Alexander Gordon Smith

Archive for the Category Philip Ardagh


Meeting My (Hell’s) Hero!!!

And they say horror authors don't always wear black...


I’m just back from an amazing weekend at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. It was amazing in loads of ways, but mainly because I finally got to meet one of my all time writing heroes, Darren Shan. That’s right, DARREN SHAN!!! The guy is an absolute legend, and I actually got to hang out with him. Me and Darren, hanging out, how awesome is that?! In case you can’t tell, I was thrilled!

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m a huge Shanster – I even mentioned him in Lockdown, when Alex and the others are in their cell reenacting their favourite stories. The truth is that if it wasn’t for Darren then Furnace would be very, very different, and might not even have existed at all! The Saga of Darren Shan was a huge influence on my writing – I absolutely loved those books, their non-stop pace and fantastic blend of action and horror, and reading them really gave me a sense of what kind of book I wanted Furnace to be. When I found out that Darren was reading Furnace Lockdown, a couple of years ago now, I was so delighted. And when he give me the quote “Hotter than hell and twice as much fun, sign me up for a life sentence” I think I almost went into shock!!

So I’ve always wanted to meet Darren, to say thanks and to chat about books and writing – and this year I was lucky enough to not just meet him, but to do a show with him!! It was a panel event, alongside the wonderful Barry Hutchison – whose series Invisible Fiends is one of my absolute favourite reads this year – and chaired by the inimitable Philip Ardagh (a fellow Faber author), who is simply one of the most charming and witty people in existence. We started the panel by reading out an extract from one of the books which inspired us to write horror (Salem’s Lot for Darren, Something Wicked This Way Comes for me and a choose-your-own-adventure horror for Barry – sorry Barry I can’t remember what it was called, but it was so funny!). Then we chatted about why we love horror, what makes things scary, and loads more! We finished off by reading some of our own work, including my first reading ever from Furnace 5. All in all it was awesome, although we could have ran for another hour easily!!

Afterwards we did a signing, although I have to say that I was doing considerably less signing than the others. At one point I was tempted to start signing post-it notes, tablecloths, Barry’s arm, just so it looked like I was doing something! But the people who did come up for signed copies of Furnace were all brilliant, and very nice (thanks everyone!), and it really was a smashing afternoon. And although I was a little nervous about meeting Darren, purely because he is a hero of mine, I didn’t need to be – he is a really lovely guy!

I look about five foot tall next to these guys! (And I can't remember why we were standing next to the toilet... Or why Philip has me by the ear...)

That afternoon we all went out for a drink, along with Darren’s awesome girlfriend Bas, her friend Pam, and Darren’s publicist Mary. Barry and I almost didn’t make it as we got lost in a rather dodgy part of Edinburgh (I blame him, he’s Scottish and should know his way around)! But we got there in the end and enjoyed a few whiskies in the coolest bar I’ve ever been in (the Frankenstein bar!) and a delicious meal (Haggis spring rolls!) before going to see a hilarious comedian (Sam Simmons, I think, I was a little tipsy by then). And all in all it was pretty much the best day ever.

On the Sunday I went to see Darren’s epic show, where he performed the entire Cirque du Freak series, start to finish, in just under two and a half hours. It was nothing short of spectacular. In the afternoon I did my own show to a small but perfectly formed crowd, then rushed back to the airport for my flight back to Norwich (I flew! Aren’t I brave!). It was a whirlwind trip, but an absolutely fantastic one. So thanks to everyone at the Edinburgh International Book Festival for being so lovely (and they really are), hopefully see you all next year!