'The Bone Season' with Samantha Shannon

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Late in the chilly winter of 2014, I was on the hunt for a thrilling page-turner. The Bone Season first attracted my attention on what some of us call 'BookTube' (i.e. book youtube), where a number of bookworm personalities went on and on about how great and different 'The Bone Season' is. Then, I ran to Waterstones. I read it in a day. I predominantly read Young Adult fiction (don't roll your eyes at me!), yet I still found this book as exciting as I imagine an actual adult would. 
   Whether you're looking to broaden your perhaps limited YA horizons or are simply keen for a well-written fantasy with a hugely likable protagonist, make sure to give The Bone Season a read. The paperback edition was released on July 2nd in the UK, so for all of you UK based Citizens, there's no excuse to avoid picking it up. 

Having approached Samantha Shannon with questions flying around my mind, I was lucky enough to receive very satisfying answers to my queries.

WRITTEN CITIZEN: Do you think you were born with a love for literature or did a book in particular spark the interest?

SAMANTHA SHANNON: I started reading when I was very little. I don’t think any particular book set it off.

WC: Tell us about your workspace, your processes, and how you get stuff done. 

SS: My workspace is a lovely little office in my parents' house – I'm hoping to move out this year, but for now, that's my writing area. I work pretty solidly for at least eight hours a day. However, I do sometimes struggle to avoid social media, and I'm prone to headaches and migraines, which can stop me from getting things done as fast as I'd like.

WC: What is your favourite and least favourite part of the writing process and why?

SS: Finishing the first draft always feels wonderful. I love the final stages of editing too, when you've done all the heavy lifting and you're just polishing and tidying. My least favourite is probably structural editing, where you realise a whole chapter needs to be moved and carefully integrated back into the story in its new position. It’s satisfying once you get it right, but it leaves you at risk of leftover inconsistencies. 

WC: I've heard that some writers have a playlist or soundtrack to keep them charging through their writing. Do you have one? If so, what is it?

SS: My playlists for the first two books are here: [x] [x]. I generally prefer music without lyrics.

WC: When you were fifteen, you completed your first novel, Aurora, which was rejected by a number of publishers. What aspects do you think hindered any potential success in particular?

SS: It was just quite boring, really. I worked all the best parts into The Bone Season. My agent, who looked at Aurora and rejected it before he accepted The Bone Season, said it just wasn't 'rooted' enough – I hadn't gone into much depth about anything. Not the characters, not the world-building, not the plot. I also wrote in response to a popular genre (post-Twilight paranormal romance), which is never a good idea, and used far too much purple prose. 

WC: You wrote the first draft of what became The Bone Season when you were studying English Literature at university. Did you ever get bored of constructing and polishing the same story? What did you do to overcome these emotions?

SS: Oh, no, I love it. It's a privilege to be working on a long series – it gives me the opportunity to explore the world and the characters in so much depth. Editing can be a little tiring, as it's close work and requires a great deal of concentration, but it's worth it.

WC: I read about how the idea for The Bone Season blossomed whilst you were commuting near Seven Dials (and proceeded to hunt for a notebook to scribble away). Do you tend to have other sudden 'Eureka!' moments which you know will become a part of your story? How do these ideas become reality?

SS: I tend to have eureka moments when I'm about to fall asleep! When it's quiet and dark, my brain goes into overdrive and comes up with its best ideas. I have to grab my phone and text the idea to myself. (My phone is full of jumbled notes that only I can understand.) For my new fantasy manuscript – not related to The Bone Season – some of the central ideas came from my little brother asking me to help him with his history homework. You never know when inspiration's going to strike.  

WC: Amongst your books' characters, with whom would you say you connect most strongly and why? Aside from Paige of course, who I would assume is the most obvious choice.

I'm not really like Paige, but I do understand her more intimately than I do any of the other characters, as she's my narrator and I'm in her head. I feel a certain kinship with Eliza and Jaxon, as both are Londoners and creatives, and both take a great deal of pride in their work. Warden is the character who's been with me the longest, so I'm very fond of him, too. 

WC: Through following your Twitter account, it seems as though we have both enjoyed similar titles within the Young Adult genre, such as Throne of Glass and The Mortal Instruments, both of which feature epic female protagonists. However, do you think it's important that we break free of the (as you so aptly put it): 'STRONG FEMALE CHARACTERS™' expectation, and why?

SS: I think my Tumblr post best explains my thoughts on STRONG FEMALE CHARACTERS™, but in short, I think it's a well-meant term with harmful implications. What we need in our female characters is variety and complexity. We also need to look at what makes our female characters different from one another and celebrate that, not just keep comparing them to those who came before. We also need to move past the persistent idea that independent, interesting women in fiction are a new phenomenon. Joss Whedon was asked in 2006 why he wrote them, and we're still asking each other the same question nine years later. 

WC: Why, in your opinion, is creativity important? Who are your greatest influences?

SS: Creativity is everything to me, and I feel very lucky to have a job which allows me to express myself through fiction. I just finished a book called The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley, which summed it up beautifully: "Your science can save a man's life, but imagination makes it worth living.
Today's society often sees the arts as useless and 'soft', but a world without art, books, film, theatre, and dance and all other sorts of creativity would be a miserable world in which to live.

WC: In an interview, you said that after your first novel, Aurora, which you completed when you were fifteen, you lost hope in pursuing a career in writing. Aside from not giving up, what advice would you give to other aspiring writers out there?

SS: Definitely don't give up at the first hurdle. I don't know many authors who didn't hit at least one setback or rejection on their way to being published. Write what you'd want to read – not what you think the market will like. And don't be afraid to start again. 

SS: The film rights to The Bone Season were bought by The Imaginarium. (Congratulations, by the way!) Is it important to you that the creators stick rigidly to the book, or would you be keen to see them take their own spin on the tale?

SS: Because there are so many book adaptations nowadays, and because fans are extremely passionate about the source material – which is wonderful – I think it's entrenched an expectation that films should always stick rigidly to the book, and any deviation is a 'betrayal' of the fans by the filmmakers. But film is a very different medium, and what works on the page doesn’t always work on the screen. It's also important to appeal to an audience that has never read the books. A film has to be good in its own right, rather than just a good adaptation. While I'm protective of certain aspects of the plot, I'm happy to be flexible. I know the film team care enormously about the books.

WC: What are your hobbies outside of writing?

SS: Writing is my hobby and my career. I love reading, of course, but my non-literary hobbies are pretty much non-existent.

WC: Were you the hostess of a dinner party, which five people, dead or alive, would you invite?

SS: Hm, difficult! Let's go with… Margaret Atwood, Emily Dickinson, Neil Gaiman, Oscar Wilde, and Joanne Harris.

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