Not-your-average-20-something, Samantha Shannon earned a seven-book deal with Bloomsbury after her debut novel The Bone Season took the summer by storm. The birthday girl, just today turning 22, has been compared to J.K. Rowling and Suzanne Collins. But Shannon shies away from becoming the next ‘Big Name’ and has her sights set on writing the sequel to her book.
Zola: At the age of fifteen you wrote a sci-fi epic called Aurora that was never published. What sparked that initial interest in writing a novel? Do you think you’ll ever attempt to rewrite Aurora?
Samantha Shannon: I’d been writing for about two years, but I’d never written anything that was intended for publication. I’d read novels all my life and I finally decided that I wanted to have a go at writing one. I’m not intending to rewrite or publish it. I’m glad I wrote it – it was a stepping stone, a practice book – but I don’t see any point in returning to it now.
Zola: The Bone Season was written when you were 19 (you’re now 22) and six more books are planned to follow. Did you know when you began that this would be such a large undertaking?
SS: I knew it would be big, but I wrote The Bone Season so that it could arguably be read as a standalone novel – I wasn’t sure if publishers would want to sign an unknown début novelist for a long series. I was thrilled when the editors at Bloomsbury were very open to the idea of a seven-book series.
Zola: You’ve been likened to J.K. Rowling with her Harry Potter series, and to Suzanne Collins with her Hunger Games trilogy. How do you feel when people make those comparisons? As a fan of the Harry Potter books yourself, do you feel a certain pressure to live up to those expectations?
SS: I think readers naturally make comparisons between books, but I shy away from the idea of a ‘next Big Name’. I don’t think The Bone Season is at all like Harry Potter, bar the fantasy genre and the seven-book series. I knew from the beginning that I wouldn’t live up to that expectation: The Bone Season isn’t Harry Potter, and I don’t want readers to go into the book expecting it. I love JK Rowling – her books shaped my childhood – and the idea of a ‘new’ one makes it seem as if the original is passé.
Zola: In an interview with Herald Scotland you said, “I’m looking for a Warden since I’m so in love with him.” He’s a character you pulled from Aurora. What is it that attracts you to him, and when did you decide that he would be a good fit in this new series?
SS: The Warden of The Bone Season is very different to the character of the same name in Aurora – it was really just his name and basic appearance that I carried over – but I still feel most attached to him, out of all the characters, having worked on the idea of him for so long. He’s the one that has been gestating the longest.
Zola: Do you plan for anything else from Aurora to carry over into the series?
SS: I started to sketch out the basic idea for the dreamscape in Aurora – a safe place in a person’s mind – but that’s already been transferred and developed in The Bone Season. I’m not intending to carry anything else over, no. I wanted a clean slate, with only the very best ideas from my older work.
Zola: How much of the rest of the series do you have planned right now, and how much do you think will change once you begin writing it?
SS: I use what I call the ‘flesh-and-bones’ structure: I know the key points in every book and what I want to achieve in each one, but I let the characters write themselves to some extent – they flesh out the story. I think it takes the fun out of writing if you have every tiny detail planned. You have to allow room for spontaneity and manoeuvre.
Zola: Do you know how it all ends?
HAPPY 22nd BIRTHDAY, SAMANTHA!
This article originally appeared on Zola Books.