November 8, 1991 |
Hammersmith, London, England, UK
Whenever anyone calls me 'The new J..K. Rowling,' I think, 'What's wrong with the old one?'
My English teachers gave me a copy of Atwood's 'The Handmaid's Tale' when I left high school, which has always been very special to me – it was the novel that introduced me to dystopian fiction. I'm also influenced by Edgar Allan Poe, Dickens, John Wyndham and Middle English dream-visions.
I was a hacker of sorts. Not a mind 'reader,' exactly; more a mind 'radar,' in tune with the workings of the aether. I could sense the nuances of dreamscapes and rogue spirits. Things outside myself. Things the average voyant wouldn't feel.
I fell even more deeply in love with Tolkien's legendarium after studying Old English literature at uni, as I got a sense of the historical events and cultures that Tolkien used to create his world. My favourite of his imaginary locations is Lothlorien.
I am the first one to go to university in my family. I am the first writer as well. My dad is a retired policeman, and my mom works for a glass-processing company. She is health-and-safety manager, and my stepfather is a plumber. I have four half siblings, one from my mom's marriage and three from my dad's marriage, so we are kind of scattered.
I was a shy child, and when I was 13, I started wearing braces on my teeth. I used to be acutely self-conscious, and I think writing was a way of withdrawing into my own imagination.
People question what I thought of Oxford. Students used to talk about the 'Oxford bubble' because the place can make you feel cut off from the rest of the world. I would forget there were places like London that were not centred round libraries and essays.
I'm not going to give it the big 'I am' now that I'm a New York Times bestseller.
My silver cord – the link between my body and my spirit – was extremely sensitive. It was what allowed me to sense dreamscapes at a distance. It could also snap me back into my skin.
I've never had a supernatural experience. I've been tempted to maybe have a tarot-card reading, but I don't know if I'd necessarily want to know.
I wanted to write a sci-fi story that would appeal to young women. Loads of girls like sci-fi, but it's more culturally associated with guys.
Rowling is a luminous storyteller. I love her sense of humor and the intricate wizarding world she built around Hogwarts. I think all writers aspire to be like her, to capture readers like she does. But I didn't think about 'Harry Potter' when I wrote 'The Bone Season.'
I am never not thinking about stories. 'The Bone Season' is 90% of my brain – 10% is interacting with the rest of the world.
I'm often daydreaming, and it's because I've always liked the idea of there being something more than the normal world.
London had so much death in its history, it was hard to find a spot without spirits. They formed a safety net. Still, you had to hope the ones you got were good.
'The Bone Season' is violent. There's sex. My little brother keeps asking to read it, and he's 9, so I'm like, 'No, it's not happening.'
It is a strange world, Oxford – quite claustrophobic. I was often glad I was only there for eight weeks at a time.
I have always been driven; I've always wanted to be published, and I wanted to make that happen, so I worked very hard. 'Perfectionist' would be a word to describe me.
I was not really aware of the dystopian genre before I read 'The Handmaid's Tale.' Many poets as well, like John Donne and Emily Dickinson, would be the influences; I specialized in Emily Dickinson at university. Both of those poets have really interesting ways of looking at life and death.
I had lived in that part of London that used to be called Islington since I was eight. I attended a private school for girls, leaving at sixteen to work. That was in the year 2056. AS 127, if you use the Scion calendar.
I often look at places and kind of mentally convert them to fantasy versions of themselves.
I was so sure I wanted to be a novelist. I would spend hours and hours every day writing. Little stories about nothing in particular. I recall one about someone with an illness. But my dedication wasn't really healthy, and it reached the point where I wasn't sleeping. My mum would tell me, 'You need to go outside to get some fresh air.'
In 2011, I did an internship in Seven Dials, a junction in London where seven roads come together. I'd given up on writing after multiple rejections for my first novel, and I was starting to consider a career in publishing instead, but Seven Dials gave me such a strong idea for a setting that I couldn't resist picking up my pen again.
I was always more interested in my books and my writing than going out. It's OK to say I'm a nerd. That's me.
I worry that people think you have to go to a university to be a good writer, which is categorically untrue. I don't think I learned how to write at Oxford. I did not go to any creative writing classes or anything.
I was mostly an indoor girl at university. Where other students did drama or music or sport alongside their degrees, I wrote. I used to work on essays and classwork during the day and 'The Bone Season' in the evenings.
I've been writing since I was about thirteen but didn't start a book until 2007. I spent four years writing a sci-fi novel before I wrote 'The Bone Season' at nineteen.
I always felt that sci-fi and fantasy were my thing. Bit of a geek, I'm afraid. But I like creating worlds, and I felt it was a genre that gave me more freedom. It just seemed like I belonged there.
Writing a novel is like knocking on a door that will never open. You are so desperate to get in, you will say or do anything. You feel: please take my novel.
I was born in 1991, and 'Harry Potter' came out in '97, so, you know, I was really obsessed. I used to read them in one night.
What I like about Oxford is how small it is; it's really more of a big town than a city.
J. K. Rowling is one of my favourite authors, and I really admire how she created this big wizarding world. But I think our books are very, very different, and I don't think there can be a next J. K. Rowling. She is one of a kind.
I know what I want to achieve in each book and the major points, but I don't plan right down to the chapters. I think that the characters write themselves in some degree.
I do take this insane pleasure in world-building. I get the world in my head, but I have to make sure everyone else gets it.