Author Spotlight: London Shah
Sept. 13, 2019
Today we are excited to feature author London Shah and her debut YA novel, THE LIGHT AT THE BOTTOM OF THE WORLD (Hyperion Disney Books, Oct. 29, 2019). Enter to win a copy!
Artist: Mike Heath Designer: Marci Senders
Tell us about your background and how you came to write for teens.
Hi, and thanks for having me—I’m excited to be here! THE LIGHT AT THE BOTTOM OF THE WORLD is my debut novel, and I think I’m always going to be writing for teens. Despite the array of challenges they can face navigating those formative years, I think it’s also the most magical of times. There’s still a substantial degree of childhood wonder about the person. Still so much mystery about the world! Much remains to be discovered as teens continue to understand themselves, the world, and determine their place in it. This world hasn’t yet—hopefully!—replaced their desires and dreams and resolve with a certain cynicism and resentment. And teens are smarter than we give them credit for; they understand what’s important. Their humbling idealism and boundless creativity remind us all we don’t have to accept certain matters as they are. That things could yet improve. That even now if we dig deep and recover some of that lost magic of our own, we might yet save not only ourselves, but the world too. Knowing myself, I imagine I was always going to end up writing for teens.
Congrats on your YA debut, THE LIGHT AT THE BOTTOM OF THE WORLD. Tell us about it and what inspired you.
Thank you! THE LIGHT AT THE BOTTOM OF THE WORLD is a young adult science fiction novel. The story is set in a submerged world of the future where humanity resides a thousand feet below the ocean’s surface. It focuses on sixteen-year-old Leyla McQueen, a British Muslim submersible racer, and her quest to reunite with her father who’s been wrongfully arrested and imprisoned. When she’s picked to participate in the prestigious annual London Submersible Marathon, she spies her chance to help him—the prime minister grants the champion their heart’s desire.
Except the marathon doesn’t go to plan, and soon Leyla is forced to leave the safety of London and venture out into wilder waters for the first time in her life. As she navigates her own submarine through the unfathomable depths of Britain, battling both the oppressive authorities and the dangers of the deep, she discovers a world basically drowning in lies.
As for what inspired me, it’s absolutely the setting. From as far back as my early teens, I have fantasised about our world existing deep underwater. Despite the entire planet being submerged in my story, I wanted very much to maintain the aesthetics of life on Earth as we currently know it. I’ve always been drawn to an underwater world rooted in realism—specifically one grounded in the familiar and complex setting of urban life, with the recognisable old world still very much visibly present. Because for me, the underwater landscape is infinitely more surreal and fantastical when it’s as if the waters are here, in our present world.
Did you or your characters have a playlist when writing this?
I do not have a playlist when writing. Unfortunately, I have to have absolute silence. I say unfortunately because that’s obviously not always possible, and in fact I sometimes resort to playing white noise to drown out background din. But yes, I’m far too easily distracted to write to music.
Ah, Leyla’s playlist consists of music from all eras, but of course she also possesses my love for punk and Brit rock. You’ll find a lot of Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones, Jam, Clash, Beatles etc on her playlist!
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
To any aspiring authors out there, I’d say ensure you have a close group of friends who are fellow writers, as early on as possible. It can be a bewildering and very lonely journey, and you will need your trusted inner circle of friends who you can turn to, and who will understand. Don’t start out alone; otherwise until you find your friends, everything is infinitely harder to navigate.
What is one thing most people don't know about you?
I have never sat in any indoor space without imagining it’s my home, and giving it a makeover accordingly. It’s the very first thing I do when I take my seat, and it’s something I couldn’t stop if I tried. Even if I’m chatting with someone, my mind is busy doing everything from moving partition walls around, to pinpointing the exact textiles I want for the upholstery. Entire, expansive waiting rooms can take me less than a minute to renovate and personalise. You know, I’ve had the most spectacular homes lol.
Where can people find you online?
You can find me on Twitter and Instagram, and even get in touch with me via the contact form on my website: https://www.londonshah.com Thank you so much for having me!