Hello, book dragons!
I’m bringing this post to you a little later than intended because life has been super busy *SHAKES FIST*, however, I’m extremely excited to be giving you the inside scoop on the Samantha Shannon in conversation event I attended at the end of February, celebrating her new release The Priory of the Orange Tree!
For those of you that don’t know, Priory is a high fantasy standalone novel that’s loosely based around the myth of George and the dragon, which is pretty freakin’ awesome!
I’m still quite new to attending bookish events and I do get a little nervous about them, but the team at London Waterstones Picadilly made everyone SO welcome, even offering us a free glass of wine. Um, VIP TREATMENT OVER HERE!?!
My friend and I arrived pretty early but the room was already half full, buzzing with excitable energy. When Samantha walked onto the makeshift stage there was a large whoop and a round of applause. Joining her and chairing the interview was Alwyn Hamilton. While I haven’t read any of her novels, I really want to now because she was such a funny and vibrant speaker and really set the tone for the evening!
As the questions began, Samantha seemed a little nervous, but she soon settled into a rhythm wowing us with her knowledge. I’ve seen her speak a couple of times now, and she’s always absolutely brilliant!
Here are some of the more interesting bits of the evening broken down!
ON THE ORIGIN OF PRIORY
- Samantha advised that her journey with Priory actually started about 20 years ago. She recalled being at church singing a hymn about George and the Dragon, and feeling a distinct sense of injustice for the dragon when it was slain by the human!
- Samantha Shannon’s love for dragons started when she was young. She loved Cornelia Funke’s Dragon Rider series and one of her favourite movies was Dragonheart (which is also one of my absolute favourites, too!)
- Samantha was part way through writing the 4th Bone Season book when the idea for Priory started to form and refused to leave her alone. She soon realised she would struggle to complete TBS4 while it was competing for space in her head. Working on two projects at once would actually work well for her!
- Samantha wrote Priory in part to fill the female character void she experienced as a young fantasy reader (she admits that she didn’t come across any of the big female fantasy writers at the time)!
Samantha discusses her inspiration.
ON THE WRITING
- Samatha based the setting of Priory roughly around 16th and 17th century, taking inspiration from both Western and Eastern cultures (hence the split name chapters East and West).
- Samantha spent a LOT of time researching for Priory, which included many days hanging out in the British Library with her fellow writers. At one point, her friends had to guide her off the writing ‘ledge’ after 3 days researching a specific type of otter fur for a character’s hat. (This definitely got a collective chuckle from the crowd!)
Samantha’s overenthusiasm about otter fur!
- It took Samantha a year and a half to come up with the naming system for her new world.
- Most fantasy writers use either top-down or bottom-up world building, however, bucking the trend, Samantha uses a combination of both! She gets just enough structure for her world (top-down), but then moves on to bottom-up, otherwise, she feels like she could get lost in all the minute details and end up with no characters/story. To her, ultimately, ‘the character is the engine of the world’.
- Samantha told us that she took inspiration from both Western and Eastern dragon mythology. The Western dragons are more volcanic and destructive, with fiery bellies, while the Eastern dragons are more peaceful, lucky and have an affinity with water (she admits that the dragon on the front cover is ‘technically’ the wrong colour).
Alywn asks the big questions about worldbuilding.
ON THE CHARACTERS
- Tane a dragon rider in training was the first character that came to Samantha.
- Samantha considers Roos, one of the POV characters to be salty marmite, and she can’t wait to see how readers will react!
- She considers the character Loth to be a cinnamon roll!
- Samantha made the active decision to ignore the restrictions of racism, homophobia and gender norms of the time period she was basing her novel in. Although she feels there is absolutely a place for historical accuracy, she doesn’t understand why the characters need to be chained to this. “BUT THERE ARE DRAGONS!” Samantha advises passionately, and after all, if dragons aren’t historically accurate why should the characters’ oppression be?!
Samantha scoffing at historically accurate repressed characters.
Now for what you’ve all be waiting for…. the giveaway!
As the universe works in mysterious ways, I actually ended up getting two copies of Priory. Unfortunately, my second copy didn’t come early enough for me to get it signed which is annoying! Anyway, I’ve decided I would like to give it away because I really don’t need two copies, and I would love to share the bookish joy with someone who hasn’t had the chance to purchase Priory yet or perhaps can’t afford to get it right now (its an expensive book, man)!
A FEW GROUND RULES…
1.) As I will be posting this myself, it will be UK ONLY, I’m so sorry my international friends, I wish I had the money to extend this further!
2.) Please only enter the giveaway if you are 16 or older (or have parental permission).
3.) You will need to be willing to give out your postal address to me – this will be used for giveaway purposes only.
4.) Winners will be selected randomly – you can have multiple entries to improve your chances!
5.) The giveaway will close on the 31st March at midnight!
Enter via this Rafflecopter link. Good luck!
Have you read any of Samantha Shannon’s novels? Are you excited to read Priory (or maybe you’ve already read it)?!
Should I give Alwyn Hamilton’s books a go?
Tell me about your favourite books, movies or TV shows that feature epic dragons!