Some excerpts from my interview with Samantha Shannon, which appeared in the August State of the Thing newsletter. Samantha is the author of The Bone Season, the first volume in a seven-part series, released just yesterday by Bloomsbury.
Do you recall which part of The Bone Season came to you first? Was there a particular moment that inspired the novel?
I was doing an internship at a literary agency in Seven Dials—a junction in London where seven streets meet—when I had the idea. I imagined a girl having the exact same day at work that I was, but she happened to be clairvoyant.
The Bone Season is set in 2059, but in an alternate world which diverged from our own in 1859. I’d love to hear how you set about developing the universe in which the novel takes place, and the sorts of things you had to consider as you did so.
I wanted my clairvoyant society to be a cross-section of historical types of divination, so I did quite a lot of reading about classical and Renaissance impressions of augury, soothsaying and so on. Scion evolved in my mind as a response to the criminal underworld (whereas in the story itself it’s vice versa), and I did a lot of thinking about how to create a believable world in which clairvoyance is persecuted, and about what the people of Scion might hear, see, feel and think in their everyday lives.
Oxford was perfect for The Bone Season. Although it’s a modern place in many respects, there are still vestiges of archaism and tradition, and its spectrum of old buildings, from various centuries, give it an eerie sense of being frozen in time.
Who are some of the authors you particularly admire or who’ve had some influence on your own writing?
Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale was what first got me interested in dystopian and speculative fiction, alongside Orwell and Wyndham. I specialised in Emily Dickinson at university; her poetry inspired many of the themes I want to explore in later Bone Season books.
What books have you read and enjoyed recently?
Samantha also talked to me about working with Imaginarium Studios on the film version of The Bone Season, and told me what she’s liked most about the publishing process. Read the rest of our interview.