‘I’d much rather the book was viewed in its own right’ – An Interview with Samantha Shannon
10 years ago Shaili Desai 4
Very rarely, does a 21 year old manage to get a break in the Literary world. A three book deal (out of a seven book series) with Bloomsbury Publishing is what has shot Samantha Shannon, a student of English language and literature at St. Anne’s College till recently, to sudden fame. Out of all the books releasing in the month of August, the first book of the series, The Bone Season (releasing on 20th August, 2013), seems to be most eagerly awaited by literature lovers around the world. On top of it all, the movie rights to the book have already been bought by Imaginarium Studios. And yet, Samantha has just graduated from College.
Very kindly, Samantha answered some questions in an email interview to Books and a lot more.
“It’s such a huge relief. There was a point at which I was worried I wasn’t going to pass my degree — my mind was often on the book, not my studies — but fortunately I ended up getting the grade I wanted,” said Shannon, on being asked about how it feels to have graduated.
No doubt, she is relieved, having done with graduation and now, she has the release to look forward to. There are also enormous expectations. She had been touted as ‘the next J K Rowling’, even before her books have released.
On being asked about it, Samantha said, “The ‘next JK Rowling’ tag originally came from the similarity of the book deals: seven fantasy books with Bloomsbury. There’s really nothing more to it than that. I don’t think The Bone Season and Harry Potter are particularly similar — I’d much rather the book was viewed in its own right. Besides, why do we need a new JK? The original is wonderful as she is.”
What she says is true. Every book has a right to be viewed as a piece of unique writing. No doubt, The Bone Season promises to be unique and magical. I ask her how her writing was discovered by Bloomsbury.
“The Bone Season got some attention at the London Book Fair 2012; my agent took it there shortly after he took me on as a client. He also sent the manuscript to Alexandra Pringle, who is editor-in-chief at Bloomsbury. Alexandra doesn’t normally publish fantasy, with the exception of The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller and Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke, so when she offered me the deal it was a huge surprise — I couldn’t quite take it in. It’s still overwhelming over a year late”, she replied.
Samantha continues, “It doesn’t really stick to one genre — I just wrote the story I wanted to write, regardless of what I call ‘genre etiquette’. I think boxing books into categories discourages experimentation in fiction.”
The Bone Season, is essentially a series about Paige Mahoney, who works in the criminal underworld of Scion London, part of a secret cell known as the Seven Seals. The year is 2059 and a security force, known as Scion, controls most of the major cities of the world.
The work Paige does is not ordinary. She breaks into the minds of others to look for information. She is what is known as a dreamwalker, a rare kind of clairvoyant, and clairvoyants are outlawed in this world. But then she is kidnapped and arrested, and the prison is a separate city-Oxford, not on the map and an otherworldly race known as the Rephaim. These creatures, the Rephaim, value the voyants highly—as soldiers in their army and Paige is assigned to a Rephaite keeper, Warden, who will be in charge of her care and training. If she wants to regain her freedom, Paige will have to learn something of his mind and his own mysterious motives.
I am curious about the main character, Paige Mahoney. I ask her whether she’s a strong character and if she’s been modeled on somebody in real life.
“No, I didn’t — she’s completely imaginary. Paige came to me very suddenly; her voice just appeared in my head and flowed on the page. She is ‘strong’ in that she’s relatively independent, plucky and has a powerful sense of what she perceives as right and wrong, but she’s also very vulnerable — she has a lot to learn, both about others and about herself. Under all the bravado there’s a young woman who isn’t sure of her place in the world,” says Samantha.
I ask her about her favorite parts of the book.
“I have a few favorite parts, but the one I most liked imagining was when Paige enters a butterfly’s dreamscape. I also really love the dialogue between Warden and Paige. They’re polar opposites in many ways, but it’s one of my great pleasures to write the interaction between them. “
I wanted to know about her, what made her tick. “If I’m not writing I’m usually reading. I’m very book-orientated”, she says.
It’s not easy to be a published writer by the age of twenty-one. Many people harbor a dream of writing a book someday but never really sit down and write. Instead, they wait for that ‘perfect’ moment when a great plot line will strike and words will automatically flow. Some who do write, lose heart when publishers do not think the writing is worthy enough to be published.
Samantha advises, “Don’t be afraid to experiment, be open to constructive criticism, and most importantly, don’t give up at the first hurdle.”
Now that she is free from college and studying, Samantha has already started work on Book 2 of the series.
She informs, “I’m working on Book 2 in the series at the moment. I want to give my full attention to The Bone Season and its sequels for the foreseeable future, but I do have a couple of other ideas for novels up my sleeve — but I’m unlikely to write them until after this series is complete. “
It looks like we’ll have to wait a while for those other ideas from this talented writer. But thankfully, we have a whole new series from her to look forward to and devour!
If this interview with Samantha Shannon is not enough for you and you want to know more about her, you can follow her on Twitter (@say_shannon) or on her blog. Her Pinterest page is also quite interesting, with information about her characters in the book!
The Bone Season, releases on 20th August, 2013. Check out the trailer of the book below:
You can also pre-order the book using the links below: