Random Act of Kindness
Darren Shan's Gift to Patrickswell N.S. Pupils
What a privilege it was to meet internationally renowned author Darren Shan recently! The incredibly imaginative Limerickman has conjured up book sales of over 20 million since 'Cirque du Freak' was published in 2000. Despite his incredible talent - and all his wonderful successes - Darren remains one of the most grounded and generous people you could hope to meet.
We met Darren deep in the bowels of County Limerick. A headstone bearing the message, "Welcome to Shanville, Home of the Damned," greets you as you approach his lair. Luckily, Darren was expecting us and he let us in before any harm befell us.
Patrick Swell: Your house is stunning! The artwork, the sculptures, the layout is amazing...
Darren Shan: Well, thank you very much.
PW: (Looking at huge transparent eggs with foetal Spiderman, Superman and assorted superheroes/villains inside) Are you a DC or a Marvel man?
DS: I'd be more into English comics, like 2000 AD...
After a quick tour of the ground floor, Darren brought us to the Study, the creative hub of Shanville. A large white skull catches the eye immediately. Darren explains that you can open the skull and sit inside, "It's an immersion chamber where you can lock yourself away from the world and just think - ideal if you were living in an apartment in a big city."
PW: (Looking into Darren's back garden and the view of the estuary beyond) You have some view there!
DS: Pity the weather isn't better, you could see the hills across the way and Bunratty and Shannon Airport. But you can see some of the sculptures I've been adding to my collection out there.
PW : (Speaking of collections!) Did you think the Saga of Darren Shan series would take off like it did in Japan (i.e. multi-million sales, fantastic Manga versions of all 12 books, etc.)?
DS: No. Not at all. I never imagined that at all.
PW : How are your books doing in Ireland?
DS: They're doing really well. For a few years they were the most borrowed books, by an Irish author, from Irish libraries. That's changed recently. I'm not sure why but it may be a result of the recession.
PW: Are you travelling much at the moment?
DS: Yes, publishers require books to be promoted, so I'm touring the Zom-B series right now. These books are for an older readership than primary school children. They're a bit more gruesome...
Róisín (Patrickswell NS past pupil): I met you in Limerick at a zombie event. You gave me your card and your autograph. I was part of a group that dressed up as zombies for the day. You wrung my neck for a photo!
DS: Wringing necks is what's done at all these events. I'm always wringing necks!!!
PW : Readers in our school love how Cirque du Freak feels so Irish...
DS: Location wasn't specific in the books, so readers in many countries could read the books and feel it was set in their country, but really I tried to make it a mix of Ireland and London...
PW : I loved the way Cirque du Freak starts in a classroom toilet, that detail alone has everyone intrigued straight away!
DS: Yeah it started in a toilet and ended in a grave, it had everything!
PW: How many titles have you written at this stage?
DS: Around 40.
PW: Thanks so much for inviting us to your home and for donating all these books, audio books and Manga novels to our school library!
DS: I love my books to have a good home and I love to feed the appetite of brave readers! Would you like me to sign them for you?
PW: It would be great if you'd sign one or two for us.
DS: No problem, I'll sign all of them. I'd be delighted...
In his Study, Darren has taken care to make space for a display of gifts he has received from fans from every corner of the world. They range from the grotesque to the cuddly (a really impressive collection of Teddy Bears bears this out)! It tells us a lot about Darren. More than anything else it tells us how much he appreciates his fans and how respectful - and responsible - he is when it comes to his ever-growing band of followers. Keeping things age-appropriate for his loyal fans is obviously a priority for Darren (and those of us encouraging young people to read books cannot commend him enough for that!)
Beside Darren's computer lies a huge stack of handwritten and typed notes. You can't help but wonder what quirky, gruesome and wonderful tales lurk within that pile. One thing is for sure: Darren has no intention of slowing down or becoming less prolific any time soon! You can almost imagine Darren chuckling as he thinks to himself, 'No rest for the wicked in my books!'