Of Oranges: Clockwork and Prize

One of the novels I spoke about in my last blog The Song of Achilles  has won the Orange Prize for Fiction, one of the most respected literary awards in the world. Madeline Miller spent an astonishing ten years writing Achilles, all the time dealing with her uncertainty and guilt that she was writing an adaptation of Homer: something she'd sworn never to do. For more on her story, and how she never meant to write it, you can take a look at her article in the Telegraph.
Sadly, 2012 is the final year of Orange's association with the Prize for Fiction. I do hope they find another sponsor soon; it's such a wonderful boost to talented writers like Ms Miller.  

I have my first 'exam' coming up soon. It's a coursework paper on the English language, the only language-based paper we do at Oxford. The university will release the question on Wednesday, whereupon I'll have two weeks to write an essay and a detailed linguistic commentary. I feel like I've been at uni forever  most people will be leaving the week after next, but I won't be out until 22 June.    

I've been to London twice on book-related business this week. On Wednesday I had lunch in Soho with Alexa. It was still gorgeous weather. I also met Cristina Gilbert from Bloomsbury USA, which was lovely. I'm very excited to work with Bloomsbury's office in New York. I'm afraid I can't yet say what I did on Thursday, as there are lots of things to be sorted first, none of which will be done during the Diamond Jubilee weekend. 

I'm going to copy some of your questions into this entry, as I'd like to expand a little on some of them and I think they were really interesting: 

You say that A Clockwork Orange encouraged you to play around with language. Does your novel go quite over that same cliff of speculative slang? 

It definitely encouraged me to play around with language. Prior to reading A Clockwork Orange, all of my characters spoke fairly standard English, with the sort of slang we speak today. A group of them now use a slang that I primarily based on slang from a particular period of history, mixed with a few quirks of my own. I certainly wouldn't draw a comparison between my novel's slang and that of A Clockwork Orange. It's nowhere near the level of detail that Burgess achieves, and most of it is taken from history. I'm not a linguist and I don't pretend to be. 

I am in awe of Nadsat for its sheer readability, and I never looked at literature the same way after I finished it. I was inspired to develop some kind of street slang for my clairvoyant characters, but it's more individual words and phrases than a whole complex register.

Would publishers still publish a novel if the writer is skint with hardly any money to put into the process?

Absolutely! I certainly couldn't have paid for publication on a student income. The publishing house will pay you what's called a royalty advance; you start earning royalties (a certain percent of earnings) on book sales once the advance is paid off. Self-publishing is where it gets expensive: you have to give money towards the book, do your own publicity and so on. You'd also need to pay a designer if you wanted the book to have a good cover.  

If you have any more questions about publishing or the book, please do ask. For a few more sneaky tidbits about the plot of The Bone Season, check out my recent interview with the Oxford Times.

Thank you very much for all your recommendations for dystopian literature last week: I'm working my way through them! Keep 'em coming.


  1. I would really love to read your book 'Aurora'..is there any chance of reading it? Could we read it online?

    1. If I'm being completely honest, I don't want to put 'Aurora' up online because it just isn't a good book. There's so many things wrong with it. Maybe one day I'll put it up, or rewrite it into something better, but it won't be for a very long time.

  2. I see. :) Well hopefully one day you decide to put it up! Looking forward to reading the Bone Season!

  3. Hi Samantha!

    I have one book recommendation for you. Have you heard about 'Shadow of the wind' ? ('La sombra del viento' in Spanish) The writer is called Carlos Ruiz Zafón and he's an amazing writer. 'La sombra del viento' isn't dystopian but it's really good and worth of reading.

    1. I think I have heard of that book, actually. I'll put it on my reading list. I might try reading it in the original Spanish, see if I'm still any good! ;)

      Thanks for the recommendation x

    2. If I only was that good in Spanish, I would do the same ;)

  4. I'm a bit of a loser, I've been reading everything I can find out about you! I feel like we have alot of similiarites. I'm at uni too at Southampton doing medicine, but all I want to do is write novels, so am juggling school work with writing. No-one knows I write not even my family and only two of my friends (sworn to secrecy), I tried telling my medic friends but they found it ridiculous that I wanted write children's stories instead of being a doctor :(. And for some reason I do my best writing at 2am as well...

    Just finished my manuscript and am in the process of looking for agents, but don't worry no competition from me, I write children's fantasy and actually had no idea what urban fantasy was till I looked it up

    anyway good luck with everything, looking forward to reading your novel, sounds very fresh and original. And read The Northern Lights! It's amazing.

    Steven VS

  5. Hi Steven,

    Great to meet you! I've been to Southampton Uni, the campus is so gorgeous. I really admire your ability to do a medical degree and write novels — English doesn't even have compulsory lectures, so it's easier for me to juggle my time. I'm so sorry your friends find your ambition ridiculous, and that you feel you can't tell anyone about it (although I felt the same after my first attempt at novel-writing failed). Just out of interest, why did you go into the medical field if you were more interested in writing? Were you pushed into it?

    I'd love to read 'The Northern Lights' but I'm going to wait until I've completely finished my first book, as I don't want to unintentionally mimic any of Mr Pullman's descriptions of Oxford while I'm editing 'The Bone Season'. My other books aren't set in Oxford so it won't matter after that.

    Best of luck finding an agent for your novel.



    1. Hmm, well I guess I did well academically and liked science so my teachers and parents suggested med school. I was 18 and just wanted to get to uni and when the offer for med school came I was like yeah, I could be like JD from Scrubs, that'd be alright (disappointingly medicine is not in fact anything like Scrubs). But as I got older I realized something was off, I wasn't passionate about medicine the way my mates were, and that's when I realized there was only one thing I truly loved - writing.

      quick question tho, did you get anyone to read your work before you sent it off and was it helpful? I don't really have anyone to read mine as doing medicine, im surrounded by scientists and doctors (I definintely should've done english lit!)

      Thanks for the quick response btw! I guess I should be thankful, it won't be so easy when you get super famous and I'm leaving e-mails with your assistant's assisstant's dog walkers's second cousin twice removed trying to contact you... :D



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