Have you ever woken up to find a werewolf gnawing at your foot? It could well happen if you were a character in one of the numerous supernatural and horror-tastic books Darren Shan has written over the last decade or so. The Irish writer – his full name is Darren O’Shaughnessy – is well known for young adult titles like Lord Loss, Zom-B, The Vampire’s Assistant and Cirque du Freak. However he’s also written crime-orientated books, including the City Trilogy which was originally penned in the late 90s and republished in 2008. It was aimed more at adults and would have pleased readers who like their crime mixed with a little horror and fantasy.
With writers like Tania Carver, John Connelly and Ben Aaronovitch enjoying a rich vein of form, crime-plus-horror and crime-plus-fantasy genre mixing seems to be growing in popularity with readers too. Now Darren Shan is back with a book strictly for adults. Lady of Shades is dark, mysterious, and filled with gangsters and… ghosts. So we jumped at the chance to have Darren sit on the Crime Fiction Lover virtual sofa to tell us about it…
What can crime fiction lovers expect from Lady of Shades?
It’s the story of an American writer who comes to London to do research for his next book, which will be a horror novel. He falls in love with a femme fatale, and his life soon starts to spiral out of control as the lines between reality and the supernatural seem to start to blur.
Tell us a bit more about Ed, Andeanna and the criminals they’re up against?
Ed is a nice guy, but we can tell from early on that he has had a checkered past – he is haunted by his own personal retinue of ghosts. He doesn’t know if they’re real or imagined, but we know that they signify that there’s more to him than meets the eye. Andeanna is a beautiful lady, but like Ed, she is weighed down by her past, and the more we learn about her, the more ethereal and mysterious she becomes. As for criminals, the book involves gangsters and assassins, but I don’t want to say any more than that, for fear of ruining any of the twists.
What made you want to move in the direction of the crime genre?
I’ve always been interested in crime. I’ve actually already published a trilogy of books for adults called The City, which had a strong crime slant, particularly in the second book. I don’t work in any one particular genre – I like to flit from one to the next, and mix them up. In this instance, the main story is a direct descendant of Double Indemnity and its ilk, so the crime factor is far more to the fore.
Who are some of your favourite crime authors?
I love the old masters, like Chandler and Mickey Spillane, for their language as much as their plots. These days a couple of my favourites would be James Ellroy, since he puts such complicated stories together with apparent ease, and John Connolly, because he blends crime with the fantastical, which I’d love to see more of.
You’re well know for your supernatural/horror thrillers for young adults. Is there a supernatural angle to Lady of Shades?
Yes. Ed is literally haunted – he sees several ghosts. He assumes they’re figments of his imagination, but wants them to be real, because if they are, it will mean he isn’t mad. As the book progresses, Ed’s world spins more and more out of control, but you don’t find out until the end whether or not he truly has crossed over into a realm of the supernatural, or if it’s all in his mind. And even then you might be left with questions…
For you, how is writing for adults different to the teen market?
The obvious difference is, yes, you can include sex and more challenging violence, although my YA books are very bloody too! But I’m more interested in the grey area it lets me explore. In my YA books, I tend to differentiate quite clearly between good and evil. In Lady of the Shades, the lines are blurred.
Have you got a taste for this crime thing? What’s on the way from you?
I hope to do more books like Lady, as it was a blast to write, but I think I will always weave between and around genres, so I’m not going to make any predictions about where I might go next, as I’m not 100 per cent sure myself!
Lady of Shades is out on 30 August in print and on Kindle, from Orion. You can pre-order your copy below. Watch for our review, and the chance to win a copy here on Crime Fiction Lover, coming soon.