For a man who spent his formative years as a vampire's apprentice, Darren Shan looks like a man who loves reading and snacking more than running full pelt through a forest in pursuit of a rogue pack of werewolves.
Then again, perhaps those books were more fictional than they first seemed.
Shan was joined @EIBF (today, Saturday August 20, 1.30pm) by Alexander Gordon Smith and Barry Hutchison to discuss horror (their love of reading and writing it) with the extreme bearded comic writer Philip Ardagh.
Together Ardagh and Shan showcased how to do it: a reading event aimed at YA, that is. When it came to delivering an exceprt of his own latest novel (Lord Loss, about Demons being eaten by crocodile dogs, it would appear) he performed a scene with barely a glance at the script in front of him. He knew it off by heart. Similarly, his opening extract - from a book that inspired him - was brilliantly delivered: the scene when the vampire boy comes to the window in Salem's Lot. I doubt Stephen King himself could have done it better. The other authors were interesting in their own right, but both could learn from the well chosen and well executed manner of Shan's readings. Perhaps he, as the best known of the trio, has simply had more practise.
It underlines however just how much of a showman you have to be these days in publishing. There's no point churning out the words if you can't sell them too. For many, many authors (there are exceptions) book festivals offer their biggest chance to reach a wide audience directly. Hutchison and Smith must have snatched at the chance of appearing next to a multi-million best seller like Shan.
Shan - a Londoner who speaks like a city barrow boy, and who sticks his tongue out expressively when he laughs or even sometimes just to punctuate a sentence - also had the best answer to the event's best question. One lad asked 'have you ever had a fight with another author?' Which seemed appropriate enough considering the fantasy violence these guys all write about. Shan recalled criticising Anne Fine for a review of another author's book - Melvyn Burgess I think - which she said was so bad it ought to be pulped. He also mentioned squaring off with Philip Pullman for sniffily saying that "no one should write in first person, you miss so much".
Actually, that was only the second best answer to the 'fight' question. The best was from Barry Hutchison who 'revealed' that he had once punched Jacqueline Wilson in the face. How we all laughed. But as Philip Ardagh said, she was probably asking for it...