Tell us about yourself and what inspired you to start writing.
I’ve always loved telling stories, ever since I was a young child. I wanted to be many things as I was growing up, but becoming a writer was top of the pile, and as I got older the other dreams fell away, whereas the dream of being a writer intensified. So I followed my dream!
Tell us about your books.
Midsummer’s Bottom is the 50th book that I’ve published. Most of my books have been for the YA market and released under the name of Darren Shan. I’m best known as a horror author, but I’ve meandered across all sorts of genres over the years, especially now in my Darren Dash novels. The market wants to deliver the known quantity to readers — “This is the new thriller by Lee Child,” “This is the new erotic novel by E L James” — but I enjoy surprising my readers and trying new types of stories. My motto is — Variety is the spice of life!
How did you go about getting published?
On the Darren Shan front I’ve been traditionally published — I got an agent years ago, who took my work out to various publishers, and although he had a hard time convincing anyone to take me on, he persevered, and I kept on writing, and in the end we enjoyed great success — I’ve sold around 25 million books worldwide. On the Darren Dash front I’ve self-published. While successfully publishing my mainly horror-themed YA books, I’d also built up quite a large collection of hard-to-place novels for adults that didn’t fit neatly into the horror genre. I wanted to be able to just put them out there and see what people made of them, so I took the decision to start self-publishing them.
What is your writing process? Do you have a time, day or place you like to write?
When I’m working on a first draft I try to write 3,000 words a day. I work on a PC in my office. I’ll edit a book at least 6 or 7 times before it’s ready for print, and I like to give myself plenty of time to edit — most of my books take between 2 and 3 years from start to finish, but some are spread out even longer — Midsummer’s Bottom, for instance, spanned 21 years!
What do you like to do when you’re not writing? Full-time job, pets, hobbies?
Writing IS my full-time job. I love to travel, read, watch movies, go to rock gigs. I’ve also been busy helping to rear my young son over the last few years.
Any advice for authors about book covers?
Get a professional to design your cover. I did a couple of covers by myself, and while I was happy with what I came up with, the difference in quality when I had them re-designed a bit further down the line was massive. I don’t like spending money frivolously when I self-publish — my aim is always to not spend more than I earn — but a cover designer and an editor are the two outlays that I now consider essential.
Any marketing tips you’d like to share with other authors?
I’m still struggling big time with the marketing. I’m quite good at getting my books reviewed — and thankfully the vast majority of reviews have been incredibly positive — but it’s tough taking things beyond that point and making people aware that my books exist.
What’s your favorite book?
My favoruite childhood book was The Sectet Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. One of my favourite adult books would be Salem’s Lot by Stephen King.
What are you reading now?
Jingo, by Terry Pratchett.
What’s your next book project?
I haven’t yet decided what it will be. I like to take a break after I publish a Darren Dash book, let things die down, then start thinking about what to hit my unsuspecting public with next! (I do know what my next Darren Shan book will be, but I don’t want to talk about that until I get a publishing deal in place and have it lined up and ready to go.)