First of all, yes, this IS the end of the Saga, and of the character Darren Shan –- he won’t be returning for more adventures!! But it MIGHT not be the end of my books about vampires and vampaneze! I MIGHT write a few books about Mr Crepsley’s early life one day. And I MIGHT write a series of books set in the future, in the world of Book 10, which will flesh out what I had planned for the final third of the series –- only with a different lead character! But those are a lot of MIGHTS!!! For now, just enjoy the Saga’s end, and start looking forward to plenty of books about demons!!!!
Now, as I said in the Book 11 section, originally I planned to write between 18 and 24 books. So, why stop at 12?!? Well ... it's complicated!!
When I wrote the first book, I didn't plan to write a big long series -- I thought maybe 3 or 4 books at most. It was only when writing book 2, and planning book 3, that I began to visualize the overall shape and length of the series. I had loads of ideas, lots of story-lines, and heaps of different things I wanted to do with this character who shared the same name as me (even if it's not my REAL name!!).
Back then, and for a long time after that, I thought there would be anywhere between 18 and 24 books. The reason there were going to be so many wasn't because I enjoy repeating the same story over and over again (like Enid Blyton or R.L. Stine), but because halfway through I planned to change the whole tone and direction of the series, and take it fully into a fantasy setting -- the world and time of book 10. Basically, my plan was to wrap up the hunt for the Lord of the Vampaneze (as I'm doing), then shift the action into the future, when the world had fallen to the Lord of the Shadows. I'd have taken some characters and story-lines through to this second half of the series, but also introduced a lot of new plots and people.
Then an odd thing happened. As I prepared to write the first draft of book 11 (which was where the first half of the series was meant to end), I realized that the ending of the Saga (which I've known since around the time of book 2) could fit in here just as easily as it could at the end of the second half.
Well, at first I just smiled at the thought -- I had no intention of stopping. The books were selling well, I was enjoying the ride, and looking forward to playing out the rest of my ideas. So I went ahead and wrote the book, and then, several months later, I also wrote the first draft of what WOULD have been book 12 -- and that was called THE CANNIBAL KING.
The trouble was, while writing book 11, and during the months between 11 and 12, I couldn't get the thought out of my head that the series could end here. And, the more I thought about it, the more it seemed to me that it SHOULD end here! There were many reasons why. Here are a few of them.
(i) Darren's age. This is a series meant for children and teens (even though lots of adults read them too!), and so it's logical that the main character should be a child/teen. Which Darren had been for a long time, thanks to his vampire blood. But the time had come for him to grow up. I couldn't keep him trapped in a youth's body any longer. And even though I looked for ways around it (and found them!), I found that I couldn't keep his "voice" young. Darren had become an adult, and he spoke and thought like one, and that presented me with a very big problem -- how could I get children to relate to a main adult character?
(ii) Darren didn't fit into the future. I quite liked THE CANNIBAL KING, but it was all-out fantasy, and although I'd already done a fantasy book with Darren (Book 10), this was different. A different time, with different people, and Darren didn't suit it. I thought this would be one of the strengths of the second half -- exploring Darren's alienation in an unfamiliar world -- but I quickly found that it just made him look out of place and unsuitable for what I planned to do with him.
(iii) Des Tiny. I've been learning about Mr Tiny all the way through the series. He's revealed himself to me bit by bit, becoming more and more important and powerful, book by book. By the time of book 11, I realized the full extent of his power and import, and realized that he was just too damned BIG for Darren to go up against (one of the themes I wanted to flesh out in the second half was mankind's battle against destiny, and if we have the power to make our own future). We learn in book 12 (the NEW book 12 -- SONS OF DESTINY) just how influential Mr Tiny has been in Darren's life, and how Darren, the vampires, vampaneze and many humans have basically been pawns, used by Mr Tiny to turn the world the way he wants it turned. Knowing this took the edge off of the action scenes in THE CANNIBAL KING and the others I planned -- knowing that the characters involved were just playthings of Des Tiny made them seem less significant and interesting. That bloody meddler had grown to the extent that he dwarfed all around him and ruined a lot of my planned plots!!!!!
There were other reasons too. Lots of them. And the more time passed, the more reasons I found, even though I didn't want to find them! I still thought I could pull it off, which is why I ignored my gut instinct and wrote THE CANNIBAL KING, but by the end of it I knew I had to allow the story to do what it wanted, and finish.
It wasn't an easy decision. Hell, it was the hardest thing I've ever had to do!!! For an entire year I fought against what the story was telling me, and held to the notion that I was going to carry on. I argued with myself constantly, trying to find holes in my reasons for stopping, refusing to admit the possibility of ending early.
And then, one day, when I finished T.C.K. and realized it wasn't working, I sat down and asked myself what my reasons for carrying on were. And I discovered that I only had one reason to continue, and that was:
I was afraid people would mock me, or be angry that I'd stopped early. I was afraid people would think I'd run out of ideas, or lost my nerve and decided to quit while I was ahead. I was afraid nobody would want to read anything else once I stopped, and that my earnings would nosedive. (A very serious concern -- with the books doing so well, I've lost out on a LOT of money by not writing 6 or 8 more books of the Saga!!) I was afraid my fans would turn against me and never trust me, feeling I'd let them down.
And as soon as I realized all this, I made up my mind instantly to stop. Because, you know what? You should NEVER let fear make your decisions for you!!! I believe we should all act positively, following our minds and hearts, doing what we believe is right, not acting to please other people or to fit in with what others think is right.
I've always written "purely". I enjoy telling stories, and I've always written stories that I've enjoyed, simply because I enjoy writing them. Some of those stories (The Saga) have been huge successes. Others (the 2 adult books I published, and many more which haven't been published) haven't. Want to know something crazy? I don't really care!!! I mean, sure, it's wonderful when they sell well, and fans come on board, and you get the chance to travel and buy lots of cool stuff. But I enjoyed writing the "failures" just as much as the "successes", and the ones which haven't been published are every bit as important and dear to me as the ones which have sold millions of copies all around the world.
To make it short -- I've never sold out. I write what I want to write, because I like writing. If some of my books succeed and make lots of money -- fab! And if movie companies want to buy the rights, and make merchandise, I'll happily take their money -- why not?!? But I've never written a book or story JUST to make money. Nobody's ever paid me to write a book, or told me what to write. And I've never written something just because I'm afraid of what would happen if I didn't write it.
So -- I stopped. The series wanted to stop at book 12, and it was right. I can see now that it's the logical, best place for the story to end. This is a coming-of-age story, a story of 2 best friends who become worst enemies, a story of a boy who learns to stand on his own two feet and deal with whatever life throws at him. It's Darren Shan's story, and when book 12 comes out I'll have said all I need to say about Darren. EVER. To say any more would be futile.
And that's why there will "only" be 12 books.
p.p.s. For anyone wondering about The Cannibal King, it's VERY unlikely that this will ever be published, certainly not in the near future, since if I DO write a follow-on series to the Saga, I'll be using many of the ideas from T.C.K., so naturally I won't want fans knowing about them in advance!!! But maybe, one far-off day, I'll release it in one form or another, just so people can see what the second half of the Saga would have been like if I'd gone the way I originally planned.
But no promises, so don't bug me about it!!!!!
Here is the site!