A second-year undergraduate at St Anne’s has received a three book deal with Bloomsbury, the publishing house responsible for bringing out the Harry Potter books.
English literature student Samantha Shannon-Jones has been given a deal for the first three of her seven-book “urban fantasy series”.
Although she didn’t want to ‘give away too much’, Shannon-Jones told Cherwell that the stories are set in a “dystopian” world, where criminal clairvoyants exist. The first book is entitled ‘The Bone Season’. The main character is a 19 year old clairvoyant named Paige, who flees from a life of crime.
The tale is set in the Oxford of 2059, a town which has been kept a secret and off-limits by the government, named Scion, because (it is claimed) it is full of poison. There, Paige meets Warden, who looks after her.
The works are partly inspired by the Margaret Atwell’s A Handmaid’s Tale and Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange.
Shannon-Jones, also Art and Literature Representative for St Anne’s College JCR, told Cherwell that she had working on the first book for “about a year”, working through her prelims, and has been writing since age 13. She said her friends and family have been ‘very supportive’, although also rather surprised, believing she had given up writing after her first book.
According to her blog, Shannon-Jones spent the first months of university solely working on her first novel, Aurora, “a sci-fi romance epic”. She had been working on it since early 2007 and it was somewhere near 200,000 words when it was completed – what Shannon-Jones describes as “a real monster”. The book started to impact on her health, and she told Cherwell that having to abandon it, after its rejection by multiple publishers, was ‘very sad’.
After a family friend put her in touch with David Godwin, founder of literary agents David Godwin Associates in London, Shannon-Jones also showed him the manuscript for Aurora, which he “did not particularly want”. However, she applied for and got work experience there, with the intention of discovering how her writing could be made better.
Shannon-Jones’ opportunity came when her tutor Matthew Reynolds encouraged budding writers to send chapters of their work to Ali Smith, author of Hotel World and many short stories, and Weidenfeld Visiting Professor of Comparative Literature for the term at St Anne’s.
Smith said that she loved the first chapter of The Bone Season, and that Shannon-Jones should send it to agents as soon as possible. Shannon-Jones again sent the novel to David Godwin, who decided to represent the book, taking it to the London Book Fair.
Shannon-Jones told Cherwell that her advice to young writers was, “Believe in yourself, but be able to take constructive criticism, and be able to assess your own work.”
Alexandra Pringle, editor-in-chief at Bloomsbury, commented, “Samantha is just fizzing with ideas. The book is an utterly consuming adventure and we are committed to the seven.”
Thomas Catteral, a second-year St Anne’s classicist and friend of Shannon-Jones, said, “Sami’s absolutely amazing. She has worked incredibly hard both before she came to Oxford and while here, and the fact that she’s getting published even while she’s dealing with the work that Oxford and her extra-curricular activities provide is a testament to the sort of person she is.
‘On top of that, she is one of the kindest souls I know, and that she gives so much of herself means that this book deal isn’t luck – she has worked incredibly hard and thoroughly deserves it.”
Alongside writing, Shannon-Jones is currently organising St Anne’s Art Week this week, and has been marketing manager for several plays including Dangerous Liasons, which has just finished at the Oxford Playhouse.
The Bone Season is due for release on September 12th 2013.