nameless corporation - as opposed to a real author - are ones to avoid, he suggests, while he would place Francine Pascal's Fearless series, whose heroine is a cross between Scully from The X Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, among those which cleverly subvert the expectations of the genre.

    Ask someone who disapproves of horror books what they expect them to consist of, and they'll most probably say "gore and guts". Ask a child and they'll say something like "the guy pulls his face off and all the maggots fall out". The authors, however, tell a different story. "It sounds strange, given that I'm writing about vampires and circus freaks and so on," says Darren O'Shaughnessy, "but I think the books are moral books. They're about making the right decisions, trying to do good things, being loyal to your friends. I'm not interested in just grossing readers out."

    The crucial component of "horror" fiction, it turns out, is that old chestnut - a rattling good yarn. Nobody knows how to spin one better than Anthony Horowitz, author of the BAFTA-winning TV series Foyle's War and the million-selling Alex Rider series of spy novels for children. Having written two volumes of scary stories, Horowitz is about to take a major plunge into horror with a five-part sequence called Raven's Gate. "I don't think that gore and violence are necessarily important parts of horror - indeed, horror is more effective if you keep the blood count fairly low," he says. "I don't enjoy extreme violence. What I'm much more interested in is poking at the imagination; looking into the dark corners of the mind. There is a limit to how much I want to scare children. On the other hand, with this new series I want to push that limit as far as it will go." This from the man who once wrote a story called Bath Night: "one mother told me that after she read it, her daughter refused ever to have a bath again."

    Blood, then, isn't necessarily bad. In fact, the high-camp style of gothic horror is often more hilarious than horrible. "I find that black comedy aspect of it quite appealing, I must say," says Robert Dunbar. "I suppose any book that has a lot of corpses and death and decay gets to the point where it's sending itself up." Some of the titles - Graveyard School by Tom B Stone, or Spine-Tinglers by MT Coffin - are, ahem, a dead giveaway. "I would find it hard to believe," says Dunbar, "given the sophistication of today's children, that they're reading books like Goosebumps for much more than a laugh. Tomato ketchup on the corpse, sort of thing."

    At the older end of the market, matters undoubtedly get more serious. Death is a recurring theme in many books for teenagers, as is the situation where a child is isolated, with adults either physically inaccessible or unable to see that there's a problem. This is usually - though not always - turned around when the child solves the problem, thereby taking control of the story. In a similar way, the presence of monsters or supernatural beings allows horror fiction to play with such themes as fear of the unknown while using the safety net of metaphor. After all, vampires are not something we expect to meet at the supermarket. (Although, now that supermarkets stay open all night...)

    There's nothing particularly new about any of this. One horrible plotline runs as follows. A pair of evil shoes condemn their youthful owner to a life of perpetual motion. She is promptly condemned to death for dancing on the Sabbath - only to be spared by a "kindly" executioner who cuts her feet off instead. As the reference to the Sabbath might suggest, that plotline has been around for quite a while. In fact, Hans Christian Andersen's sinister story, Red Shoes, was first published in 1835. One thing is for certain: children's horror fiction isn't going to vanish in a puff of smoke any time soon. Oisín McGann has already written two books for the eight-plus age group, The Evil Hair-Do and The Poison Factory; his sequel to The Harvest Tide Project, The Fragile Stone, is scheduled for publication in the autumn.

    Darren O'Shaughnessy has embarked on a series about demons, of which the first volume, Lord Loss, will appear in June. As for Anthony Horowitz, he is unrepentant about the fact that his new series pits five blameless children in a battle against evil. "The idea is that evil and black magic and witches and devils and monsters exist inthe real world. That orcs, or whatever, walk the streets at night, just out of your sight. The truth is, we like being scared. There's no greater pleasure than to gather close around the fire in the dark and tell scary stories. And better to be scared by devils and demons than . . . well, today - for example - they're talking about America bombing Iran. Now that's much scarier than anything I can come up with."

    The Saga of Darren Shan is published by HarperCollins, each volume £4.99 in UK. The Harvest Tide Project, by Oisín McGann, is published by O'Brien Press at €7.95. Raven's Gate, by Anthony Horowitz, is due from Walker Books in June.

    (c) The Irish Times


    I'm planning to update the entire Shanville web site over the next month. In league with my design team, Xeropoint, 'll be giving it a facelift, designing a new home page, creating a new set of links, re-structuring things, creating a new navigational bar, and more!! It's the first real overhaul of the site that I've done in a couple of years. I'm talking with Xeropoint about adding some Flash sounds and animations later, though changes like that probably won't be made until later this year. We're going to have the new-look site in place by the end of May (just in time for the launch of Lord Loss). So if you try to access the site during the next month, and get an error message, or discover a missing link -- DON'T PANIC!!! We're not anticipating a lot of down-time or problems -- but, of course, things aren't always as simple as they seem, so we might run into a bit of trouble during the change-over!!! Anyway, everything should be fine, brand-new and sparkling by the start of June .......


    More covers for you to looks at!!!! First, my American publishers have created Advance Reading Copies (known as Proofs in the UK) of Lord Loss, to be sent to booksellers, journalists, etc, ahead of the book's release in October. You might be able to find some copies popping up on Ebay over the next few months, but if not, you can check out the cover here: http://www.darrenshan.com/gallery/shancovers/othercovers.html This will probably end up being one of the more unusual covers from any of my books, because (as you'll see when you follow the link) my publishers aren't actually going to use it on the finished book!!!!

    You can also check out the cover for Guys Read, a new anthology for guys, to which I've contributed a short piece (see above), by clicking here: http://www.darrenshan.com/gallery/shancovers/othercovers.html

    Finally, you can find the Serbian cover for book 4, Vampire Mountain, by clicking here: http://www.darrenshan.com/gallery/shancovers/book4.html


    Here's an interesting site to visit: http://98.to/dscosplay/ It's an unofficial Taiwanese "cosplay" site -- basically, a costume-playing site. The two people who run it like to dress up as characters from my books, then take photos of themselves and post them to their site. You can navigate the site, and see all the different photos, by clicking on the coloured lights in the top left of the page. There are some pretty cool pics!!!!!


    And that ... *gasp* ... is it ... *pant* ... for May!!!! *phew* I'm glad I don't have to write such long reports on a regular basis!!!! I'm heading off now to do some editing of Demon Thief, and to then get stuck into a new story -- I have a busy few months writing on the home front ahead of me!!! I'll be back here at the start of June to celebrate the U.K. launch of Lord Loss and to fill you in on all the latest news and updates. Until then, well done on making it down this far, extra congratulations if you actually read ALL of the above entries, and all the bloody best, Darren Shan x x x