Wednesday 13 May 2015

Interview with Sunburn Author Darren Dash

Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Darren Dash (a.k.a Darren Shan to many of us) to the blog as we talk about moving into the self publishing arena and his new novel for adults Sunburn, which is out now and  for which you can read my review over HERE

1.     How have you found the self publishing experience and people's reaction to it?

I’ve enjoyed the freedoms that it offers, though it does make it difficult to market the books and get word out there. Based on the feedback that the books have enjoyed, I think they could reach a much larger audience if I had more time to devote to the publicity side of things, but my “day job” limits the amount of man-hours that I can set aside for Dash promotions…

2.     What is your writing process like?
I like to work very quickly when I’m doing a first draft. I tend to write about 3,000 words a day. But I’ll then spend an average of two to three years on the rewriting and editing, giving myself lots of break in between each edit, and juggling a variety of books around over the course of that time period.

3.     Does your writing process change between your adult and your children’s books?

 Not really. I work in much the same way, regardless of the nature of the book that I am writing. My YA books are almost as dark and twisted as my books for adults, so there’s not that much difference between them. The main thing that differs, apart from the freedom to use more earthy language and feature sex scenes, is that my adult books tend to be more morally nebulous — they aren’t always about the forces of good overcoming the forces of evil. Although sometimes, as in Sunburn, they are.

4.     Have you found that you've drawn in new readers with the adult books?
Well, I think mostly I’m reaching older Darren Shan fans, but yes, as word spreads, others are beginning to find out about them too. It’s hard, because if you succeed in a certain genre, then a lot of people can only view you in the light of that success. I did consider launching Darren Dash as a completely new voice, i.e. not telling anyone that it was me writing the books. But I didn’t think that would have been fair to my existing fans. Hopefully, as the Dash books continue to pick up a head of steam, they’ll come to be seen more separately to my YA novels.

5.     Let’s talk about the book. Can you tell us a little about the inspiration behind Sunburn?

I have pale skin and I often get sunburnt when I travel somewhere sunny. It’s my own fault — I just don’t apply suncream often enough! After my umpteenth burning, I began to think about writing a story about someone who gets terribly sunburnt and must then fight for his life against a monster. The idea tickled my fancy. I bounced it around inside my head for a few years, letting it develop, and then I sat down and started to write.

6.     Have you ever had any cases of bad Sunburn?

Lots, as I said above, although thankfully never anywhere near as bad as the case the lead character in Sunburn suffers.

7.     This might be a question just for me, but can you talk a little about how you decide on names (specifically in this case Martini!!)

 Heh heh! I have friends called Sarah and Juan Martinez, and they were pregnant back when I was starting Sunburn. One night in the pub, we were discussing names, and I took inspiration from the bottles on display and came up with Martini Martinez, which I thought was the coolest name ever. Sarah and Juan, for some odd reason, didn’t quite have the same enthusiasm for it as me, so rather than let it go to waste, I decided to incorporate it into my novel.

8.     How do you create your monsters? 

They grow out of the story-telling process. With Sunburn, from day one, I knew I wanted some sort of Bigfoot/Yeti type monster, though I didn’t have any clear idea of what it would look like or how it would operate. I still didn’t when I started, until I got to the point where it first appears, and then I simply let my imagination run free.

9.     Can you tell us a little about the legend you incorporated in this story?

 I don’t want to talk about it too much, because I think that would be a big spoiler for those who have not read the book. What I can say is that I wasn’t actually consciously thinking about the old legend when I was writing the book. It was only after I’d finished it, while I was working on the editing, that one day I realised, “Oh yeah, this is just like that old tale.” I’m always open about my influences – I’ll happily own up to being inspired by Stephen King or Clive Barker or Jonathan Carroll or Kurt Vonnegut or Ray Bradbury or James Ellroy or Stephen Hawking – but sometimes I’m not aware of them until after the fact.

10. You’ve talked before about wanting to explore some of your children’s books in more of, I guess we can say, an adult depth (like Larten’s back-story) would you ever go back and explore, or draw some of these aspects into your adult works? 

 I don’t think I’ll ever do an “adult version” of one of my YA books. I make that call (whether to tell a story for adults or children) early in the creative process, and I follow where that decision leads. Having said that, I sometimes will have an idea working on a YA book that I will later explore in a different way in an adult book, and vice versa. For instance, when writing about vampires, I had an idea for a very different type of vampire story that I wanted to tell, for adult readers. I haven’t yet got around to starting that, but hopefully one day I will.

11. Can we expect more from Darren Dash?

 Oh yes! If everything works out, I’m hoping to release a new Darren Dash book every year or thereabouts, for many years to come. They’re going to be very different types of books. That’s the great advantage that self-publishing offers, and which for me justifies the more minimal sales — the ability to publish whatever the hell I want, rather than just write in a specific way for a specific genre, which is what most publishing companies want. If I had Sunburn II and Sunburn III up my sleeve, I would have had no problem getting published traditionally. But my next book will be as different to Sunburn as that was to The Evil And The Pure. My tastes as a writer have, to date, proven too varied for the normal publishing world. Self-publishing gives me the chance to show off the full range of my writing wares. Some of those books will hopefully connect with a larger audience. Others won’t. To me, the commercial failures are no less valid that those that are hits. All I’m ultimately interested in doing is telling the very best stories that I can, and fitting in as many of them as possible before I’m ripped apart by a monster and left rotting in a cellar for rats to devour!

12. Finally what are the top five horror stories you’d recommend to people?

 Off the top of my head, I’d recommend Dracula by Bram Stoker, It by Stephen King, The Books Of Blood by Clive Barker, the From Hell graphic novel by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell, and the French film Inside.


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