This week, I had to hold back my inner Cirque du Freak fangirl when I interviewed master of horror, Darren Shan. We talked boundaries in YA horror, getting shelf-space on a fast publication schedule and the urge to write. You can read the full interview over on BookBrunch.
Darren Shan (real name: Darren O’Shaughnessy) is famous for his YA horror stories: from Cirque du Freak on, so if your child has a penchant for the darker side of fantasy, Shan is probably a household name.
As the final instalment of his latest Zom-B series approaches, we sat down to discuss the light and dark sides of being a teenager, why zombies work with strong themes, and how he’s managed to publish twelve books in just four years.
Writing for the cusp
Though now he’s most famous for his YA writing, Shan originally started out writing for adults. He still writes for older readers, but he confesses that if he was forced to pick, nowadays he would choose YA.
“I was at my most voracious as a reader in my teens,” he explains. “I was reading a couple of books a week, I’d just plough through them… I think as teenagers, the world is very bright and dark at the same time. Our brains are all in a whirr; we experience these huge highs, these seemingly terrible lows. We just deal with it and get on with it, but it’s a really interesting time in our lives: as we become teens, we find our voice and we start to make choices that are going to affect our lives and where we’re going to go. We can go in all sorts of different directions as teenagers, as adults I think we’re more set in our ways… I really like tapping back into that.”
If writing for YA audiences was a discovery, horror has always been a fixture, but catering for younger readers does mean Shan has to be careful about where he draws the line. “I remember as a teenager I was trapped between adulthood and childhood. I still loved reading Roald Dahl but I also loved Stephen King, Clive Barker and James Herbert. I think teenagers are drawn to both worlds so I try to tell stories that have all the darkness of adult books, but which are written with a younger audience in mind. I’m always conscious of not taking it too far, but at the same time I believe YA books can go very far. But I never glamourize violence, never write about it as an offhand thing. The violence is always there for a reason and I explore the consequences of it. It’s about how the characters come to terms with these events and overcome them.
“I think really good horror and fantasy books are always a reflection of the world in which we’re living. There’s much more going on in them than just the fantasy trappings…” [READ MORE]