“Shiver” interview – evoking a mood of dreamy dread

My old mucker Kevin Corbett very kindly interviewed me this week for his newspaper, the Limerick Leader. We talked about Shiver the Whole Night Through, Young Adult fiction in general, how all writers want to make a living from it…and for some reason, the Marquis de Sade gets mentioned.

Read all about it here.


“Shiver” review: a “thrilling story that grips to the end”

The very kind Ani Johnson, of thebookbag.co.uk, wrote a great review of Shiver the Whole Night Through. I am mightily pleased and more than a little bit chuffed. I will now cheekily paste up the review here, but do go onto their website for more great book reviews.

Summary: A supernatural YA thriller that evokes teen years so well that those suffering them will nod while those of us past them will nod with recognition. This is a thrilling story that will grip right through unexpected twists to the very end.

Aidan Flood’s life is miserable; he’s not only bullied but he lost his girlfriend to someone who works at the local carnival and even heard that from someone else. Life is just rubbish and needs ending totally. This is something he almost manages to accomplish as well if it wasn’t for a do-gooder passer-by. The next morning while coming to terms with the fact he’s still alive, he hears that Slaine McAuley, a girl he knows vaguely, has killed herself. The only thing is that Aidan knows she hasn’t – she told him herself after she’d died. What did happen to her and why does she choose to tell him, of all people? Aidan is on a mission: he will find out.

After writing some very convincing adult crime novels, Irish journalist and author Darragh McManusoffers us his first YA novel – and it’s a scorcher. Not only does it cover murder (with an imaginatively killed off body count) and a friendship on either side of the grave, there’s also a non-slushy, bloke-friendly love story but I’m getting ahead of myself…

Aidan is someone who any teenager (and anyone who has ever been a teenager) will recognise. He’s beginning to pull away from his parents and build his own idea of the world. However while doing this he’s also more than acquainted with the darker side of growing up. For a while he’s distracted from this as searching for the reason behind Slaine’s death becomes his driving force. But then even darker things start to happen…

Darragh’s treatment of Aidan’s other-worldly relationship with Slaine makes this a paranormal romance that won’t scare off the male readership or the section of the female readership who abhor slushy stuff. This is going to sound daft in the light of Slaine’s super powers (oh yes, they develop gradually but they’re super!) but this is a low key love story that doesn’t get in the way of the action, feeling more life-like than Twilight as well as, for me, more appealing. Indeed, although the story may be from Aidan’s first person perspective, it crosses the he/she divide seamlessly.

Slaine may be dead, but she isn’t the only unusual character Aidan encounters. Oddity is all around him and has been for years – he just doesn’t seem to have noticed it. Which reminds me, there will come a point at which you will feel you know who did it. Enjoy that feeling for as long as it lasts but don’t let it stop you reading after it hits you. Not only may you be very wrong (not giving anything away), it would be a shame to abandon a story that gets more and more tense right up to a lounge showdown and beyond.

Talking of showdowns, Darragh has cunningly made it tenser than out and out scary and, although there’s blood, the violence isn’t hugely graphic. So people who think they have delicate stomachs or may be prone to a fear of turning out lights after horror novels.

It isn’t all dour or nail biting; Darragh enjoys a bit of humour and here ambushes us with the odd giggle, for example when Aidan’s mum decides to give him a life lesson lecture. (For we adults, this is a moment to squirm as we recognise the situation and us being on the end that embarrasses!)

I only felt one slight quibble about the story, otherwise it would have been a resounding 5*. I appreciate that Aidan’s friend Podsy’s uncle being a Garda would help the plot along, but would a Garda or any policeman have told their 14 year old nephew as much as he told Podsy? It’s definitely not the sort of quibble that would put anyone off though as the uncle-led revelations are only a side issue as opposed to the highly engrossing main event.

Age-wise this is a true teens novel, probably appealing to 13 year-olds (and even mature 12s) right up to those of the riper age of 90-teen and beyond. I guess what I’m trying to say (rather clumsily) is that, if you’re going to give this to a YA relative for Christmas, don’t read it first or you may just hang onto it for yourself!


“Shiver” review: “McManus’ best to date”

This from a reader called pdrg on goodreads.com (spoiler alert: he liked it).

I don’t read Young Adult fiction, and I avoid supernatural books like ebola, HOWEVER I loved Shiver the Whole Night Through. The book when you list out what happens would be the kind of book I would hate, for example, quasi-vampires, people who come back from the dead, serial attacks, and a lot of pathetic fallacy, but what I loved about the book was the central character of Aidan. I teach teenagers every day, I know the way they talk, I know how they “suffer”, how they procrastinate and obsess, and I know the way they think and Aidan was spot on.
I had such empathy and understanding for him as a lost boy; clever and sensitive, trusting and caring, honest and genuine, but all the time struggling to be the man the world around him expects him to be. I had empathy and felt solidarity with Aidan, because I saw him as real and genuine, and therefore I went with the supernatural elements of the story and yes I certainly enjoyed it!
The secondary characters were also well formulated and three-dimensional, particularly Podsy who reminded me of friends I had when I was a teenager. The bad-guys were slightly more two-dimensional and had the air of caricatures about them, but they were always less important than the central character of Aidan. The heroine of the book, the ethereal Sláine was equally well developed and layered. She was much more complex than I anticipated initially and while she was a deeply flawed character by the end of the novel, she still managed to come across as believable because of various layers McManus had developed into her character during the novel.
As with YA fiction there’s a great thundering plot and an explosive climax, but McManus never loses touch with the characters and we never lose empathy for them and their struggles. I’ve read all of McManus’s fiction and this is by far the best to date!


“Shiver” reviews: the Telegraph likes it!

Now here’s something nice. The Daily Telegraph – Britain’s biggest-selling paper and a pretty iconic name around the world – has included Shiver the Whole Night Through in their list of the Best YA Novels of the Year. And their writer Rebecca Hawkes – clearly a woman of impeccable taste – has given it a thoroughly good review. I trust the Telegraph folks will indulge me in throwing it up here:

“Just finished Darragh McManus’s Shiver The Whole Night Through, which is now in our YA Books of the year. Part horror, part supernatural romance, Darragh McManus’s first YA novel (the author has previously written for adults) is a dark, enjoyably gruesome read. At the heart of the tale is 17-year-old bullying victim Aidan. Aidan is planning to commit suicide – but local girl Sláine gets there first, crawling out into the forest to die of exposure. A few nights later, an icy message appears on Aidan’s window: “I didn’t kill myself”. McManus’s writing is fresh and pacy, but perhaps the best thing of all about his book is its powerful evocative of a freezing, snow-swept Irish town. Everything from the garlic chips to the slang feels sharply real, while the way in which local history relating to the Irish famine is blended with modern-day action makes for a satisfyingly layered mystery. The author’s inclusion of an atmospheric Spotify playlist is also an interesting bonus.”

Thank you VERY much.


Why smarts are sexy

Can smart be sexy? Of course it can. Indeed, it is – there’s no “can” about it. Nothing more attractive than a woman with brains as well as looks.

Maybe that’s why Amal Alamuddin was the one to finally land the biggest fish in the bachelor pond: George Clooney hisself. She’s beautiful, obviously, but she’s also very clever, accomplished and professionally impressive. She makes the likes of me look like a baboon bashing the keyboard with two fingers. (Which, as it happens, is close enough to the truth.)

I’ve never understood men who don’t fancy smart women, or who find intelligence a turn-off, or somehow intimidating or unattractive. I literally don’t understand this. (Told you I was a dumb chimp.)

Like, what’s the problem here, fellas? Nobody’s suggesting you must choose between intelligence and, say, good looks or sexiness or a pleasant personality or whatever. These things are, believe it or not, all compatible. One doesn’t sort of push the other out of the “package” that is a woman; they can all get along just fine together.

More than that, braininess complements those other qualities, adding to them. I’m not gonna lie, I like a nice ass and legs as much as the next man; but when that ass and legs are accompanied by a clever mind, so much the better.

Why wouldn’t you want your girl to be smart? For starters, most people are kind of boring – sorry, but it’s true. They are.

Sure, glance around you: you’re probably sitting next to a boring person right now. Look at them, sitting there, being boring. Oh crap, they saw you looking – pretend to be waving to someone behind them.

Anyway, being boring, in my opinion, is generally caused by a lack of intelligence. A lack of smarts, quick wit, mental sharpness. Whereas clever people aren’t as boring as everyone else.

Oh, some of them may seem so, but that’s only because the rest of us aren’t bright enough to understand what the hell they’re on about. Einstein might have been a total babe, but the post-coital chat about the different flavours of quarks and the cosmological constant no doubt felt somewhat tedious. But that wasn’t his fault: it was yours, for not being smart enough to follow it.

Also, clever people are wittier than the average bear – in other words, funnier. And who doesn’t enjoy a laugh every now and again? I know I do. In fact I had one just there now, thinking about Einstein’s cosmological constant. Hilarious on so many levels!

There are many more benefits to going with a brainiac. She can sort out all the head-wreckingly complex stuff of life like tax returns. She can help out with that Sudoku or crossword puzzle.

She can work out why the car isn’t running, why the cable TV won’t record that Bachelorette marathon you’ve been jonesing for but can’t watch for some obscure reason, and why your computer is currently making a sort of mewling noise and whispering “Please…release me from this living hell…pleeeease” over and over, ever since you “accidentally” stumbled on that Thai lady-boy live-chat website and rather foolishly agreed to download several apps AKA viruses to your hard-drive.

This is all good, as far as I’m concerned. Above all, though, I still can’t comprehend how any man feels intimidated by an intelligent woman.

So your wife is smarter than the proverbial brain-pie? Well, so what? How does that negatively affect your life in any way? Would it make you more clever if she was a bit of a ditz? Would you be happier if the both of you, and not just you, were staring at the TV programme-link service like confused chimps who’ve just seen Man make fire for the first time?

Why should it matter? Why compare yourself? By that rationale, you’d also feel lousy for being uglier than her, smellier, with a more annoying laugh, more crooked teeth and so on.

Chill out, for God’s sake. Brains aren’t just compatible with beauty – they are beautiful.


“Shiver…” – the second review is in!

And it comes from the lovely Amber Gilchrist at her books blog, Requiem for Readers (a suitably Gothic title for a site reviewing Shiver the Whole Night Through). Amber’s very kindly allowed me to post up the review in its entirety here, but do pay her a visit at her own site too…

“Originally found on the slush pile at Hot Key HQ, truly making it a diamond in the rough! While this is Darragh’s debut in teen fiction, this Irish author brings all of the finesse of his previous adult crime novels, paired with a unique younger voice, creating a thrilling murder mystery with a supernatural edge…

Aidan as a main character is intelligent, witty and relatable. There is an obvious change in him throughout the novel and it’s interesting to see how that change effects the characters around him. There are some pretty heavy themes of suicide, bullying and hooking up or ‘shifting’ (a term used in Irish slang that can mean anything from kissing to full carnal knowledge. I love it!*) Not to mention he pretty much chain-smokes throughout the entire book.

But it’s these darker aspects that make it real and compelling, I mean don’t we all want to read about someone with grit, integrity and a bit of familiarity? Besides, these ‘themes’ are sadly just a part of life and reading about a character who overcomes his fears and limitations can only help the rest of us, right?
There is also a fantastic exploration of history, where the whole town has a grim backstory, a sordid past that, when examined closely, is just downright scary, giving a glimpse of the mythical Ireland I love most. Darragh links the past and present with an ancient evil that Aidan must confront or risk losing the entire town to its frigid clutches.

As a standalone novel it works perfectly well but that’s not to say I don’t want more, because I do. I think there’s a lot more to come in Aidan and Sláine’s story.”

(*NOTE: There has been a certain amount of theological and/or ecumenical debate about the Irish slang word “shift” – a lot of it, weirdly enough, inspired by a comment from Zach Braff on Twitter. What specifically does the term cover? For me, anything from snogging to heavy-petting/making-out/however-it’s-described-in-your-country; but NOT full sex. However, some people – such as Amber above – are happy for it to include “doing the Vince Barnes”. Here ends the lesson.)


“Shiver…” – the first review is in!

Shiver the Whole Night Through isn’t quite out yet – official publication date is November 6, although you lucky people can pre-order here - but the first review is in. And it’s a cracker!

Big thanks to Dominic Kearney, journalist and author of crime novel Cast-Iron Men (www.dominickearney.com), for this very nice review in Belfast paper Irish News:

“Humiliated by his girlfriend and persecuted by bullies, Aidan Flood feels his life is not worth living. He decides to end it all. So begins Shiver the Whole Night Through, with Aidan teetering on the bridge, ready to leap to his death in the icy waters below.

It’s a dramatic start, and one that sets the tone for this, Darragh McManus’ first novel for young adults. Aidan steps away from death, but the world he steps back into is now filled with terror and violence, mystery and magic. His little town, isolated on the west coast of Ireland, is set to fall to the forces of evil, unless Aidan and Slaine – beautiful and enigmatic, not to mention undead – can stop them.

I’m no young adult, but I really enjoyed this book. It’s full of tension and intrigue, and it grips from the word go. There’s heat, ice, history, romance, danger, demons, glamour, hope, despair, and love, and it cleverly combines the supernatural with an uncompromising look at real, important, teenage themes, such as loneliness, bullying, and suicide. And in Aidan, it’s got a good hero, cool, bright, and real.

Nevermind that it has a few inconsistencies. You don’t want to stop reading, and the hints and nudges and red herrings mean you never stop guessing. It’d be no surprise if this is the first in a series of Aidan Flood novels. I hope so.”

May this be the first of many…


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.