Friday 25 September 2015

UKYA Shot interview with Samantha Shannon

Helloooo lovely book lovers! Today we're back on the UKYA Shot blog tour and are giving a very warm welcome to Samantha Shannon, fellow Londoner and author of the fantastic 'The Bone Season' and 'The Mime Order' and I couldn't wait to talk about what it's like to live and write about London and more importantly...libraries! So here we go! 

1. I loved on your blog that you talk about wanting to know about the HOW and the Why's of the world you build, so I was wondering if you could tell us a little about your writing process and how you develop the ideas? (I know this is somewhat touched upon on your website already)
 I’ve always found it quite difficult to describe the process of developing ideas. I usually have an inkling of something, or get a burst of inspiration from somewhere, and then ponder it until it begins to expand. I’m still developing new ideas for the series now; one thing I write will spawn another. The first real spark of The Bone Season was seeing shops selling crystal balls and tarot cards in London. With worldbuilding, I ruthlessly interrogate the world I’m creating in order to make it as believable as I can.

2. Though the books are set in London, it's quite a different London (one glaring reason being set in the future), were there key elements you wanted to keep, and were their things about it you wanted to change of your London in the books?

The London of my books is seen through a distorted glass. The story begins in the year 2059, but the city is spliced with the London of the nineteenth century, peppered with slums and suffused with a mixed fear and fascination with the occult. I wanted to keep it recognisable, so there are plenty of landmarks, but they're usually defamiliarised in some way. Westminster Abbey features as a decaying building called the Thorney, for example, named after Thorney Island, which is the name of the island the abbey was originally built on. I love the interplay between reality, history and fantasy in cities, and I love bringing them together in my books. 

3. This may sound a silly questions but just go with me on this, you grew up in London, do you ever feel like your walking though your books?

Oh, absolutely! That’s not a silly question at all. It’s not just London – whenever I walk through a new city, I mentally convert it into what it would be like in the world of The Bone Season. I’ve done it in Manchester, Paris, Edinburgh, Dublin . . . I often look at my surroundings through the lens of my writing.

4. What role do libraries play in your research?

I didn’t use libraries to research The Bone Season directly, but I did bring in history that I learned during my English Literature course at Oxford, which was supplemented with a great many visits to the faculty and college libraries. It was such a privilege to have access to a library at St Anne’s College, a minute’s walk from my room, which stayed open 24/7. I have fond memories of sitting among the bookshelves with nothing but a pile of books, burning the midnight oil. I have also made far greater use of the library for a second fantasy project I’m currently working on alongside the series. The world is inspired by various periods in history, many of which I haven’t studied before, so I’m pretty much learning about them from scratch. I was struggling to get hold of reference books that didn’t cost a fortune, so I recently joined the British Library, where I can go for a few quiet hours of reading. I think it’s brilliant that I have so many books at my fingertips now – I don’t know what I’d do without that resource.

5. Can you share with us some of the more weird or interesting things you've learnt when researching your books?

A newly hatched dragonfly is called a nymph. (Stumbled across that one while researching my high fantasy project. I doubt I’ll ever use it, but I thought it was lovely.)

6. What role have libraries played in your life as a reader? Was there one book you would regularly borrow when you were growing up?

I remember visiting my local library quite often as a child. I grew up in Hillingdon, a borough in West London, in a town called Ruislip – I still live close to it now. The nearest library to my house was called the Manor Farm Library. It’s a beautiful Grade II-listed building, part of a historic site. There was something truly magical about stepping into it. I don’t think there was any book I borrowed on a regular basis, but there was always something new to discover. I’m fairly sure that’s where I first found A Clockwork Orange, which was a big influence on The Bone Season.

7. If you were able to travel to another era, which would it be and why?

Somewhere between the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. I appreciate that’s a pretty broad range, but I love all of those periods.

8. If you could jump into another books, which would it be and why?
Hm. Probably Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. It’s a beautiful world.

9. What authors have you taken inspiration from?
Margaret Atwood, Anthony Burgess, George Orwell, John Wyndham, John Donne, Emily Dickinson, and the Brontë sisters.
10. Lastly, can you tell us something about you that we might not know? 

I’m terrified of the sea. Absolutely terrified. 

Don't forget to check out the rest of the UKYA Shot blog tour, the full schedule and lots of other information you can find over here:


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