Although Shan 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. Shan was 17 when he finished his first novel. Although it was never published, he relished the writing experience, and found himself focusing more on novels in the coming years, leaving behind the short-story format.
For the next several years, sandwiched between university 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 to 6 books per year! But that has dropped back to 2 to 3 recently, due to all the travelling around he’s been doing to promote sales of his books. All of these early books were adult-oriented. Although Shan quite liked the idea of writing a children’s book one day, he considered himself an adult writer first and foremost.
In fact, Shan’s initial breakthrough was with an adult book, in 1999. In January 2000, his first children’s book, Cirque du Freak, which he’d written as a fun side-project, was published. The first book in a series titled The Saga of Darren Shan (or Cirque du Freak, as it’s known in America), it attracted rave reviews and an ever-growing army of fans hungry to learn more about vampires which were quite unlike any that anyone had ever seen before! Shan loved writing for children so much, that for the next several years he focused almost exclusively on his books for younger readers.
First, he wrote a total of 12 books about vampires. He quickly followed up his vampiric saga with The Demonata, a series about demons. Running to ten books in total, The Demonata cemented Shan’s place in the UK as the Master Of Children’s Horror, and saw him score his first UK #1 bestseller. He also wrote a one-off short book, called Koyasan, for Wold Book Day in the UK. There was a very successful manga adaptation of Shan’s vampire series, drawn by the Japanese artist, Takahiro Arai. It was originally serialized in Japan, but collected volumes are now on sale in the USA, UK and other countries.
The books have topped adult bestseller charts in Hungary, Japan and Taiwan. In total, Shan’s books have sold close to 15 million copies worldwide! The movie rights to Cirque Du Freak were bought by Universal, and the first movie (which combines elements from the first three books in the series) was released on October 23rd, 2009, starring newcomer Chris Massoglia as Darren Shan, along with a wide array of established stars such as Josh Hutcherson, John C Reilly, Salma Hayek, Willem Defoe and Ken Watanabe. The movie was called Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant.