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'A new star-in-the-making'

19 August 2013

This week has brought the debut of a new star-in-the-making - or should she be described as having leapt straight to stardom? Samantha Shannon, whose first novel The Bone Season is published in the US and the UK this week, seems like an ordinary kind of superstar. Living with her mother and stepfather in Ruislip - a fairly humdrum suburb of London for those who don't know the city - she seems in a way to ride the zeitgeist, at least as far as successful writers are concerned.

But this writer has an Oxford degree and has set her dystopian novel in the city. It was during an internship with a London literary agent that she first started writing the book, having been seized by an irresistible idea during her lunch hour. Her first manuscript, Aurora, had already been discarded, all 200,000 words of it, after receiving little interest. But it did get her the two-week internship with top London agent David Godwin, during which she had the idea for her big new book. This book , The Bone Season, is the first of seven and she wrote whilst studying at Oxford, working all day and then knuckling down to write every evening after dinner.

It was apparent from the start that this was going to be a series: ‘I knew right away that it wasn't going to fit into one book - that there were going to have to be a number of them,' she says. ‘It does feel odd to have the next 10 or 15 years planned out. There is quite a lot of pressure, I suppose, but most of it is self-imposed. I just want to make each book better then the one before. You see, I still feel I've got a lot to learn.'

Her breakthrough came because of an encounter with the novelist Ali Smith, showing the importance of established writers helping those who are still aspiring to get into print. Smith, who is generous to newcomers, read a chapter of the book and recommended that Shannon should get in touch with her agent - who just happened to be the very same David Godwin.

Publishers don't agree about the element of luck, they think Shannon is very talented. The rights have been snapped up in 20 countries around the work and Godwin has sold the film rights to a British company.

Of such hard graft and good luck are publishing successes made.