21-Year-Old Novelist Samantha Shannon on Her Debut, The Bone Season
Samantha Shannon’s “inspiration for The Bone Season, the ambitious first novel in a projected seven-part series to be published by Bloomsbury, came from an internship with literary agent David Godwin the summer after her first year at Oxford. “Godwin had recently passed on Shannon’s first book, about an alien falling in love with a human girl, which Shannon started writing when she was 15. Shannon parlayed Godwin’s rejection into a two-week job at his agency in the Seven Dials area of London. Within six months, Shannon had completed a[nother] manuscript.
“The Bone Season, which will be published August 20, follows a 19-year-old “dreamwalker” named Paige Mahoney through a dystopian future in which police-state Britain has outlawed clairvoyance, shipping those with “unnatural” powers off to a secret penal colony where Oxford University once stood—and where Paige is soon sent. Godwin promptly took the novel to the London Book Fair, where it caught the attention of Alexandra Pringle, editor-in-chief of Bloomsbury, the house of Harry Potter fame. Pringle offered Shannon a six-figure deal for the first three books, a notable sum for a new and untested author. “It’s unusual to have this level of support—the advance, the marketing push,” says Nancy Miller, editorial director of Bloomsbury U.S. “Everything we’ve done with Samantha is unusual. I think for any book it would be extraordinary to have this level of buy-in from absolutely everyone, but she’s a debut novelist, so it’s even more extraordinary.”
“Shannon has since been lauded as “the next J. K. Rowling.” rights have sold in 21 countries, while three major studios vied to make the movie. Shannon turned down Hollywood offers to go with Andy Serkis and Jonathan Cavendish’s the Imaginarium, in part because they offered her consultation rights with veto power. Since then, she’s been dreaming up the perfect casting, a difficult task since the characters, as she’s envisioned them, don’t quite match anyone who’s actually living (with the notable exception of Jaxon, the head of Paige’s clairvoyant gang, who “would definitely be played by Benedict Cumberbatch”).”