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Darren Shan

Friday, 05 April 2013

Darren Shan's real name is Darren O'Shaughnessy. Although he is Irish, he was born on the 2nd of July, 1972, in St. Thomas' Hospital, London - directly across the river from the Houses of Parliament in Westminster (which may explain his fascination with evil bloodsuckers...). He lived in South East London, near the Elephant & Castle. He started school at the early age of three (he was such a wild child, no pre-school facility would have him!), in English Martyr's. At the age of six, he moved to Limerick in Ireland, with his parents and younger brother, and has lived there ever since (but he never lost his London accent!).

Darren went to primary school in Askeaton, where his mother was a teacher, then to secondary school in Copsewood College in Pallaskenry. Later, he went back to London to study Sociology and English at Roehampton College. He then worked for a cable TV company in Limerick for a couple of years, before setting up as a full-time writer.

Although Darren always wanted to be a writer, it was only in his teenage years that he began writing in his spare time, for fun (before that, he only wrote stories if they were for homework). 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 which he never completed. He enjoyed his first taste of literary success aged 15, as a runner-up in a TV script-writing competition for RTE in Ireland, with a dark comedy script entitled "A Day in the Morgue" (he was morbid even then!).

Darren was 17 when he finished his first novel (Mute Pursuit - a futuristic cross between "The Terminator" and Stephen King's "The Dark Tower"). Although it was never published, he relished the writing experience, and found himself focusing more and more on novels in the coming years, leaving behind the short story format. Over the next several years, sandwiched between college and work, he wrote an average of one book a year, experimenting with different ideas, genres, lengths and styles. When he started writing full-time, his output shot up to 5 or 6 books per year! (But that's dropped back to 2 or 3 recently, due to all the travelling around he's been doing to promote sales of his books.)

All of these books were adult-oriented. Although Darren quite liked the idea of writing a children's book one day, he considered himself an adult writer first and foremost. In fact, Darren's initial breakthrough was with an adult book, under his real name of Darren O'Shaughnessy. The crazily entitled Ayuamarca was bought by Orion and published early in February 1999. A dark, mysterious, twisting cross between "The Godfather" and "Night of the Living Dead", Ayuamarca earned some very favourable reviews, but sadly didn't sell especially well. A sequel, Hell's Horizon, followed in February 2000, and although it was widely held to be a much better book, it sold even less copies than the first!

That might have been the end of Darren's writing career, except ... In January 2000 his first children's book - Cirque Du Freak, which he'd written as a fun side-project - was published in between his two adult books. The first book in a series entitled The Saga of Darren Shan, it attracted rave reviews and much media attention - especially when the movie rights to the first two books were brought by Warner Bros in a seven figure deal prior to publication! All of a sudden, his career was on the up - but as a children's writer!

A big film buff, Darren also reads lots of comics and books. Other interests include long walks, outdoor swimming, watching and discussing football, listening to pop and rock music, worldwide travel, and dreaming up new ways to terrify his readers. Although most of his time these days is devoted to The Saga of Darren Shan, he continues to write other books, both for adults and children, which he hopes to publish some day... somewhere... somehow...

Some of Darren's favourite books inlcude:
Salem's Lot by Stephen King
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
The Belgariad by David Eddings
Childhood's End by Arthur C Clarke
The Machine Gunners by Robert Westall
Rebecca's World by Terry Nation
Sleeping In Flame by Jonathan Carroll
Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury
The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut
The Hyperion Books by Dan Simmons
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Watership Down by Richard Adams
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
Dracula by Bram Stoker (of course!!!)

Profile courtesy of Darren Shan