Category Archives: #am writing (and all things writing related)

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James – Book Review and Author Interview 

This year at YALC we were once again lucky ducks with the opportunity to purchase an early copy of Lauren James’ new science fiction story The Loneliest Girl in the Universe. The book is finally out for everyone else to enjoy this week and I was cheeky and asked Lauren answer a few questions which I’ll share here with my thoughts on the Loneliest Girl. 

Synopsis 

Can you fall in love with someone you’ve never met, never even spoken to – someone who is light years away?
Romy Silvers is the only surviving crew-member of a spaceship travelling to a new planet, on a mission to establish a second home for humanity amongst the stars. Alone in space, she is the loneliest girl in the universe until she hears about a new ship which has launched from Earth – with a single passenger on board. A boy called J.
Their only communication with each other is via email – and due to the distance between them, their messages take months to transmit across space. And yet Romy finds herself falling in love.
But what does Romy really know about J? And what do the mysterious messages which have started arriving from Earth really mean?
Sometimes, there’s something worse than being alone . . . 

Author 

Lauren James was born in 1992, and graduated in 2014 from the University of Nottingham, UK, where she studied Chemistry and Physics.

She started writing during secondary school English classes, because she couldn’t stop thinking about a couple who kept falling in love throughout history. She sold the rights to the novel when she was 21, whilst she was still at university. 

The Next Together was described by The Bookseller as ‘funny, romantic and compulsively readable’ and Kirkus as ‘An ambitious, promising premise . . . James is one to watch’. It was longlisted for the Branford Boase Award, a prize given to recognise an outstanding novel by a first-time writer. 

Her other novels include The Last Beginning, the epic conclusion to The Next Together which was named one of the best LGBT-inclusive works for kids and young adults by the Independent. Two short stories set in the world of The Next Together series, Another Together and Another Beginning, are also available.

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe was inspired by a Physics calculation she was assigned at university. Lauren is a passionate advocate of STEM further education, and all of her books feature scientists in prominent roles. 

Lauren is published in the UK by Walker Books, in the US by HarperCollins and in translation in five other countries around the world. She lives in the West Midlands and is an Arts Council grant recipient. She has written articles for the Guardian, Buzzfeed and The Toast. You can find her on Twitter at @Lauren_E_James, Tumblr at @laurenjames or her website http://www.laurenejames.co.uk, where you can subscribe to her newsletter to be kept up to date with her new releases and receive bonus content.

 

 What I Thought 

This was such a quick, intense and thrilling read. The formatting of e-mails between the two characters – modern day epistolary style – helps you zip through and you build a relationship with the characters, Romy and J, as they do with each other. 

I like that Romy’s anxiety at her situation is explored and that NASA have got her a therapist to discuss things with. As well as prompting her to keep up with schoolwork. I also loved the addition of the Fandom elements with Romy being a big fan and fan fiction writer for a TV series about supernatural detectives ‘Loch and Ness’. As well as adding authenticity to her teen status this is a much bigger plot point than you might think. 

The Loneliest Girl reminded me a little of one of my favourite sci-fi reads Illuminae and if you loved that definitely pick this up too. 

Gradually the incident that left Romy alone is revealed along with a growing concern about what is happening back on the Earth she has never known. 

Interview 

Having written your last two books and a couple of shorts in one world how did you prepare yourself to move on to a new one? 

I was very ready to write something different – I started The Loneliest Girl while I was working on edits for The Last Beginning, so I couldn’t make any progress on that project, and it felt incredible to write something fresh and new that wasn’t tangled up in plot holes. I did enjoy leaving easter eggs in the books for each of my others, though! 

Was the writing process different or similar to with your first books? 

I always think the last book I wrote was the easiest and best to write, and then start another and remember how hard it is. The one I’m always writing always feels like a terrible disaster while I’m in the process of getting it down on paper. When I’ve done all the hard work and can look at a complete, perfect finished book, I like it – but during the writing process it’s torment. That’s true of all my books! 

How did you develop the character of Romy? Knowing that she would be alone for much of the book did that affect this? 

I’ve always loved stories of isolation – it’s a great way to really get to know a character. I knew that if I was writing a whole book where there was only really one person, I would need to create a character who would keep the reader’s attention and loyalty. It was a big challenge, but I fell totally in love with Romy while I was writing about her, and I hope everyone reading The Loneliest Girl in the Universe does too.

How much did the idea of online dating influence the plot? 

A lot – I think online dating is something that teenagers today experience more and more, whether that’s apps like Tinder or just chatting on Facebook Messenger. I wanted to explore that in a way that wasn’t a UK contemporary novel, and setting it in space was a nice twist. 

How did it feel seeing everyone glanced up in Galactic Glitter make overs to celebrate the launch of your book at YALC?

It was so cool! The whole YALC weekend was kind of a surreal dream, it was brilliant. I feel so lucky to have so many people excited to read my books. 

My Galactic Glitter Make-Over at YALC 

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Sorcerer to the Crown – Interview with Author Zen Cho

Back on the 22nd July I was lucky enough to interview Zen Cho at Waterstones CastlePoint. Freakily enough what book turned up from The Willoughby Book Club at the beginning of July? This gorgeous Black and Gold Edition of the Book. 


This is a beautifully written and fun Regency Fantasy. From balls to sorcery with issues of sexism and racism and a battle with The Fairy Court – who will come out on top? 


Find out more by watching our 15 minute interview on YouTube. Click on pictures below to link. I’m looking forward to reading more about the wider world Zen has created. 

The Moonlight Dreamers series – Guest post by author Siobhan Curham


The Moonlight Dreamers and its sequel Tell it to the Moon follow four girls: Amber, Maali, Sky and Rose on their quest to follow their dreams and find themselves. I really enjoyed these tales of friendship and, for me, they were reminiscent of films I love such as Now and Then, and Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants. Many friendship stories follow girls who grow up together, or go to school together but it was refreshing to see that there is friendship outside these confines. These were both really charming and enjoyable stories and perfect reads for feel good vibes. 

I have been lucky enough to interview author Siobhan Curham and her four characters to find out a little more about how the Dreamers came about and where they are shooting for next. 

Character Qs

Amber 

How did you come up with The Moonlight Dreamers Club?

I was really tired of being picked on by the numbskulls in school for being different. Just because I have two dads, who happen to be gay, and just because I like to dress in vintage men’s clothes, it doesn’t mean I deserve to be picked on. I don’t understand why being different is seen as such a bad thing. Being the same as everyone else is so boring. I came up with the idea for starting a secret society called The Moonlight Dreamers because I wanted to meet other people who didn’t want to fit in; other people who craved excitement and adventure. And I was inspired to do so by my hero, Oscar Wilde.

Why do you like Oscar Wilde so much?

Because he was proud of being different. He came out at a time when it was really hard to be openly gay – he even went to jail because of his sexuality. He lived life on his terms and he was a great writer. I have a collection of his quotes that I always use for inspiration. It’s impossible to pick a favourite one, but one of my favourites is this: ‘Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.’
Maali

How are belonging to The Moonlight Dreamers and belonging to a religion comparable and different? 

Being a Moonlight Dreamer and being Hindu both make me feel happier and more secure in myself and my life. Both of them bring me loads of joy. They’re different in that my faith feels like a more personal thing, something I often do on my own – either meditating or praying to my favourite goddesses. And the Moonlight Dreamers is a more of a social thing – and usually way more noisy – especially when Rose gets going! I feel so blessed that I’ve been given such awesome friends.

Why is the idea of finding a soulmate so important to you? 

I’ve always been a true romantic. Even when I was a little girl, I loved making up stories in my head about marrying a prince and living happily ever after. I love the idea that everyone has a soul mate out there waiting to be found by them. The trouble is, when I feel like I’ve found mine I turn into a jabbering wreck! I wish I could be as confident as Rose or Sky – or just not care about love, like Amber. But sadly, I’m a stumbling, stammering disaster area when it comes to boys I like! I say and do the most embarrassing things. I’m starting to worry that even if I did meet my soulmate I’d make him run away – or die laughing … and not in a good way!

Sky 

If you ever imagined having a sister what would she have been like? 

After my mum died, I really wished I had a sister – or brother – who knew exactly what I was going through and could share the pain. Whenever I imagined having a sister I’d imagine someone quite like me – like, into poetry and nature and travelling and stuff. But then I got Rose as a step-sister and that blew all my imaginings out of the water. When I first met Rose I hated her so much I was really glad I’d been born an only child! It’s so funny now, thinking of how much I hated her back then. Now I’m a Moonlight Dreamer it feels like I’ve got three sisters – and I wouldn’t change them for anything.

What did you really think when you saw the invite to The Moonlight Dreamers Club? 

I was a little bit weirded out by it but thankfully I was so intrigued I replied anyway. And I really liked the look of the girl in the vintage store who put the invite in my bag. She really intrigued me. It’s so weird thinking that she’s now one of my best friends! That was a really important lesson for me – that if something seems weird or scary but it makes you a bit excited too, you should go for it. My life has changed so much for the better since replying to that invite.

Rose 

If you ever imagined having a sister what would she have been like?

I have three sisters. My Moonlight Dreamers are my soul sisters – the best kind of sisters. The kind you’d tell anything to and even lay down your life for. And I’d lay down my life for all of them, no question – even though Sky’s been pissing me off a bit lately, since she’s found true lurrrve. 

What does The Moonlight Dreamers club mean to you? 

Everything. My girls keep me sane – something my parents on their Planet Celebrity, definitely do not!

Author Qs

Siobhan

How did you come up with The Moonlight Dreamers?

I love encouraging young people to believe in themselves and their dreams as this was something I really struggled with when I was a teen. I gave up on my writing dream and dropped out of uni because – coming from a poor family on a council estate – I didn’t think I had what it took to make it in the middle class world of writing. Thankfully, I found the confidence to overcome my doubts and fears and now I want to stop other people from making the mistakes I did. I created the Moonlight Dreamers because I wanted to show how hard it can be to navigate your journey into adulthood but, with the help of friends, a hero like Oscar Wilde and some self belief, anything is possible. In the second book, Tell it to the Moon, I really put the characters to the test because it was equally important for me to show how sometimes dreams don’t come true – but if you keep the faith, something even better might happen. This is exactly how it’s been for me in my life. Disappointments, difficulties and unachieved dreams have always led to bigger and better things.

What’s more important – Dreams or Belonging? 

What a great question! Would it be cheating to say, they’re both equally important? It’s so important to have a sense of belonging – in your own skin and in the world – but sometimes, when that’s missing, a dream can be what saves you and ultimately leads to that feeling of belonging. I think maybe they go hand in hand.

What’s next for the girls? 

I would love to write a final book about them when they’re seventeen / eighteen. I’ve loosely sketched the idea out in my mind – Amber on an Oscar Wilde inspired gap year, Sky going off to uni, Maali in her final year at school and still, no doubt, searching for her soul mate, Rose blazing an entrepreneurial trail and causing a riot somewhere. It would be great to see the Moonlight Dreamers start to make their way out into the world as adults. I’m also considering writing a screen adaptation because so many readers have told me that they’d love to see it filmed … and offering to help with the casting! I’d love that too – it would be a dream come true.

 

Huge thanks  to Siobhan and the Dreamers. Count me in the ‘would love to see the books filmed’ camp too. Thanks to Katarina from Walker for sending me Tell it to the Moon (which publishes this month). Moonlight Dreamers had already called to me and was already on my TBR pile. Opinions are, as ever, my own. Have you read the books? Tell me what you think? 

 

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