First of all, congratulations on the 10th year anniversary! What was it like revisiting The Bone Season for this anniversary edition? What kind of emotions were you feeling?
So many. I was, and am, overwhelmed with relief and gratitude that Bloomsbury allowed me to go back and revise The Bone Season. I feel like a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I’ve spent nearly ten years wanting to edit my debut – to chisel out a stronger version of the story, with the skill I’ve developed over the last ten years – but never thought I’d have the opportunity. I’m still waking up every morning with a huge smile on my face.
Do you think you remember all the little details in The Bone Season? If you were to do a trivia challenge against diehard fans, do you think you could win against them?
I suspect I could, although many of my readers do pay very close attention to the fine details in the series. I’m fortunate that I have a good memory for detail in my own work, which helps me keep track of everything. If only I could also remember to buy milk when I need it …
The Bone Season is an ambitious project – it is a long fantasy series with great world building. Why did you decide to embark on this project for your debut novel?
I wanted to combine the hallmarks of the dystopian genre with the grand scale of an epic fantasy, which necessitated a few instalments. I had a clear vision of the overarching story from a very early point.
What do you wish you could tell the Samantha Shannon who was starting to write The Bone Season?
I’d say that I wished I could have told her to wait a few years, because she was probably a little too young and fragile to be published, but I also know that so much of publishing is about timing, and if I hadn’t chosen that specific time to submit The Bone Season, it might never have reached Alexandra Pringle at Bloomsbury, and I wouldn’t change that for the world. So I think I’d just tell my younger self that it’s going to be okay, because I spent most of my debut year racked with anxiety.
Do you still remember what you struggled the most with when writing The Bone Season?
The editing process was hard, because I was trying to juggle it with a full-time degree and intense media interest. I was fortunate to have that interest, but at the time, I was an introvert who simply wasn’t used to it, and didn’t know how to cope with the pressure. It drew my attention from the edits, which is part of the reason I decided to return to The Bone Season for its ten-year anniversary.
Now that you have written many books, parts of the writing process must have gotten easier. But is there anything that was actually easier when you wrote The Bone Season, compared to when you wrote The Priory of the Orange Tree, or the other books in the series?
I suppose drafting of The Bone Season was the easiest part, because there were no deadlines. I’ve always found deadlines challenging. I’m a perfectionist and chronically ill, and that combination means I tend to write at a slower pace than some of my fellow authors. Consequently, I’ve never met a deadline gracefully – it’s always at four in the morning, after not sleeping well for at least a fortnight.
There are more books to come in the Bone Season series. When did you realize you need to tell this story in 7 books? And if the realization came midway through the project, how did it affect the planning of the books?
I knew from the beginning that seven was the right number of instalments, and I was fortunate that Bloomsbury was willing to commit to that number from quite an early point in my career.
Given that the books are published over a long time span, readers’ tastes and what the market demands must have changed a bit over time. How does it affect your future books? Or not at all due to The Bone Season being a fantasy series?
The Bone Season was published in the wake of the Hunger Games trilogy, about two years after Divergent by Veronica Roth, in a period when dystopian books – particularly those centred on young woman – were at the height of their popularity. That popularity has since declined, but the Bone Season series is a blend of both dystopia and fantasy, and I think that fusion has helped to keep its head above water over the last decade. I also didn’t specifically tailor The Bone Season to slot into the dystopian craze – its publication just happened to coincide with it. Fantasy is in a Golden Age at the moment, and I suspect it will always appeal to a large readership, even if its sub-genres will inevitably wax and wane over time.
And finally, please tell us what you love most about the anniversary edition’s cover.
Ivan Belikov is an immensely talented illustrator, and I love everything about the cover. I particularly appreciate that the two sides represent the main characters, Paige and Arcturus. The left side is Paige – it shows a building in Seven Dials, the district of London where she lives, and the poppies represent her dreamscape, a kind of ‘safe place’ in her mind. The right side symbolises Arcturus, with the iconic tower of Magdalen College in Oxford and salvia divinorum, a plant associated with him in the series. We played with the idea of including character art, but Bloomsbury eventually decided against that, and I’m glad, as I largely prefer the reader to be able to imagine my characters for themselves.