No rest for the wicked in the world of Darren Shan this weekend!!! My flight to London on Friday was slightly delayed, so it was well after 01.00 before I got to bed. In the morning I walked up to Waterstones Picadilly for a public signing. The weather was bad, and the transport services were severely disrupted because of a May Day demonstration, so we didn’t get a massive crowd, but it was still a good turnout and I was signing for two and a quarter hours. After that (and a tasty lunch in TGI Fridays!) it was on to Wanstead for a public event. The event had sold out, but 25 or 30 people didn’t turn up, most likely because of the weather, so the crowd ran to about 130. It was my first public event of the tour and I had lots of fun at it — I read out an extract from “Procession of the Dead” for the first time ever. I was quite pleased with how it went, though the accent I picked for The Cardinal didn’t work as well as I hoped, so I’ll change that next time — it sometimes takes a few readings for me to really peg a voice. I was signing for an hour and a half afterwards, then home.
On Sunday I drove up to Milton Keynes for the largest signing of the tour so far. I was signing straight for 4 hours, then signed stock and books for some latecomers for another half an hour. That pretty much account for all of my Sunday!!! Got back to my flat about 6.00pm. Had a bit to eat and watched some TV, including an interesting programme about Andy Warhol on BBC. Now I’m off to bed ahead of my double-hitter in Southampton and Bournemouth on Bank Holiday Monday — the tour rolls on!!!!
The second day of the tour is done and dusted, and that means the first leg has now been completed — I’m done in Ireland, and moving on to England. It’s been a manic couple of days. I started with a great schools event in Portlaoise for 250 kids. The town has recently been involved in a One Town One Book project, where they chose a book for the entire community to focus on — and they chose Cirque Du Freak!! 500 copies of the book were distributed, not only to school kids, but to adult learners, and also the Over 55s club!!! I was signing for more than 2 hours after my event — and the TV show ICE were there to film me throughout the day, so watch up for that on an upcoming show! Then we went straight on to Newbridge for a public signing — that lasted a whopping 4 hours!!!! After that we drove on to Dublin, where there was just time to check my emails, watch a bit of TV and listen to some music, before I fell into bed and slept the sleep of the dead!!
Today we did another top-notch schools event, for 280 kids, in Blanchardstown in Dublin. I signed for more than an hour afterwards, then we went to do a radio interview with 4FM — that’s due to be broadcast in the near future, on their Culture Club show. We had time for a quick bit of lunch (a luxury!!) then went to Easons in O’Connell Street. The turnout wasn’t quite as massive as we had expected, compared with my last few events there — I was “only” signing for 2 and a half hours!!! It’s a measure of just how crazy my touring has become that a 2 and a half signing can be seen as an easy afternoon’s work!!! Most authors will never sign for anywhere near that length of time at any point in their career, and would probably faint with exhaustion if they ever had to sit there signing books for that long. I was chuckling and rubbing my hands with glee — more time for a few drinks at the airport!!!! And that’s where I am now, sipping a glass of Bailey’s which typing up this! Next port of call — London, and hopefully another nice long session!!!!!
In other news, I was shocked this afternoon to hear that the Irish radio talk show host, Gerry Ryan, had died. He’s been a prominent fixture on Irish radio ever since the early 1980s. I often listened to his shows, at work or in the car, and always found him very entertaining. He rubbed some people up the wrong way, but I think any DJ of note has to do that if they want to be fresh and original. Irish radio will be a far lesser place without him.
The new Darren Shan web site went live today. It’s still at the same URL: http://www.darrenshan.com The site is still being worked on, so you might find some broken links and missing information. We’ll also be tweaking things slightly — for instance, the links on the left hand side of the home page will change, to make it easier to access the News sections and subscribe. There’s also been a bit of downtime, when we’ve had to temporarily suspend the site to deal with certain issues. But most of it is now in place, and the rest should be sorted out within the next few days. I’m very excited about it — I think it will make the site a lot more interactive and fun to browse. Early feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, so hopefully YOU will enjoy it too!!! If you have any problems with the new site, the old site is still in place and fully browsable — the link for the old home page is: http://www.darrenshan.com/oldsite.html
I spent today doing bits and pieces for the new site, and also getting ready for my tour, which starts in Portlaoise this Thursday, before moving on to Newbridge, Dublin and then the UK. All the dates can be found either on the new web site or in the Shanville Monthly on the old site. At my events, I’ll be reading out a mix of old material and new — I’ve brought along a varied selection, so I have plenty to choose from, to keep things more interesting for me! I also plan to read out an extract from Procession of the Dead at a few of my public events, for the first time ever!!!!
Right — I’m off to pack my bag ahead of my start in the morning! If you’re coming to see me at any of my tour events, I’ll be seeing you SOON!!! If not, you’ll be hearing from me here shortly — I’ll blog as much as I can while on the road. Ciao for now!!
Finished my final edit of Birth of a Killer!! Now that my books are going to be coming out at the same time in America as the UK, the editing process has got a bit more complicated. In the old days, I’d work exclusively with my UK editor, knock the book into final shape, then simply approve or reject any changes that my American editor suggested later. Now I have to juggle both at the same time. To give you an idea of how it works, I edited the UK proofs and made some minor last-minute tweaks; then I went through the proofs which my American editor had sent and incoporated the changes from the UK proofs into those; then I went through them again, looking at the suggested tweaks which the Americans had suggested, and when I approved of them, I then went back through the UK proofs and incorporated the American changes into those. If it sounds complicated, that’s because it is!!! But the great advantage is that I now get the input of TWO editors, which makes life more of a hassle for me, but is brilliant for the book!!!
Speaking of books… I went to get my hair cut today, ahead of my Thin Executioner tour which starts on Thursday. When I realised that the two book shops in central Limerick (Easons and O’Mahonys) both already had copies of the new book on their shelves, I went into both stores and signed as many copies of the book as they had on display. So if you’re in the Limerick area and want to get your hands on a signed copy (I dated most of them too!!) of The Thin Executioner, then act quickly and it CAN be yours!!!!!!
I’ve almost finished my final draft of the UK proofs of Birth of a Killer. I’m pleased with how nicely it all hangs together. I’ve had to add several new sections to the book since I wrote the first draft a few years ago, to fill in more of the blanks from Mr Crepsley’s early years and give the first book more focus. I see the four books as one large single story — in fact, when I first wrote them, I carried the chapter numbers forward from one book to the next — so the more dramatic scenes are obviously saved for further down the line, in the later books. Book 1 is an introduction, covering the early years, getting the major players into place, setting up plot lines which will resonate all the way to the end (and, indeed, on into The Saga Of Darren Shan — Mr Crepsley will read in quite a different way, I think, for fans who re-read that series after they’ve read these, or who read these first). But at the same time it needed to tell a good story that would entertain in its own right, one that would surprise and intrigue and excite and sadden. I think the book now has all those elements. It’s not self-contained, and was never meant to be — it’s very clearly the first book of a series, and it doesn’t attempt to draw all the story strands together at the end. But I don’t think it will be seen as a book readers have to slog through either — it’s not dry or slow-paced. If you compare it with, say, Vampire Mountain, a book it resembles in lots of ways (that was the first book of a 3 book story arc, which has to serve the purpose of introducing readers to a whole new world and cast of characters), I think this is a lot stronger — there’s more going on, it covers a larger emotional range, there are plenty of fights and deaths (you won’t have to wait for the second book for main characters to start meeting a grisly end!!!). Yeah, I’m happy with it, and I think you guys will be too. And only 5 months to wait — it hits stores in the UK and USA at the start of October.
In the meantime, The Thin Executioner is due to be launched on the world this week — that hits shops in the UK and Ireland this coming Thursday, and I’ll be heading out on tour to promote it. (You can find the dates and venues in the Shanville Monthly on my www.darrenshan.com web site.) I received some copies of the book during the week, and it looks absolutely fabulous!!! As I’ve said many times already, this is my personal favourite to date out of all of the books which I have written. And I think it looks and feels great too — I get a nice little shiver down my spine every time I pick it up!! I really hope fans enjoy this as much as I did — it will be a big anti-climax for me if it comes out to indifference. Of course, there’s nothing much I can do at this stage to influence how fans are going to react. Reader will decide its fate and reception by themselves. That’s the wonderful glory of literary democracy at work!!!
Bas, for those of you who might be wondering, is almost home!! She finally caught a flight out of Liberia on Thursday night, and made it safely to London, where she’s spent a couple of days. On Sunday, volcanic ash permitting, she should be flying the final stretch home to Shannon, and thence to chez Shan. In honour of her imminent arrival, and given the hardships she faced travelling home, I’ve broken with habit and not only hoovered round the house but washed the kitchen floor too!!!! I must be getting soft in my old age…
I actually quite enjoyed the trip home! Caught the train from Euston, and that made a huge difference — trains are definitely a lot more comfortable than buses!! The journey to Holyhead passed swiftly, it was easy to get onto the boat, there were plenty of seats onboard. I went to the cinema and saw Valentine’s Day — not very good, but perfect for a venue like that, and it passed most of the journey. No problem getting a taxi in Dublin port — there was the longest lines of taxis I’d ever seen, cabbies desperate for work because they’ve been getting nothing from the airports for the past week. I felt sorry for them. Caught the train to Limerick, then my Dad gave me a lift home. Door to door, it took 13 and a half hours. I wouldn’t want to be doing it every time I travelled to London, but it was nowhere near the nightmare journey that I was dreading!!
Today I waded through all of my post and unpacked. Then I started to edit the page proof for Birth of a Killer, the first Mr Crepsley book. This will be my final bit of work on the book — any last-minute changes must be made now, or never. Thankfully I haven’t had to change much so far — in fact, I think I only slightly altered one line in the first 30 pages. By the time I get to this stage, I normally have the book almost exactly the way I want it. But this is my chance to read it the same way that readers will, laid out in the finished format — you sometimes spot tiny things at this late stage that you might have missed on the PC.
Visited my grandparents and parents this evening. Nice to catch up. Bas is still stranded in Liberia, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel, and with luck she should be home by Friday. In the meantime, I’m off to watch some light TV before hitting the sack. It’s nice to be back!!!
Had another fabulous day at football on Saturday — we beat Chelsea 2-1!!! Historically Spurs fans have never been that bothered about Chelsea — for a very long time they were never more than an average team, and we beat them more often than not. But the tables turned in the 1990s, when we hit a long-lasting slump and they found investors to pump loads of money into the club. For years, we became their whipping boys. That’s changed in the last few seasons, and we’ve been started beating and drawing with them quite regularly again. But they’re still one of the best teams in the league, and having had to work so hard against Arsenal mid-week, I don’t think any of us truly believed that we could beat another of the Big 3 teams. But we were even stronger on Saturday than during the week, and should actually have won more easily, by 3 or 4 goals!!! Football is a strange old game…
I was supposed to meet up with my Taiwanese publisher and good friend Emily on Sunday, but she wasn’t able to fly to London because of the ash. So I slept in, then went for a nice walk up to Sothebys to have a look at art that is on display for an auction later in the week — as I’ve said before here, Sothebys and Christies are often just as great a place to visit as a regular art gallery. After a rest, I took my aunt Nora to the Menier Chocolate Factory to see “Educating Rita”. It was very good, though I probably preferred “Shirley Valentine” which I saw last week. Having said that, I had the chocolate beer there again, and that was just as tasty as it was before!!
I was meant to be flying back to Ireland on Monday, but the ash put paid to that plan. Instead I ended up booking to travel home by ferry. I used to make the ferry crossing six times (three return journeys) a year when I was at university in London, and I hated it!! I used to travel overnight, by bus either side of the crossing, and I often felt sick at sea. It’s been 17 years since I last braved the ferry!!! At least this time I’m travelling by train instead of bus, so that should be more comfortable, and the crossing is during the day, so I won’t lost any sleep. Still, I’d much rather be hopping on Ryanair and flying to Shannon in an hour!!! Oh well, I know there are many travellers far worse off than me (Bas among them — she’s stranded in Liberia, probably until Friday), stuck in hovels far from home, low on cash, perhaps with important business or family events to attend, with no easy way of returning. All things considered, my complaints are very minor indeed. But, hey, if you can’t moan a little on your own blog, where CAN you moan?!?!?
I received an amusing email from Anthony Horowitz yesterday. He has a book of short stories coming out later this year, called More Bloody Horowitz. One of the stories in it is called The Man Who Killed Darren Shan!!! It’s his “revenge” for when I based a character on him in one of my books (Wolf Island — the thinly disguised Antoine Horwitzer) and put him through the wringer!! I’d heard about this before, and was tickled pink at the thought of being featured in such a grisly way — but the legal team at his publishers were worried in case I’d get upset and sue, so they asked him to ask me to agree to letting myself be killed off in such a literary fashion!!!! Naturally I had no problem with that, so any AH fans out there can rest assured that I will be getting my gruesome comeuppance at Halloween!! Actually, I had to make a similar request of my own a couple of years ago — when I re-edited Procession of the Dead, I included the name of my first-ever editor, Simon Spanton, as a corpse who gets sliced up in a grisly autopsy scene. It was a fond mention — I only ever include friends or people I respect in my books (the two exceptions to that are a couple of characters who appear in The Thin Executioner, based on a pair of politicians who I definitely have a VERY low opinion of!!!) — but the legal team at HarperCollins asked me to clear it with Simon, as Anthony’s team did in this instance. Who would have thought that killing someone off in a book could be such a troublesome business?!?
On Tuesday I went for a very nice lunch with my agent. For my main course I had calf’s brain!!! It was surprisingly tender in texture, a bit like a scallop. It had a very distinctive taste too, not quite what I was expecting. An interesting experience, one which I think I’ll be incorporating into a book in the not too distant future…
On Wednesday I went for an even more elaborate lunch at the famous Fat Duck, the world’s #2 rated restaurant for the last several years. I went there last year for the first time and loved it, and it was just as good second time round, although of course the element of surprise was no longer present. Still, a magical mystery meal if ever there was one, full of twists and turns that no other chef could even think of, never mind bring to fruition!! I went with my uncle Derek and a friend of ours, Caspar, and after the meal we returned to London for the Spurs v Arsenal match. Arsenal are our arch-rivals, and the matches are always hotly conested affairs. This year’s was particularly tense — apart from pride, there were serious issues at stake — if we beat them, it would pretty much derail their hopes of winning the league, while steering us firmly back into the hunt for fourth place — if they beat us, they would be serious title contenders, while we would be reduced to scrapping for fifth place at best. (The difference between 4th and 5th is that the 4th place team gets to enter the Champions League, where the stakes and money on offer are much higher.) We hadn’t beaten Arsenal in the league for more than 11 years, and having lost the semi-final on Sunday our hopes were low. But to my delight we defied all the odds and beat them 2-1 — hurrah!!!! It was a famous victory, and I came away from the ground glowing — great food, great football, what more could you want?!?
Today I visited my aunt Martha, then went to see a new play called Counted? in the County Hall debating chamber. The play was interesting but nothing special, a look at why people do or don’t vote. But the setting was VERY special — I loved being in the chamber, home for many years for local London government. It’s a beautiful building, and this was an amazing room, so although the play was only so-so, the night was very memorable for me.
Spent Saturday with my brother, Declan, who was moving to a new flat, and then with my uncle Derek and his boys. A nice, relaxed day. On Sunday I went to Wembley for the FA Cup semi-final — Spurs were playing Portsmouth, who are bottom of the league, already relegated, and bankrupt. It should have been an easy victory, but I had a bad feeling ahead of the game, and it was borne out when we lost 2-0. A gutter of a game!!!
Today I went in to HarperCollins to sign a thousand copies of The Thin Executioner. They’ll be going to independent book stores throughout the UK (maybe Ireland too, I’m not sure) in May, so keep an eye out for them in case you don’t live near any of the places where I’m touring. (For full tour schedule, check out the Shanville Monthly on my web site.) After that I went to see How to Train your Dragon at the IMAX. It’s a smart, exciting, touching, funny little gem of a film, one of the best family flicks I’ve seen in ages — but what a terrible title!!!! I wouldn’t have even thought of going to see it, except I was thinking of taking some of my cousins and I was checking out reviews of kid-friendly fare. With a title like that, you expect a silly, throwaway flick, something that might have starred Leslie Nielsen 10 or 20 years ago, or a 1960s Disney piece of nonsense. Anyway, if you want a nice, escapist piece of warm-hearted fun, ignore the woebegotten title and go check it out — it’s top-notch!!!