Group: What were your biggest influences as a child? Were you always a fan of the horror genre?
I always loved horror, but I read all sorts of books. My favourite as a child was The Secret Garden which has a big influence on Lord Loss, believe it or not!
Bethany, Year 9: Is there a special place where you do your writing, or can you write your books anywhere?
I can write them pretty much anywhere, but I do almost all of my writing in my office in my home in Ireland, where it's peaceful and quiet and there are almost no distractions.
Group: As an established and well-loved author, what are your thoughts on the impact of pleasure reading for YA readers?
All reading should be pleasurable! I don't like people who keep reeling out the "books are so important" line. First and foremost, reading is about entertainment, the same as movies, video games and music. I think sometimes parents and teachers can push children away from reading by telling them it's something they MUST do, the same way they MUST eat their greens and MUST pass their exams in school. Poppycock! Read or don't read – that's your call. All I will say is that reading is a hell of a lot of fun and you'll miss out on a lot of great stories if you choose not to be a bookworm.
Daniel, Year 8: How long did it take you to write the Cirque Du Freak series?
I think it took seven years. You can find the dates when I started and finished in the back of the last book, Sons Of Destiny.
Kyle, Year 9: I love the Demonata series; it is definitely the best for me. With Saga being about vampires and Demonata being about demons, what made you think of writing those after the Saga series? Did you think about linking them?
Lord Loss started with the poem that appears at the beginning of the book. I wrote the poem several years before the book and kept thinking that the character of Lord Loss deserved more space, but I couldn't think of a story that would work for him. Eventually I came up with it when I was playing around with ideas for a werewolf book. I wrote it as a one-off, but I kept thinking about him and other demons after I'd finished, and it eventually grew into the ten-book epic that it became.
Kyle & Bethany, Year 9: We loved the twist in book nine, Killers of the Dawn. What made you do that with the story or was that always part of the plan from the start?
I knew from fairly early on that Mr Crepsley would fall during the course of the series. The story was really a coming-of-age tale more than anything else, and it was important for Darren to be able to prove that he could stand on his own two feet and make crucial decisions by himself.
Daniel, Year 8: I love the character of Paucar Wami – what, if anything, inspired you to create him?
He wasn't actually in the first few drafts of Procession of the Dead! I came up with him when I was writing Hell's Horizon (the second book in the series), although I'm not even sure he was in the first draft of that either! But eventually he wormed his way into the story and just became more and more important in every rewrite.
Alex, Year 12: The book Procession of the Dead – it's a world away from the style of the Saga series. Do you prefer writing for an older audience?
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Bethany, Year 9 and Mrs Khalil: We love Harkat, he is our absolute favourite of all of your characters. How did you come up with the species of Little People?
I included Little People in Cirque Du Freak, but I didn't know who or what they were! When I came to write the second book, I had to figure it out, so I started asking questions and they grew from there.
Alex, Year 12: In the Zom-B books, not only is the theme about zombies but it touches on other serious issues which a lot of readers can relate to – do you think it is important as a YA author to include these in your stories?
It's not crucial, but I think most good books are reflections on the times in which they were written, even if they're fantasy books. I wanted to write about racism and xenophobia in 21st Century England and Ireland, but I wanted to do it in an exciting way, so that I could reach more readers. Zombies seemed like a good way to do that.
Bethany, Year 9: Do you have a book out of all those you have written which you enjoyed writing the most?
Yes — The Thin Executioner, a one-off book I released a while back, about a young boy whose goal in life is to chop off heads for a living when he grows up! Like Zom-B, it's a book that was inspired by what's been happening politically in the world for the last couple of decades, and I think I love it so much because it's a story of hope and the power that we all have to change.
Kyle, Year 9: I liked the idea of you using your own name as a character – did you consciously decide that yourself from the start or was it suggested to you?
Etoile Etoile Isabel Sand Marant Isabel Espadrilles I decided on the name. I first came up with Darren Shan as a pseudonym, to separate my children's books from my adult books, which I originally released under my real name, Darren O'Shaughnessy. But I knew I was going to start the book by saying it was all true, so I then realised that I had a golden opportunity to use Darren Shan for the main character's name as well, and introduce the possibility that the story actually could be true.
Alex, Year 12: Apart from using your name for Darren's character, is there one of your characters who you most relate to? If there is not one, why not?
There are elements of me in all of my main characters, but none of them is a direct representation of me, not even Darren in the Saga. Of all the characters, the one who maybe is most like I was as a teenager is actually Kernel Fleck, from Demon Thief.
Bethany, Year 9: Have you had any of your books rejected in the past?
Yep, loads! In fact Cirque Du Freak was turned down by twenty different publishers before it was accepted! And I still get rejected, even today, though mostly with my books for adults. I'm not someone who writes to a set, established formula. I like to break the rules and come up with different types of stories. Every publisher will tell you that they love writers like that – but in truth, they don't, because they don't know how to sell books that are different!
Group: If you could have an author superpower, what would it be?
I'm happier without superpowers, to be honest. I think achievements in life only really matter when we've had to work hard to achieve them. Shortcuts such as superpowers only lessen our accomplishments. Any goal in life should require hard work, sacrifice, dedication. If success just drops into your lap, you'll never be able to properly enjoy it. The fight is what defines us, not the end result.