• WHAT'S ON (KENT) | 27 October 2006 | Deborah Penn

    It's nearly Halloween, the time when ghoulies and ghosties and long-legged beasties - and Darren Shan - creep out of the woodwork. The best-selling children's horror author spoke to Deborah Penn about his forthcoming visit to Kent when he will be signing copies of his new spine-chiller.

    Be prepared to be scared, very scared. Darren Shan says he doesn't drink blood but, having looked at his new book, his claim is not entirely convincing. Here is an excerpt from Bec, the latest in his Demonata series: "Then, in a blur, claws dart out of the darkness... a twisted face... fiery eyes ... rows of teeth... the demon grabs me!"Just two days before Halloween, the bloodthirsty best-selling author, known as the Stephen King for children, will be signing copies of Bec at Waterstone's, Bluewater, on Sunday, October 29 for an hour from 3pm. In a nutshell Bec, a trainee priestess, fights to fit in to a tribe that needs her skills but fears her powers. And when the demons come, the fight becomes a war. Bec's magic is weak and untrained until she meets the druid Drust. Under his leadership, Bec and a small band of warriors embark on a long journey through hostile lands to confront the Demonata.

    Despite such horrific outpourings, you would never guess from talking to Darren that his mind runs along such bloodthirsty lines. He speaks with a South East London twang although he has lived in Ireland for most of his 34 years. He lives in Limerick with his long-term girlfriend Bas, having moved over the water with his family from the Elephant and Castle when he was six. The season ticket holder at Tottenham Hotspur was born Darren O'Shaughnessy.

    He tried to explain where his terrifying ideas originate: "They come from all over the place. Everyone has ideas, daydreams, but writers turn these into stories. There are very few original ideas so you have to find a different spin."

    He says his books don't give him nightmares: "I've always loved horror stories, even as a child. Horror's only scary if you don't know the twists ahead - and of course, I do! I write the books I'd like to have read when I was 12, 13, 14 and 15."

    Darren began writing as a teenager. He bought his first typewriter when he was 14, and never looked back, knocking out loads of short stories and comic scripts, and making false starts on several books. He eryoyed his first taste of literary success aged 15, as a runner-up in a TV script-writing competition, with a dark comedy script entitled A Day in the Morgue - he was morbid even then.

    His first book in a series entitled The Saga of Darren Shan, or Cirque Du Freak as it's known in America, attracted rave reviews. He followed his vampiric Saga with The Demonata, a series about demons, which will run to 10 books. Bec is the fourth and Universal are planning to make a film [of Cirque Du Freak]. Shan's concept of the vampire differs from the Hollywood moaning, neck-biting kind. His vampires cannot fly, morph, and will not kill their prey. They do not have sharp teeth, and neither holy water nor the cross are effective against them. A stake through the heart does kill them, though, and so does a bullet.

    The closest action they perform to flying is 'flitting", moving so fast that the naked eye cannot see them. With their extremely sharp nails they make a small incision into the back of your arm to take as much blood as they need and close the cut with their spit, which has special healing powers. Full vampires can knock out a person with special gas that they breathe through their mouths. Perhaps Darren's books should carry a Government health warning: seriously scary.

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