books

Interview – Samantha Shannon

24/12/2014

1. Why did you choose to write a dystopian novel?

I first became interested in dystopia after reading Margaret Atwood’s The
Handmaid’s Tale
, which is still my favourite novel, when I was eighteen.
The authenticity of the dystopian America she created really unsettled me. I
wanted to write something similarly disturbing and (hopefully)
thought-provoking, but also introduce a fantasy element into the world, as I
enjoy mixing up genres.
 
2. How do you get your ideas?
The core idea for The Bone Season came from walking around Covent
Garden in London while I was doing an internship there. I was working in the
district of Seven Dials — where some of The Bone Season is set — and
noticed a few shops that sold crystal balls, tarot cards and the like. I
started to wonder what it might be like if London was populated by a secret
world of clairvoyants.

 

3. How important is it to have a strong protagonist in a dystopian novel?

I’m not really keen on the word “strong”; I prefer
“complex”. A character doesn’t have to be physically strong to be
interesting and dynamic. For me, it’s important that no character is
“good” or “evil”. All of them must be the heroes of their
own stories, with their own reasons for doing what they do. The wonderful thing
about dystopia is it forces you to examine a character’s ethics and motives, as
they’re often thrust into terrifying and life-threatening situations. 
 

 

4. What should the opening to a dystopian novel include?
There is no rule about how to write a dystopian novel, but you need to
hook the reader. That’s the same for every book.

 

5. What writing tips can you give to budding writers?

 Don’t worry if you haven’t planned out every last bit of your story before
you start writing. Sometimes it’s good to let the characters guide you. If you
find yourself getting tired of writing, or it’s becoming a chore, step away
from the manuscript for a while and do something else. When you come back to
it, you’ll be refreshed and ready to write.

 

6. What other dystopian novels have caught your eye? 

Recently I fell in love with Station Eleven by Emily St. John
Mandel, which is more of a post-apocalypse than a dystopia. It’s a beautiful,
haunting story about the importance of art and the collapse of civilisation
after a virus called the Georgia flu wipes out most of the population. I
also enjoyed The Girl With All the Gifts by M. R. Carey, which is a
brilliant new take on a well-known type of dystopia, and The Maze Runner by
James Dashner.

 

Here’s where you can find Samantha online:

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 

 

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