Reading and Rephaim

The first edit is done! Hooray. Three weeks early. My back is now shot to pieces but it's been worth it. I've now moved onto a side project, related to The Bone Season, which should be done today if I stick to my schedule (although the sun has come out at last, so I probably won't). I won't tell you anything about that yet as there's no guarantee it will ever see the light of day.

Life has turned into a waiting game now. Waiting for the edit to be read, waiting to move house. I spent most of yesterday packing more of my possessions into boxes with my family, and throwing a lot of old clothes away. I didn't realise how much junk I've hoarded over the years. We went to the landfill three times. I feel sick to my stomach when I see how much rubbish piles up at those places, and most of it isn't even broken. I managed to get about half my rubbish into recycling bins, including a tonne of paperwork, but I've promised myself never to buy unnecessary junk again. If I've got one tiny souvenir from a beach I visited ten years ago, I've got twenty. It's insane.   

On the study front – which I'm trying not to think about – I just finished a biography called Lives Like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and her Family's Feuds by Lyndall Gordon. I'm not typically a fan of biography but it was so gripping I could hardly put it down. I've started reading a collection of Dickinson's poetry, but there are so many poems, I can't imagine reading the whole thing. I've also got to work up the determination to write a 4000-word Shakespeare essay at some point. And read six novels. And start studying for Finals. After reading this article I'm now breaking a cold sweat at the mere thought of Finals.

How did the story of The Bone Season come to your mind? Did something special happen or did you suddenly have the idea? 

Lots of things brought on the idea for The Bone Season. One was my experience working in Seven Dials, where there were shops selling crystal balls, tarot cards and various other arcane merchandise. That gave me a strong idea for the setting. I'd also been inspired by my first year at Oxford, and wanted to do something interesting with the place. Then I needed a plot. I love literature about the afterlife and the macabre – John Donne, Emily Dickinson and Edgar Allan Poe are a few of my favourites – and I'd been interested in OBE and parapsychology for a few years. That started to come together in the form of a world populated by clairvoyants, with a 'spirit trade' and a criminal network.

I also wanted to push the limits of genre and audience a little with The Bone Season. Many people seem to think it's a YA (Young Adult) novel. It's wasn't written as YA, and won't be marketed as such, although I hope very much it will appeal to YA as well as adult readers. The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) of America defines a young adult as someone between the ages of 12 and 18, and my narrator, Paige, is 19. I'm 21 this year, and I wanted to reach out to readers of my age, who are usually faced with a protagonist who is 16-18 years old. And there are too many numbers in this paragraph.       

What gives you inspiration?

Tricky one. Lots of things. I'm a night owl; darkness and moonlight tend to give me inspiration. I would love to be able to stick to my natural rhythm, and start working around 9PM. Alas, society doesn't favour the night owl, and I have to stick to my circadian rhythm on most days. I'm also inspired by wandering through London, by colours, and very occasionally by nightmares, which tend to stick in my head more than dreams. I've never dreamed an entire scene, but sometimes the fear or panic induced by a nightmare, even if I don't remember what happened, will make me want to write something.      

Can you tell us about the race of Rephaim?

I can't tell you too much, as I don't want to spoil it, but if you type Rephaim into Google I can promise useful results. The Rephaim are a race that feature in the Hebrew Bible, and their basic description inspired me to create a brand-new supernatural creature. I didn't want to write about vampires and werewolves, as I think there's already plenty of literature out there about that. You won't be able to find out exactly what the Rephaim are in my world until the release of The Bone Season, but you'll be able to start forming an idea.  

Do you have an email address set up for questions about your writing, or are you only answering questions through the comments section on this blog?

I don't have an email address set up at the moment, no, but a website for The Bone Season will be set up next year, and I'm going to see if there can be a forum for questions. For the time being, do continue to ask questions on here or through Twitter.  
Next week I'll be talking about how my experience with my rejected first novel, Aurora, helped me work out how to approach The Bone Season.


  1. I really enjoy reading your blog, and I’m not ashamed to say that I’m living vicariously through it! I first heard about you when I read an article in the Sunday Times – you’re incredibly lucky to have all this publicity for the book before it’s even been released.
    I’m self-editing my own work at the moment, and I have a few questions for you.
    1. What were the reasons for Aurora being rejected, and what did you learn from writing Aurora?
    2. What was the word count for the Bone Season when you sent it off, and did you have an issue with getting it within an ‘acceptable’ margin?
    3. Has an awareness of what’s popular in Young Adult fiction right now affected the writing and editing process of the Bone Season?

    1. I'm so glad you're enjoying the blog! Thank you for reading so regularly. I'm having great fun writing it. I feel very lucky to have had this much publicity — I definitely have the Sunday Times to thank for that.

      I'll do a blog post next week to answer your questions, with a focus on how my experience with Aurora helped me with The Bone Season.


    2. Perfect! I would have asked the same soon! And thank you, Samantha, for answering my questions :)

    3. Thank you! It will be much appreciated.

    4. PGW, I hope I've covered most of the questions in my new blog, but the ones I didn't will be answered in the next one!


  2. Samantha, never blame yourself for that junk in your house. I think it is pretty natural that such objects tends to remain in houses without our notice, no-matter how careful we are in keeping our homes clean. Yes, dont buy unnecessary things. But what i do know is that you will always find junk when cleaning or moving from your old house after a long period of time.

    Looking forward for your next post on your first novel Aurora.

  3. Samantha, I loved your idea of sticking to a narrator your age. I have often heard of authors getting pushback on setting their main characters more into genre archetypes (the 12-18 year olds you mentioned) by publishers. Was that at all true with you? Those of us in our 20's are horribly underrepresented in sci-fi and fantasy. In Dune Paul is a late teen and the next book he is 30. In Game of Thrones the Stark children and Daenerys are in their teens. No one appreciates the 20's, thoughts?

    1. I completely agree. Got the shock of my life when I found out Dany's real age in GOT.

      Paige starts at 19 but she'll probably reach about 22-23 during the series. I wasn't pushed at all by Bloomsbury to lower her age, probably because I didn't advertise the novel to them as YA. They classified it as adult immediately (could also be called 'new adult'). I don't know if other authors are pressured to change things about their novels, but Bloomsbury have been incredibly relaxed. Any changes I've been asked to make are my choice. I would have been stubborn on the age thing.

  4. Ooh, you say you're inspired by London... Is the Bone Season set there? (Apologies for maybe missing that detail earlier.) I have a deep respect for anyone who dares take on that city in a novel... It's the most fantastic setting (literally sometimes!) but I barely feel equal to using my own home town in stories. How do you find writing the city?

    1. It's partly set in London, yes. I've lived in London all my life and I love the city to bits.

      I'll answer your question about city-writing in my next blog - very interesting topic!

  5. Hey Samantha, I've also written a novel but it's not yet published. I started writing it when I was 14 and I'm 21 now, same your age, and still hasn't happen anything. Now I'm thinking of publishing it with my own much do you think will it cost?

    If I pay for the editor to edit it and then send the manuscript to the publishing houses, will they accept it?

    Hope to hear from you more. Good luck in your writing. Have a good day.

    Yours random fan

    1. Hi Sacar, thanks for commenting!

      I'm not totally sure about the costs of self-publishing. I imagine it depends on whether or not you want to get the book printed on paper, or if you're just going to sell it as an eBook. Publishing through Kindle is very easy. Paper copies will be more expensive, depending on the word count and the number of copies. Look into a few different websites and check their pricing. One of my friends used to publish via Lulu, which I believe does a printing service.

      An estimate on YPS Publishing, for a novel of 70000 words, is £1,970 for 500 copies. So you're probably looking at £1000-£2000. Then on top of that you will have to do your own marketing.

      You can definitely pay for a freelance editor to take a look at your work before you send it to an agent (send it to an agent first, not a publishing house, as very few publishers accept unsolicited manuscripts). Editors can be quite expensive, so make sure you're choosing someone good. Dave King ( wrote a self-editing book I find very helpful, and is also an editor himself. You can contact him for a quote.

      Sorry I can't be of much more help on this!


  6. I'm about to do a declutter at my house. I don't think it's going to be pretty. Hopefully a lot of it can go to charity :)

    I love that you've used mythological references :) :) :) I'm very excited about the series. Can't wait to read your next post.

    P.S. Pilates might help with the back pain. The exercises are super simple and don't take a lot of time. A physio could whip up a quick program for you. I had one done after an injury so I could get through my course work. I found it was much better than the fuzzy head syndrome that came with pain medication ;-)

    1. I think I might try Pilates at some point, now I've got a recommendation! A better chair would probably help as well. Doesn't help that I'm tall and have to hunch over things all the time.

  7. Hi Samantha,
    Are you inspired by the place you grew up, and by Oxford?
    And what films inspire you?


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