THE NEXT BIG THING: SAMANTHA SHANNON

Samantha Shannon by Thomas Kavanagh

We’ll be blunt. Samantha Shannon is an overachiever. She’s written a novel, sold the film rights and managed to do a degree all in the space of three short years. Did we mention that novel – The Bone Season – just got her on the holy New York Times’ bestseller list? That the company who bought her film rights are behind The Hobbit? And the degree was at Oxford?

Okay, so we felt just a tad lazy after hearing that but also inspired to go and see what all the fuss was about. We managed to get our paws on a brand new copy of the sci-fi romance and cottoned on to its addictive fantasy world within the first few sentences. It’s been compared to Harry Potter and Twilight, and needless to say, it’s a big deal! So obsessed were we by this young writer we just had to get some insight and chatted with her on studying, sci-fi and aspiring writers.

When did you know that you had to be a writer?

I’ve known since I was about thirteen, which is when I first put pen to paper.

You were writing this whilst also studying – how did you manage to balance the two?

I had to be very strict with myself: essays during the day, writing The Bone Season at night. I think the need for good timekeeping actually helped my progress rather than hindered it – it gave me a sense of discipline, which meant I got a first draft done in six months.

There seems to be a real trend for smart sci-fi and fantasy at the moment – what drew you to the genre? Are there any writers – your contemporaries or otherwise – that you read and love?

Fantasy is a writer’s playground, the place where rules are made to be broken. It offers a freedom that no other genre can match. I’ve always been drawn to it. As a kid I remember reading Chris d’Lacey’s Last Dragon Chronicles, and when I was a teenager I read Tolkien and Asimov. My favourite author is Margaret Atwood; her novel The Handmaid’s Tale was what introduced me to dystopian fiction. I’m also a big fan of George Orwell, Emily Dickinson, John Donne and the Brontë sisters.

Did you have any direct inspiration for your lead character of Paige? 

The voice came before the character. It was the first time I’d ever tried writing in first person. Paige’s voice just burst out of me, demanding to be written down.

What is it about the character of Paige that you think readers will be drawn to?

I hope very much that she’ll be a relatable character. She’s flawed – a bit cocky, a bit foolish – but she has a strong moral compass and absolutely refuses to submit to her captors, even when it would be easier to keep her head down. Under her front of confidence, though, she’s a vulnerable young woman who isn’t yet sure of her place in the world.

How important was the love story element for you?

It was never the focus of the book – I didn’t want the plot to take a back seat. The plot was always first. Warden and Paige’s relationship was a great pleasure to write. It’s slow-burning. They gradually break down one another’s façades. They’re from very different worlds and backgrounds – he’s a Rephaite, she’s human, two species that are entirely at odds with each other – and I’m aiming to explore all the challenges and problems that will bring in a realistic manner. There’s a spark between them by the end, but I wouldn’t call it a ‘love story’ at this stage.

Your book features the idea of getting into someone’s dreamscape – can you explain to our readers who haven’t picked up the book yet what that means?

There are some fairly complex mechanics (I call them ‘ethereal mechanics’) at play in The Bone Season. A dreamscape is a private space in your mind, a kind of safe haven where your spirit dwells. Clairvoyant dreamscapes gives off one of seven colours, which gives them an aura. Paige, as a dreamwalker, can leave her own dreamscape and enter those of other people – an impossible feat for most other clairvoyants.

What would you say to any young aspiring writers?

Always be open to constructive criticism, try to write something every day – and most importantly, don’t give up at the first hurdle.

What’s next on the cards for Samantha Shannon?

Book 2!

Get your hands on a copy of the most sought after book of the season, here.