Photo credit: edinburghfestival.list.co.uk
The well-known Irish author, Darren Shan, was in Exeter to promote the latest installment to his thriller series for teenagers, Zom-B. The ninth book, Zom-B Family, follows B, the protagonist, as she struggles in the clutches of a fiend from her past and explores just how much she is willing to sacrifice in the name of justice. I was fortunate to be able to interview him on 27 October.
As a writer for both children and adults, which do you prefer?
I like writing for both, which is why I’ve written for both children and young adults. However I love writing for young adults as it challenges me in different ways, as well as making me learn new things to bring to both age groups.
When you started writing at 14 and eventually became a runner up in a television script-writing competition for RTE (Raidió Teilifís Éireann), did you realise then that you wanted to write for a living?
I had known for years that I wanted to be a writer. I think when I was around the age of 5 or 6, I had thought about becoming a writer and started writing a few stories. But by the time I was 15 and had written for the competition, I was completely devoted to the idea of becoming a writer.
What was your script about?
It was for a television show about different characters exploring numerous jobs in the workplace. Fans were given the opportunity to submit to explore the sort of job they would be interested in. In my case it was a job as an undertaker which is why my script was called A Day in the Mortuary.
Where did your love for morbidity come from?
I have always loved horror and scary stories. There is a strange intrigue to what’s out there in the darkness. There is a motivation towards the exploration of the paranormal and horror. I always compare it to a roller coaster – it’s fun at some points and terrifying at others. And the adrenaline kicks in, which creates fun within the fear. Some people find it hard to understand but that’s just the way I see it. I also remember watching an old Dracula movie when I was around 6 years old and watching as the camera crawled forward to an old castle and eerie sounds of a horse and carriage.
Was it the Christopher Lee movie?
I’m not sure. I know that it was in the style of a Hammer horror film.
As you live in Limerick, Ireland- do you find it easier to write in a relaxed environment?
Definitely! I actually live in a small village outside of Limerick, which is quite solitary and I’m surrounded by beautiful countryside and the peace and quiet. There are no distractions. However I also have a flat in London, which is good if I do want to be distracted and I get to see theatre and family and friends, which is lovely. But I do get a lot done when I’m in Ireland.
Since your work has been adapted for screen, have you considered adapting to Television or Theatre? And if so which of your series of books would you choose?
I’m always open to adaptations of my work; I didn’t work at all on the Cirque du Freak screenplay as it was cut down a lot. Because it was 12 books that were condensed into a Hollywood film and a lot of characters were cut out to make the plot work. However I think more of my work could be adapted for television as at the time the novel of Cirque du Freak was released, around 15 years ago, television was a different sort of media. Nowadays we’ve got series like Game Of Thrones and The Walking Dead, which are long detailed series. I think that most of my work, particularly Zom-B, would definitely work on TV. Also one of my adult books is being adapted for a screenplay, which is interesting. If a Hollywood man did come around asking, I wouldn’t say no!
Out of all the books you’ve written, do you have a favourite that you enjoyed writing? For example you wrote a story for Alan Moore for his 50th Birthday celebration.
Well, writing for Alan Moore was brilliant as he has been an influence on me and I have been a huge fan of his, so writing this short quirky story was so much fun, However my favourite story I’ve written was a long, one-off novel that I wrote a few years ago called The Thin Executioner. It was about a boy growing up in a society where being an executioner was a celebrity symbol, and because of this the boy wants to become an executioner and it’s about how he has to go on a long quest to gain his wish. I wrote it as a story about hope and not forgetting the dreams people have, which is different to my other books.
With the Zom-B Series, you’re releasing a book every three months… Hard work?
Well I plan each series 2-3 years before the first book comes out so by the time the first book comes out I have the drafts of the next couple of books. I don’t have to spend too much time juggling between each book. There are 7-8 drafts written for each book. The first nine Zom-B books were released at a rate of one every three months; however the last three may be released with a slightly longer interval.
What or who have been your main influences in life?
Oh, lots! One of my favourite writers is Stephen King who I’ve been reading for over 30 years and he still surprises me. I also love Kurt Vonnegut, Herbert, Roald Dahl, Mark Twain and The Secret Garden. My biggest influence I have to say, which will sound corny but it’s the truth, is my Mum. She taught me to read and write. She was a primary school teacher and when I started writing at around 5-6 years old, she was always pushing me and influencing my stories, which did a lot of good.
Darren Shan has also written books for adults, including a thriller with supernatural tones, Lady of the Shades. Zom-B Family is the latest in his Zom-B series, and the final three installments are expected in February, May and September 2015.