Writers’ Spotlight is a feature in which the career of writers in different fields are analysed. We discuss their life, career and the impact they had on their projects.
SPOTLIGHT #4 – DARREN SHAN (Saga of DARREN SHAN, DEMONATA, ZOM-B…)
I would like to preface this edition of Writers’ Spotlight with a few points. Firstly, unlike the other posts, this edition focuses on an author rather than a Screenwriter. This is because Darren Shan is one of my all-time favourite writers, since 2008 when I first discovered one his books. Or rather, three of them as the first trilogy in the Saga of Darren Shan was condensed into one big novel.
Furthermore, I became an even bigger fan of Darren’s when I discovered some of the interesting parallels in our personal lives:
- We were both born in London during the month of July although in different years,
- Possess strong Irish heritage; Darren’s real surname is O’Shaughnessy and mine is O’Brien.
- Immigrated to the Green Isle around the same age — 6 and 7, respectively. Interestingly, Darren moved to Limerick, the ancestral home of my family.
- Both the oldest of two boys who has the same first initial as each of us
- Interest in writing, across different formats
Over the course of his prolific career, Darren’s imagination has created many different fantastical scenes and characters that allow readers to imagine or interpret them in their own way. Vivid imagery and first-person narrative in particular helped The Saga and The Demonata, in particular, come to life.
Considering Darren’s audience for these books were a YA (Young Adult) audience, the writing is still as smart and sophisticated as ‘adult’ books of the same genre though Darren does, in fact, write books for maturer readers under the name Darren Dash.
For me, my journey into the “Shandom” as Darren’s fanbase are known on Twitter, is intrinsically linked with two characters: the title character of the Saga who is named for Darren’s pseudonym and his unlikely mentor, the centuries old vampire Larten Crepsley. The strength and realism of these characters are what strapped me in for what has been an eleven year journey and counting. In the Saga alone, supporting characters such as Steve, Harkat, Vancha, Mr. Tall and Desmond Tiny also helped shape the world of these novels.
The relationship between Darren and Larten is one of, if not the outright strongest throughout the series. Their evolution from wary acquaintances to a true father-son bond is a genuinely beautiful development to see. Since the books were written in first-person, from Darren’s perspective, we saw his side primarily, Larten was later fleshed out in a prequel series – The Saga of Larten Crepsley, which was published between 2010 and 2012, comprising four books.
As alluded to earlier, the Saga is one of the reasons why I became interested in writing fiction though my preferred format is Screenwriting. The idea that one person could write all these different and interesting characters, with such contrasting perspectives and views was so fascinating to me. I started writing myself in 2009 – one year after reading the Saga for the first time. Coincidence? I think not!
As I suspect is the case for much of Darren’s audience, I transitioned to the darker Demonata books as I grew older. This series was unique for me in that it gave me my first ‘scare’, a rarity as anyone who knows me can tell you. I have sat through some of the scariest horror films without flinching.
In particular, I am referring to a brutal decapitation in the first book and the death of a beloved character in the sixth book. Anyone who has read the series should know what I am referring to, without spoiling it for those who have not.
The series also differed from the Saga. Indeed, it retained the first-person narrative that had been effectively employed but had three main protagonists: modern teen Grubitsch ‘Grubbs’ Grady, Kernel Fleck from the 1970s and Bec, a girl from ancient Ireland. Each was the narrator in alternate books so, for example, fans of Grubbs after the first book would have been surprised in the second when he does not appear, though some do return, although younger.
Overall, I would like to thank Darren for giving me and many others not only the opportunity to explore vivid and realistic worlds in our imaginations but also helping me and possibly others find their own passion for writing.
As a sidenote, I have had the pleasure of interacting with Darren on Twitter on a number of occasions on my personal account and he has always been lovely, answering some questions I have had about his novels. Truly, a gent.
That’ll do it for this Writers’ Spotlight. Make sure to look out for #5!