"All writers aspire to be like JK Rowling"
The comparisons with JK Rowling emerged well before Samantha Shannon's debut title, The Bone Season, hit bookshelves. Yet, the young author seems rock steady in her focus and enthusiasm as she tells Fiona Fernandez in an email interview, about her writing choices, her fascination for all things paranormal, having never met the iconic writer and being a part of the Harry Potter generation.
Why or what piqued your imagination to write, and that too in between lectures?
I started writing The Bone Season when I was nineteen years old, shortly after completing an internship at David Godwin Associates (DGA), a literary agency in Seven Dials, a small district in London. While I was there, I had a vivid image of a girl having the same day at work as me, but she happened to be clairvoyant...and The Bone Season was born. I sent the finished book to the same agency in April 2012 and it was bought by Bloomsbury, a month later. I was mostly an indoor girl at the university. Where other students did drama or music or sports alongside their degrees, I wrote. I used to work on essays and class work and on the The Bone Season in the evenings.
You’ve already been dubbed The next JK Rowling; how are you taking fame on your young shoulders? Is the comparison overwhelming, so early?
It’s been overwhelming. I’m a young, unknown author and there’s a lot of anticipation to live up to. Having said that, it’s been great to have so much early interest in The Bone Season and I’m very grateful to reviewers and publications for spreading the word about it. I’m a huge fan of Harry Potter and devoured the books with every new release. I was born in 1991, so I’m very much part of the ‘Harry Potter generation’ -- those whose childhoods just wouldn’t have been the same without it. JK Rowling is a luminous storyteller. I love her sense of humour and the intricate wizard world she built around Hogwarts. All writers aspire to be like her, to capture readers like she does, but I didn’t think about Harry Potter when I wrote The Bone Season. The comparison came from our similar deals: seven fantasy books with Bloomsbury.
What about the sci-fi/ paranormal genre interests you?
I’ve always been drawn to fantasy and sci-fi, but when I first tried my hand at fiction, I wrote realism --- a story about a girl whose brother had died, another about a boy suffering from a congenital disease -- little fragments of prose that explored emotional states and difficult situations. It was only when I started novels that I wanted to go big and create my own worlds. When I was fifteen, I wrote a long sci-fi novel called Aurora, which was never published (and I intend for it to remain in a dusty box in my attic until the end of time). I want to concentrate on The Bone Season and its sequels for the foreseeable future, but I do have a half-finished manuscript for a standalone novel, inspired by Isaac Asimov, which I might return to when The Bone Season series is complete.
How different will this be from the already flooded space for this genre?
What makes The Bone Season unique is that it’s a fusion of genres: paranormal, dystopian, mystery, with traces of steampunk. I abandoned what I’ll call “genre etiquette” and wrote the story I wanted to write, even if that meant mixing features of multiple kinds of fiction.
>> Have you ever met JK Rowling? No
>> Favourite author: Margaret Atwood, John Wyndham and George Orwell first piqued my interest in dystopian fiction.
>> Biggest inspiration/idol: Emily Dickinson and John Donne are two of my biggest inspirations.
>> One book you would loved to have written: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller