Photo Credit: @say_shannon
Hi everyone! I’m quite lucky that I’ve had several book events to go to in February (well two, but two is more than I usually go to in one month) and I’ve got another event coming up this month (Victoria Schwab, in two week’s time, I cannot wait!) so this section of the blog will be slightly more regularly updated than it usually is!
My friend and I booked tickets to Samantha Shannon’s Glasgow event for Priory pretty much as soon as we saw they’d gone on sale, Nicola was meant to go to her Song Rising launch in Edinburgh two years ago, but was ill on the day and couldn’t go, and I’ve met Samantha a few times, but never been to a solo event of hers, so of course jumped at the chance to go.
We got the train from Stirling at around 5.20, after picking up dinner at the station. The event didn’t start till 6, but neither of us are particularly familiar with Waterstones Argyle Street (we both prefer and are more familiar with the larger Waterstones in Glasgow, Waterstones Sauchiehall Street) so we wanted to make sure we arrived in Glasgow early in case it took us longer to get there than we expected (it didn’t). We walked from Queen Street station to Argyle Street, and it only took us about 5-10 minutes to get there.
Once we arrived, we headed upstairs, where the event was taking place in the cafe. Most people were already there by the time we arrived, so once we had been given our books and ticked off the list, it was a bit of a scramble to find two seats together, we did, but we were right at the back, hence the lack of pictures of Samantha! There were a few minutes before the event started so I got myself a chocolate muffin from the cafe.
Soon after, one of the Waterstones staff came out to do all of the boring usual safety stuff and then Laura Lam (the moderator for the evening) came in and introduced Samantha, so the event could start properly.
The event was the usual Q&A style, and Laura had some really great questions for Samantha, which made for a very interesting discussion. It was awesome to hear about the origins of Priory and Samantha’s love of dragons and I particularly loved hearing about her research process since Priory has a large historical basis, and as a history nerd, I just love hearing about how authors research historical periods. Samantha also talked a lot about all the world building that went into Priory, which made me ever more excited to read it, because if there is one thing I completely geek out about in fantasy books, it’s world building. I love hearing writers talk about their process as well, and there was a lot of that here, it just helps me so much hearing how other authors go about this.
It was also really cool to hear Samantha talk about the origins of St George and how she wanted to change his story to be more feminist, and less you know, racist and sexist and Islamophobic. I have to admit, I don’t know all that much about St George, despite being English, so it was interesting to hear her talk about the different iterations of that legend and how she wanted to turn them on their head with Priory.
We got to hear about the differences Samantha found between writing The Bone Season and Priory which was quite cool, obviously they are very different books, and I’ve seen her talk about The Bone Season before, so it was quite interesting to see what she thought the biggest differences were between writing a dystopia/fantasy mix and between writing pure, epic fantasy like Priory.
I find it very interesting to hear how different writers’ processes differ from my own, Samantha talked a bit about working on Priory and The Bone Season together, and how working on one kept her refreshed for working on the other, and much as I think that’s super cool, I have found it way too confusing/distracting to be working on several different projects at once!
Samantha also talked a bit about her fantasy influences, and how she missed the boat on a lot of the big female authors of the 70s-90s and how much Lord of The Rings influenced her as a kid. She mentioned that there’s a scene in the Lord of The Rings film which has a female character doing something really awesome that wasn’t in the books and how that kind of turned her off fantasy for a while, because she didn’t want to be disappointed again. Both Nicola and I found it very cool that she talked about Malorie Blackman and Jacqueline Wilson when asked about her favourite YA as a kid, because we both loved them too (reminding us scarily that Samantha Shannon is not that much older than we are, she’s only five years older than me!). When Laura asked her about her influences for Priory specifically, she talked a lot about reading medieval texts, and legends, including The Renowned History of The Seven Champions of Christendom, and mentioned that she’d written a 4000 word essay on it, which I’d actually read a few days before the event.
Before Laura opened the floor up to audience questions, she did a “quickfire” round of This or That questions for Samantha. Samantha’s explanations ended up being a lot more lengthy than just this or that, but I loved that! She talked a bit more at length about the characters of Priory, about her love of morally grey characters, and a little Bone Season crept in there as well.
Then the floor was opened up to audience questions. Neither Nicola or I asked any, mostly because we’re awkward and don’t like talking in front of other people, but also we were right at the back, so basically would have had to shout to be heard. The people who did ask questions had great ones though! Samantha assured everyone that this book had not scratched the dragon itch, and that she hopes to write more self contained novels in the same world, just with more dragons in!
Naturally The Bone Season 4 came up, and Samantha said that the book is written, the first draft anyway and that she just needs to do the edits now, which should hopefully be easier than The Song Rising was (she did talk a little about how difficult that book was for her). She also talked about the differences between primary and secondary worldbuilding (as Priory uses the former, and The Bone Season the latter) and said she enjoys both, as The Bone Season allows her to use real world landmarks, but for Priory she could use the stuff from history that she liked as touchstones, but not the stuff she didn’t like, hello sexism! She explained a little about the differences between top up and bottom down world building and that she likes to use a mixture of the two, which I found helpful because to be honest, I do struggle with world building!
Samantha also talked about her favourite fantasy books, most of which I haven’t heard of, but will be checking out now. She explained the differences between her dragons and traditional dragons and talked about drawing on ideas from Eastern and Western dragon mythology (but her dragons are bio-luminescent).
We finished with a question about writer’s block, which was quite useful for me, as you all know, I’ve been blocked on Underground Magicians for a while now! Laura said she thought it was the subconscious asking for more thought but Samantha said that hers is usually burnout and she just needs to take a step away from her work.
Once the audience questions were over, we joined the queue to have our books signed. The queue moved relatively quickly and it wasn’t all that long before we were at the front. Nicola explained to Samantha that she was meant to come to her Song Rising event, but missed out because she was ill, and Samantha thanked her for coming. I wasn’t really sure what to say, but Samantha kind of helped me out on that one, because SHE RECOGNIZED ME! She said that I looked familiar and asked if we’d met before, and I explained that I’d seen her a couple of times at YALC and at an event in London last year, because I’m usually based near London but that I lived here for Uni and I came down all the way from Stirling for the London event last year. She was so sweet and thanked me for coming all that way last year (honestly have no regrets about that, that event was so good) and then Nicola and I said goodbye and left with our signed books.
Nicola and I then headed back to the train station and got an earlier train back than we’d thought as the event wasn’t as long as we were expecting. It was nice though, usually I don’t get back from evening book events till after 10, so it was nice to be back home just after nine for a change!
Did anyone else go to Samantha’s Glasgow Priory event? Or to the ones in London, or Leeds? Is anyone going to her Newcastle, Exeter or Truro events? Let me know in the comments!
I will probably have my review of A Curse So Dark and Lonely up later on today, so stay tuned for that!