Author Confessions: Darren Shan
Darren Shan is the bestselling author of the hit YA horror series The Demonata, The Saga of Darren Shan (including Cirque du Freak) and his current Zom-B series, in which he combines lashings of gore with a pointed prejudice subtext. His newest book is Zom-B Clans, the eighth in the series. Find out more at Darren's website.
But what are his guilty reading pleasures, and what's the strangest question he's ever been asked about his work? Read on to find out and much more and enter our competition to win all the books in the Zom-B series...
Where do you stand on spinebreaking?
I love the creased spine of a second-hand paperback book.
I love the creased spine of a second-hand paperback book. Many of the books in my collection fit that category, bought back in the day when I was unemployed or a hard-up student. Having said that, I try never to damage the spine if I’ve bought a book new – while I enjoy the marks that others have left behind, I try never to leave my own mark on a book.
What’s your guiltiest reading pleasure?
I don’t believe in guilt when it comes to reading. Apart from humourless, academic-minded writers, we’re first and foremost in the entertainment business, and a book that entertains is a book that’s doing its job. I’ve enjoyed Shakespeare and Enid Blyton equally at different times in my life, and I draw no high-minded distinctions between the two.
How do you arrange your bookshelf?
Very carefully! I have a hardback section, a paperback section, and a section for signed and first edition books. All books are arranged alphabetically by the author’s surname in each section. I also have a room lined with bookshelves for my own books, where I arrange them by country (currently Australia to Vietnam) and chronologically.
What’s the most over-rated book of all time?
For me, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is high up there. I just don’t get it. The Alice in Wonderland books didn’t do much for me either.
Do you ever turn to the back of a book and read the end first?
No, but I have a friend who does. I asked him one time why he would do such a thing – he said it was in case he died before he got to the end…
What’s the strangest question you’ve been asked about your work?
A teenage girl asked me if female vampires did or did not have menstrual periods.
The vampires in my books can’t procreate. At one of my events, a teenage girl asked me if that meant female vampires did or did not have menstrual periods. My answer, after some quick thinking, was that they didn’t. I never get those sorts of questions with teenage boys!
What your strangest writing obsession or superstition?
Well, I don’t think it’s especially strange, but whenever a book of mine is published, I put a little dedication into my own copy – 'To myself, for a job well done. Darren Shan.' That’s when I know I’m well and truly finished with it.
How do you react to bad reviews?
I record every review that I find, adding it to my website, so I’ve read pretty much every review that’s ever been written about my books, and thankfully they’re far more positive than negative. Having said that, I do of course get roasted by a critic every now and then. I scowl momentarily when I read a bad review. Conversely, I smile fleetingly when I read a good one. Ultimately they’re just responses of single readers, so I don’t pay too much attention to any of them, good, bad or indifferent. I like to know what people think of my work, but at the same time you can’t worry too much about what they’re saying, or be too flattered either.
Drugs and alcohol: do they help with writing?
Well, I don’t do drugs, so I can’t comment on that one. I do like a drink every now and then, but I could think of nothing more horrendous than writing with a hangover! I wouldn’t like to write while getting drunk either – I don’t think a writer should rely on any such crutches. A good boot up the arse is all any writer should need to get them going!
What’s a successful day of writing for you?
A bad writer can only write when they feel inspired; a good writer can write any time.
When I’m doing a first draft of a book, I aim for 3,000 words a day, and if I hit that mark (which I almost always do, because I force myself), then it’s been a good day’s work. But it’s especially pleasing when I haven’t been feeling particularly inspired – as another writer (whose name I can’t recall) once said, a bad writer can only write when they feel inspired; a good writer can write any time.
Which piece of your writing are you most proud of?
The Thin Executioner is my favourite book that I’ve written, but I’m proudest of my Demonata series, because those were the books where I really raised the bar the highest and stretched myself the furthest.
Who would play you in a movie?
Well, The Saga Of Darren Shan was written as a true story, with the main character named after myself, and it was turned into a film several years ago, so the answer is that I already have been played on film, and the actor was Chris Massoglia! (My arch-nemesis in the film, who was also based on myself if I’m being truthful, was played by Josh Hutcherson, who has gone on to even bigger and better things since.)
If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring authors what would it be?
Don’t lose heart and never give up. Writing is all about hard work and time. Don’t look for short cuts. Just stick your head down, keep writing and pushing yourself, and your talents will develop naturally.
Have you ever said no to sex because you wanted to keep writing?
Well, it’s interesting you should ask, because I’ve got a fascinating story about… oh, sorry, I have to stop there – Mrs Shan is calling!
Thanks to Darren's generous publishers at Simon and Schuster, we have five sets of all eight Zom-B books to be won.
- Which piece of writing is Darren most proud of?
Closing date: 4 August 2014. Entrants outside the UK must cover postage.
For more Darren Shan, watch the Authors Live with Darren Shan video here