The dystopian and paranormal fiction writer and author of the internationally bestselling "Bone Season" series, Samantha Shannon, tells us all about the books that are currently on her mind.
What’s currently on your bedside table and why?
Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta. It begins in 1968, a year into the Nigerian Civil War, and follows an Igbo woman named Ijeoma as she comes of age and explores her sexuality.
I’m making a concerted effort to broaden my horizons and read more novels set outside Britain and America this year, as I think it’s important to seek out diverse perspectives and not limit myself to familiar settings. I’m only a few chapters in, but Ijeoma’s voice already has me hooked.
Which book would you recommend to your closest friend right now, and why?
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas—a bold and unflinching story about the Black Lives Matter movement, in which 16-year-old Starr is the only witness when her unarmed friend, Khalil, is killed by a police officer. I would strongly recommend it to everyone. It’s an essential read about power, injustice and privilege.
Which books are you planning to take on your next journey, and why?
Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor, Orangeboy by Patrice Lawrence and Fingersmith by Sarah Waters will all be keeping me company on my Song Rising tour. I’m not sure which order I’ll be reading them in yet, but I’ll be using my flight to Arizona to devour Strange the Dreamer, which I’ve made myself save for a long journey so I can read it in one sitting. Laini Taylor is one of my favourite authors, and I’m so looking forward to visiting another one of her exquisite worlds.
Orangeboy has been on my radar for ages, and people have been telling me to read a Sarah Waters book for so long that I thought I should finally pay attention.
Tell us about your latest book?
The Song Rising is the third instalment in my seven-book "Bone Season" series. The narrator, Paige Mahoney, is a 19-year-old Irish clairvoyant living in a version of London where "voyants" are persecuted as unnatural criminals. In The Mime Order, she became Underqueen of the clairvoyant syndicate, and in The Song Rising, she finally has the power to change things—but first she must enter into a duel of wits with her most dangerous enemy yet.
I’m so proud of the finished novel, especially as it took a long time to get exactly right—I was editing and fine-tuning it for months on end. It’s also my most ambitious book so far in terms of scope, as it’s set in three cities: London, Manchester and Edinburgh.
Do you discuss your own work-in-progress with anyone?
Not usually—I’m protective of my early drafts, only showing them to my agent and publisher—but for the Priory of the Orange Tree, a high fantasy novel I sold to Bloomsbury last year, I made the decision to show the manuscript to a few of my close friends.
It’s a hefty book, and I was working on it on my own for such a long time that I felt I needed outside eyes on the writing, and to be able to talk about the world and characters with other people. It was a great decision. Their encouragement was much-needed fuel during the last few weeks of drafting.
Which book made you want to write?
I’m sure most writers from a certain generation say this, but discovering Harry Potter as a child was what first made me believe that I could be an author one day. Before I heard J. K. Rowling’s publication story, I hadn’t really understood that people created stories; it was like they grew on trees. There was a name on the cover, but I never paid much heed to it—I was far more interested in what was inside. Once I figured out that creating stories was a job, it was all I wanted to do.
Although Rowling gave me that first spark of ambition, it was The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood that made me want to write dystopian fiction specifically. Two of my English Literature teachers gave me a copy as a gift before I went to university, and I’m so grateful that they did, or The Bone Season might never have existed.
If you weren’t writing you’d be…?
Read more: 10 Books you need to read in March
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