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Darren Shan’s books have always been an adventure, whether they involve vampires or demons, each book is carefully constructed and features a story that will always have you wanting more. He even had his series The Saga of Darren Shan turned into a movie last summer, entitled The Vampire’s assistant. He has developed a cult following across the world with his dark fantasy novels, and continues to ply his trade developing his latest series entitled The Saga of Larten Crepsley. mindyourmind recently got the opportunity to ask him a few questions, enjoy hearing his inspiration for his first series, the themes of his stories, and how he takes time to unwind and relieve stress.
You first began gaining notoriety as an author with the Saga of Darren Shan, where did the inspiration for that come from? And what about it do you think captured readers attention’s so well?
The idea came to me one day when I was sitting in a car! But I’d been thinking about vampires for 20 years by that point, trying to figure out a way to do something different with them. I think one of the reasons readers reacted so warmly to it was that Darren was an ordinary kid, someone they could relate to, and that although he made mistakes, he tried his best to do good. He was someone who was faced with great obstacles, and who never stopped fighting to rise above them.
A lot of time in your books, we see these characters going through these great emotional struggles with loss and sometimes their own mortality, Do you include these sort of themes because they are universally relatable for your audience?
Yes. On the one hand I’m trying to tell exciting, thrilling stories with my work. But on the other I’m using it to meditate on mortality and our role in the universe. My books are a way for me – and hopefully my fans – to explore and deal with all sorts of real-life issues. We all face low points in our lives, and I think fiction can help us prepare for those occasions and deal with them. But experiencing emotional lows second-hand, through fictional characters, I think it’s easier for us to deal with them in real life when they strike.
How would you describe your books role (or any book for that matter) in helping someone trying to get through a tough time?
I’ve had lots of letters and emails from fans over the years saying that the books have helped them get through tough times. I don’t think it’s just about escaping from reality, although my books certainly let readers do that, and I think that can be a good thing when times are hard. But I also think, as I said earlier, that they help readers prepare. In Lord Loss, for instance, a boy’s family is wiped out by demons and the book then explores how he comes to terms with that and builds a new life for himself. Now, in real life that obviously won’t happen – but a kid’s friend might get killed in a road accident, or one of their parents might die unexpectedly of a heart attack, or... We’re surrounded by death and hardship, and I think it’s easier to deal with such setbacks in real life if we’ve first dealt with them in fiction. It’s like a vaccination – inject ourselves with a little slice of darkness in order to be in a position to put up a better fight against the real thing later.
What do you do to relax when you’re having a particularly stressful day?
Read, watch a movie, go for a walk, have a hot bath, chat about my problems with a a friend or someone in my family.
What is one thing you would want someone to take out of any book/short story that you’ve written?
It’s always worth fighting. Never give up in life. It doesn’t matter how bad things get, or what the odds are against you. Keep going, keep fighting, see out the bad times – there are always better days around the corner. I’m not saying the bad days won’t come back, but we ALL have to deal with those. It’s important to think like a warrior and never let your head drop, even – especially – when times are hard.
If you weren’t an author what would you be doing right now?
Probably something in IT, but even if I wasn’t getting paid to write, I would be writing anyway, in my spare time, for fun. If you’re born to write, you’ll fit it in around everything else. It’s an addiction – but a good one!!!