As if by magic, Susanna Clarke’s publishers knew the supernatural tale Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell would be a huge success, printing 250,000 copies before it was even published.
Clarke has only written two novels - Piranesi was published in 2020 - but both have been critical and commercial hits. Her route to writing, however, took her from jobs abroad teaching English as a foreign language to working in publishing as an editor of cookery books. Jonathan Strange took her 10 years to write, and was inspired by attending a fantasy-writing workshop. She stitched the novel together from fragments written in her spare time. At least two publishers rejected the book before she sold the still unfinished manuscript to Bloomsbury for £1 million.