I was first introduced to Darren Shan through the movie The Vampire’s Assistant, I loved the feeling of magic that the film had and instantly fell in love with it. Then while at a second hand bookshop I found the first three books in The Saga of Darren Shan, the books the film was based on. That was how I fell in love with reading. After many trips to the library I discovered more books of his and fell deeper down the Darren Shan hole. Now my bookshelf is dominated by his name and I intend to complete all of his books. He is by far my favorite Author.
Darren Shan also writes under the name Darren Dash, writing adult novels under this name.
I had an amazing opportunity to speak to the man himself, asking him questions about his writing as well as how he feels about the current state of print books.
Millennial Reader: I started reading The Darren Shan Saga and moved on to The Demonata, picking up other books and series of yours as I went along. My favourite book I’ve read of yours is the stand alone The Thin Executioner, I had grown up with your books at this point and this felt like my stepping stone to your adult novels such as Lady of the Shades. Do you enjoy writing for adults or a younger audience? Do you find one easier to write for?
Shan has written for both teens and adults, both stand alone and books series. The Thin Executioner is one of these stand alone books and I highly recommend it, perfectly written with an interesting story lone.
Darren Shan: The Thin Executioner is my favourite too! If I could only keep one book out of all the ones I have written, it would be Thin. I enjoy writing for both adults and teens. Neither is easier, as each presents different problems and challenges. I think my books are stronger by spreading myself across a few different fields, as I learn new things every time I try something that isn’t “normal” for me, and that knowledge feeds into my work in general.
MR: Have you seen a decline in the demand for printed books? One of my most cherished items is a print copy of Birth Of A Killer I had signed by you at an event in Hertfordshire in 2011.
DS: Not on the YA front anyway. My backlist is still selling very strongly, and the vast majority of sales are of physical books. I predicted the ebook revolution back when I was first starting out as a writer (not that I knew that term then, of course), and I think it’s a great thing for writing, as it makes books more accessible than ever before, but I thought it would start with children, who would get used to reading from electronic devices at school — instead it’s come firmly from adults. I think most children read physical books because adults buy them (or give the children the means to buy) and they can be more in control of what the child is reading if the book is physical — the danger of ebooks (which is also one of the great liberating things about them) is that nobody knows what you are reading.
MR: Personally do you prefer ebooks or a printed book?
DS: I’m a big collector, with a huge collection of books (first editions and signed copies, but also battered old second hand paperbacks that I bought decades ago), but I read a lot of books on my Kindle these days — I just love the convenience for it. I totally understand why people have a love for physical editions — it’s a love I share — but for me the most important thing is the quality of the story, and I really don’t care if I’m reading a great book on paper, a screen, or a roll of papyrus. It’s all just technology to me, which comes second — the story always comes first.
He had a really good point with this and I did agree with him. I just feel it’s really important to support the print industry.
MR: Do you think authors should use their books as a platform to spread a message (Eg world politics, climate change, prejudice) or do you feel books should be used as only entertainment? Especially when it comes to writing for a younger audience.
I asked this question because I always feel like this is an interesting point. I personally enjoy reading because it sends you into a new world but as an author you have a huge platform to spread a message.
DS: I’ve always incorporated social commentary in my work, sometimes subtly (the divide between the vampires and vampaneze and the attempts to broker a peace was in large part inspired by the divide between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland, and the Israelis and Arabs in the Middle East), sometimes full-on, as I did with my Zom-B books and The Thin Executioner. Overall, I think subtle probably is a better way to go, but each story is different, and ultimately you have to go with where your instinct leads you.
MR: Which book/author inspired you to start writing?
DS: Loads of different authors and books inspired me, and you always find references (occasionally obvious, usually obscure and hard to spot). My favourite books as a child was The Secret Garden, and that had a big echo in Lord Loss — main character’s family is wiped out, and she/he goes to live with a mysterious uncle in a big, creepy house in the countryside. I loved The Belgariad by David Eddings when I was a teenager, and Vancha March is based on a character in those books. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn hugely informed the structure and goals of The Thin Executioner. The works of James Ellroy fired me on to write my first Darren Dash novel for adults, The Evil and the Pure. At the end of the day, I think every writer is the sum of what they have read, and whether consciously or subconsciously, those influences guide and define us.
It was really interesting to hear some of his opinions on things that are important to me, get another point of view from someone who’s in the industry. He made some really good points, mentioning things that I didn’t really think about myself. Most definitely check out the Saga Of Darren Shan, this is where I started and where I fell in love with reading.
Check out Darren Shan’s work at https://www.darrenshan.com/ and Darren Dash’s work at http://www.darrendashbooks.com/. He’s currently working on new Shan and Dash books, and hopefully we’ll see one or both in print either this year or the first half of 2020.
I want to once again thank Darren Shan for his time, it was really nice to get to know him a little more.
You can find my last blog post here!