May 19, 2014

An Author a (Mon)day: Samantha Shannon

An Author a (Mon)day is my sporadic feature where I ask authors a few questions about anything - themselves, their books and writing, to name a few. While it doesn't happen on a regular basis, you can be rest assured that it always happens on a Monday!

Last year, I was one of the lucky winners of a Twitter contest for an ARC of The Bone Season + a meet and greet with author Samantha Shannon. She and I had tweeted a couple of times, so I was really excited to meet her! She was gorgeous in person, and incredibly nice, and after our conversation, I was even more excited to read her book. I did read The Bone Season and loved it, so much so that I shared my ten reasons I thought everyone should read it tooSamantha is incredibly talented, and her writing is gorgeous and lush. She is also seriously one of the coolest, smartest people I know! Without further ado, please welcome Samantha to the blog!

Alexa: Thanks for joining me on the blog today, Samantha! First of all, let me tell you - I really liked The Bone Season. Where did you get the idea for the novel? And did you always know it would be a series?

Samantha: I’m so glad you liked it! The idea for The Bone Season came from the district of Seven Dials in Covent Garden, where I was doing an internship at a literary agency in July 2011. There are a few shops in the area that sell crystal balls and offer psychic readings and other such esoterica. I started to wonder what it would be like if there was a society of clairvoyant people living in London. I rolled that together with a previous idea I’d had about supernatural creatures controlling Oxford – the city where I was studying – and The Bone Season was born.

Alexa: Did you have to do some fun research when writing The Bone Season, and its upcoming sequel, The Mime Order?

Samantha: Most of the research for The Bone Season was poured into creating the Seven Orders of Clairvoyance, which is my "magic system". I wanted my clairvoyant society to be a cross-section of historical types of divination, extending to encompass twenty-first century parapsychology. I did quite a bit of reading about classical and Renaissance impressions of augury, soothsaying and so on. After that I moved on to nineteenth-century Spiritualism, mainly using The Book on Mediums by Allan Kardec. Paige’s gift incorporates a fair bit of research on the paranormal: out-of-body experiences, astral projection and so on. Although I did a lot of research, I wanted to put my own spin on each type, and I invented a few that have no historical precedent (e.g. summoner). I’m hoping Bloomsbury will publish the pamphlet I wrote to accompany the book, On the Merits of Unnaturalness, at some point this year. Another strand of research was Jewish mythology, where I found the words “Rephaim”, “Sheol” and “Emim”. 

Alexa: How does it feel to be a published author nearly a year in? I'm sure it must be really exciting!

Samantha: Still wonderful and overwhelming. Two years after getting the book deal, it hasn’t quite sunk in. 

Alexa: Are you excited about going on tour again for The Mime Order this year? What was your favorite thing about getting to tour and travel last year? 

Samantha: I’m very excited. I love traveling, and I feel very lucky to be able to travel for work and meet readers from many different countries. One of my favourite cities was Bucharest in Romania – its architecture is beautiful. The best day was definitely feeding kangaroos in sunny Australia last year with my publicist. 

Alexa: Since I'm a writer too, let's talk about writing! Did you always know that you wanted to be a writer?

Samantha: Since I was about twelve or thirteen. I did write before that, mostly short stories, but that was when the urge to write every day really kicked in and when I knew I wanted to do it as a career. I made my first serious attempt at writing a novel when I was fifteen. 

Alexa: Do you have a writing routine? Tips? Quirks?

Samantha: I get up in the morning between 7am and 8am and make myself a big cup of coffee, check my emails and do social media or blogging, and start writing around noon. I tend to write slowly but solidly until quite late at night. I aim to sleep at around 11pm but often the writing urge will kick in when it turns dark, and I’ll end up writing past 1am. I usually write for at least eight hours a day, if not more. 

I sometimes find it difficult to give tips, as there’s no such thing as “one size fits all”. What works for one writer might not work for another. I do think it’s vital to have the right mindset when you write, especially with the intention of being published. You need to maintain a balance; to believe in your story, but also stay grounded enough to critique it when you edit. Always keep in mind that literature is subjective, and that there is no right or wrong way to tell a story. Don’t be afraid to experiment.

Alexa: So, now on to more fun things – the future! First, what's up next when it comes to writing? And reading? I'm already excited about The Mime Order and any future additions to The Bone Season series.

Samantha: I’m currently editing The Mime Order and planning out the unnamed third book. I did start the manuscript for Book 3, but have since decided to start again, as I completely changed the ending of The Mime Order during the first round of edits – which, in turn, affected the beginning of Book 3. Reading, I have no idea. I read a lot of Bloomsbury books, as I can snag proof copies from their HQ in London. Perks! 

Alexa: And now, back to the present day. What are your favorite current reads, TV shows or films and music? I'm still not over how great Raised By Swans is to listen to.

Samantha: Favorite TV shows are My Mad Fat Diary, Sherlock and Game of Thrones. My Mad Fat Diary provides both a brilliant, non-judgmental insight into mental illness, and an amazing ‘90s Britpop soundtrack. Books: I just read an ARC of My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff. It’s wonderful – the true story of the author while she was working for the literary agency that represented J. D. Salinger. I’m about a quarter of the way through an upcoming YA steampunk novel called Take Back the Skies by Lucy Saxon, which will be out in June this year. As for music, my taste remains largely in the early twentieth century (Billie Holiday, Ruth Etting, The Ink Spots), but there’s a few modern songs I’m a little obsessed with: ‘My Blood’ by Ellie Goulding (from the Divergent soundtrack), ‘Let it Go’ from Frozen (who isn’t?) and of course, anything and everything Raised by Swans. The new RBS album should be out this year, fingers crossed. You’ll be seeing more old-fashioned music in The Mime Order.

Alexa: In 5 years, where would you be? What would you be doing, and with who?

Samantha: According to my schedule, still writing the Bone Season series. In my office. Or maybe someone will have dragged me outside to get some fresh air by then. 

Alexa: It is finally spring! What are your favorite spring activities or trends?

Samantha: I’m definitely more of a winter person – I was a November baby – but I do love Easter. Spring is also lovely because my tortoise comes out of hibernation. It’s nice to see him pottering around the garden when the sun’s out.

Alexa: Thank you Samantha! It was such a pleasure to have you on the blog. I'm super excited to see you when you come to NYC this year, and to grab a copy of The Mime Order as soon as I can!

If you want to find Samantha online, you can check out her blogher Twitterher Facebook page, and her Tumblr

The Bone Season - Samantha Shannon
The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication Date: August 20, 2013

It is the year 2059. Several major world cities are under the control of a security force called Scion. Paige Mahoney works in the criminal underworld of Scion London, part of a secret cell known as the Seven Seals. The work she does is unusual: scouting for information by breaking into others’ minds. Paige is a dreamwalker, a rare kind of clairvoyant, and in this world, the voyants commit treason simply by breathing.

But when Paige is captured and arrested, she encounters a power more sinister even than Scion. The voyant prison is a separate city—Oxford, erased from the map two centuries ago and now controlled by a powerful, otherworldly race. These creatures, the Rephaim, value the voyants highly—as soldiers in their army.

Paige is assigned to a Rephaite keeper, Warden, who will be in charge of her care and training. He is her master. Her natural enemy. But if she wants to regain her freedom, Paige will have to learn something of his mind and his own mysterious motives. (from Goodreads)

Why should you read this book?

I'm going to point you in the direction of a post I wrote with ten reasons you should read this book. But other than that, if you're a fan of lush writing, inventive new worlds and strongly drawn characters, you're going to like this book.


  1. I love reading about authors' writing habits and styles, as well as what motivated them to start in the first place. I always think that, perhaps...just might get me in the mood to finish one of my many WIPs. I've yet to read THE BONE SEASON, but it sounds like a fantastic read, as well, and it's one I'll clearly be picking up soon! Thanks for sharing, Alexa and Samantha!


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