Samantha Shannon and The Bone Season

Before I launch into my belated ‘Big London Book Fair Blog Fest’ (now that I am, for the most part, out of the Master’s Assignment Bubble of Doom), I thought I would write a little blog entry about Samantha Shannon and her debut novel The Bone Season (out 20 August 2013).

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon (Bloomsbury, 2013)Last week I had the pleasure of going to Samantha Shannon’s first ever bookshop event at Waterstones in Oxford, and the even greater pleasure of talking to her afterwards.

I found her first on Twitter, I can’t remember quite how but I do remember reading an article hailing her as the next J. K. Rowling so naturally I was intrigued. I found her blog, began reading and suddenly found myself getting very excited about The Bone Season. Before the event, I was lucky enough to get my hands on a proof copy of the novel – I devoured it quickly and when I was finished, I wanted more. I, for one, can’t wait until the hardback is released.

The event was relaxed, with a somewhat amusing introduction, which made me love Waterstones a little bit more than I already do. Samantha’s talk was given from a plush-looking chair to an eager audience which overflowed from the allocated seating with people dotted around the various tables on the shop floor. The talk took place almost a year exactly since she secured her book deal during last year’s London Book Fair and encompassed everything from her unsuccessful novel, Aurora, to her opinion on the New Adult genre.

The Bone Season, she said, was written across six months – a number which shocked, astounded and impressed me, how could she have enough time to have written the whole of the novel in six months? She led us through a whirlwind tour of the publishing process as it was for her; a collaborative experience, both enjoyable and challenging.

After a brief synopsis of the novel, she delved into her influences (Emily Dickinson, John Donne) and her view on the fantasy genre. A cross-genre opportunity allowing for experimentation perhaps more than any other genre. While marketed as an adult novel, she acknowledged that her novel could be classed as New Adult due to its 19 year-old protagonist, though the novel does not contain the sexual themes found in most New Adult titles. She talked of the potential of New Adult beyond the sexual themes, as a bridging genre.

Her talk ended on a note of encouragement to the budding writers of the audience, and to the readers. She confessed that it took writing a whole novel to realise that the voice she was using was not the one for her.

In the Q&A session that followed she was asked about her dream-cast, as her novel’s film rights have already been sold, a question she was asked recently by Andy Serkis, whose studio The Imaginarium Studios own the rights; about clairvoyance and how much of it she believed in; Paige, the novel’s protagonist, who she confesses to living vicariously through; how she plans her novels and her characters and how much of the series is written; Ireland; Oxford, which she beautifully called ‘a city of contradiction’ which draws fantasy authors towards it; the balance between university and authordom (a feat of time-management and non-procrastination though no English Literature student gets up early), and the supportiveness of her tutors.

Once the talk was finished I bounced my way across to introduce myself and there is one word that I feel best sums up my impression of Samantha: Lovely. She allowed me to quiz her on all the things I didn’t get to ask during the Q&A, including her involvement with the cover and covers from other territories, which was a lot more than I thought it would be. Bloomsbury, she said, have been very accommodating when it comes to getting the look of her book perfect both for them and for her. During London Book Fair she even got to put input in on the design for one of the publishers from another territory (though, I have forgotten which one). We even got some casual fangirling into our chat, always fabulous.

The event was wonderful, with friendly, smiley staff and a pleasant atmosphere. I can’t wait to see Samantha Shannon’s career progress and am eagerly looking forward to the release of the hardback (and the reviews that will follow!).

Barefoot Books, Oxford: I found myself in Wonderland

I found myself in Wonderland by Elou Carroll

I found myself in Wonderland by Elou Carroll

Last weekend, I popped into Barefoot Books to pick up a copy of The Snow Queen and The Twelve Dancing Princesses, when asked if I wanted them to be gift wrapped, I proudly announced that the books for me; I read them that very same day and they read as beautifully as they look. Barefoot is a beautiful place, and a publisher I would very much like to secure an internship at (fingers crossed for my application!) and perhaps one day work. The studio is not just a bookshop. It’s like a day out; if I had children, I wouldn’t take them there just for a look, I would take them there for an experience. We would stay there for hours (and then buy everything).

In the words of Leah Lesser from the Barefoot blog:

When was the last time you walked inside a store and felt as if you had entered a different world, or stepped inside your favorite story?

When I stepped into Barefoot, I found Wonderland, Narnia, Neverland… I was in another place, plucked right from somewhere magic. As soon as I stepped through the gate, I bubbled with excitement and as soon as I opened the door my face was taken over by the most gigantic grin. Everything was so bright and colourful and the first thing you hear is children giggling in the back. One child was so excited about the books that he couldn’t stop running around and almost told his dad which book he would choose for him for Christmas. I don’t think I have ever seen a child so excited, let alone so excited in a book shop.

It was beautiful to see and that little boy is one of the reasons why I would love to work in children’s publishing. To make a child that happy, that awed about books, would be a wonderful thing.

Below is a video of the studio in question. While you can’t feel the magic properly until you’ve been there, this can give you an idea.

I have never seen a book shop I have loved so much. I am collecting a street in my mind, a street filled with beautiful book shops. Some are old, some are new, some I’ve not yet visited  but Barefoot sits at the top, on a hill, a bright light with the wind rushing whirring around it like rustling pages.

Barefoot books: The Snow QueenBarefoot books: The Twelve Dancing Princesses