If you’ve been on Twitter recently then you will have seen myself and fellow #NorthernBookBloggers tweeting about a very exciting event which is happening tomorrow! The first Northern YA Literary Festival, which is being hosted by the University of Central Lancashire’s BA in Publishing Programme along with the people at Waterstones Preston and Lancashire Libraries! As part of the #NorthernBookBloggers, we have been lucky enough to interview some of the authors who will be attending the event which is such an amazing opportunity which we are all thankful for. Thank you to organiser Hazel for arranging this opportunity for us all. If you saw yesterday’s post you will have seen that I have already been lucky enough to interview the author of The Bone Season series, Samantha Shannon! However, I was also lucky enough to submit some questions for Lauren James, author of The Next Together duology and YA psychological thriller set in space The Loneliest Girl in the Universe.
Hi Lauren! It’s a huge honour to have you on my blog! I loved reading The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, Thank you for taking the time out to do this Q&A!
When you started writing, was it always your intention to write for a YA audience?
I didn’t! I was writing for myself, and I happened to be a teenager when I wrote my first book – so it turned out to be a book for teenagers! I’m so glad I ended up writing YA though, it’s such a loving and considerate community that’s creating really innovative work.
How does your writing process work? Does it change from book to book or do you keep a similar structure?
I write best at night, so I stay up outrageously late (sometimes until 5am, if I’ve nearing the end of a first draft – something I never did for even my degree!). I start the day by swimming, which is when I do my best plotting. I also plan a lot while I’m baking. Repetitive movements that keep my hands busy and away from checking social media are always my most productive times of the day.
I plot out everything in a giant excel spreadsheet before I start. I find the idea of writing without know the ending really scary, and I don’t know how people do it. For me, I need to know the final scenes to know how it starts – everything is built around where the story is leading, from the world to the characters to the scene shapes. Saying that, I usually find I’ve forgotten to finish off a whole plotline by the time I write that far into the book. I’ll discover that my subconscious has seeded in things foreshadowing an ending I didn’t know existed until then. That always scares me a bit! I write at a desk, with lots of music playing and a candle burning. But I try not to make a really particular writing ‘set up’ because then I’ll keep finding excuses not to write until it’s the perfect time for it. I can do it anywhere, really. I write a lot on my phone while I’m trying to get to sleep, and then type it up the next day.
The Loneliest Girl in the Universe is a psychological thriller set in space. Was it always your intention for it to be a thriller set in space or where you more focused on having a story set in space?
The book for me, from the very beginning, was a psychological thriller. I wanted to write about the fear and confinement and constant stress of being alone on a small spaceship, where you’re completely responsible for running the ship.
In The Loneliest Girl in the Universe deals with a lot, such as anxiety, depression, PTSD and dealing with parental loss. How did you go about including this in Romy’s story, did you do a lot of research?
I read up on the experiments NASA did where they made people live in a pseudo-spaceship for a year on Earth, to see how that affected them mentally. I read a lot of therapy and mental health books about post-traumatic stress disorder, stress and young carers.
The timelines in The Loneliest Girl in the Universe are very complex and mismatched, how did you go about keeping track of it all or did you find it confusing at times?
I had to calculate the time it would take for messages to travel to and from Earth to The Infinity and The Eternity on every single day of the book, something which ended up needing an Excel spreadsheet this big:
The dark side of writing a book set in space: the calculations. Ah well. It was all worth it in the end.
NASA is currently on about sending a team to set up a colony on Mars. If you were offered to go, would you?
I’m not sure. I think I’m probably not as brave as Romy. I might go after tourism space travel has been running for a few decades and it has been proven its safe, but definitely not yet! If I could go anywhere safely, I would want to go and visit an alien civilisation!
Are you perhaps planning a sequel or is it simply going to stay as a standalone novel?
I can’t say anything about this just yet – though you may be able to guess the answer from that!
Which writers inspire you?
I particularly love Neil Gaiman, Rainbow Rowell, Sarah Waters, P. G. Wodehouse, Audrey Niffenegger.…..I could go on all day, I think! In particular, I’m always making notes when I read books by Douglas Adams – he’s the master of humorous sci-fi. I’ve adored his work since I was young.
What advice would you give to any inspiring writers?
Find out what makes your writing unique and own it. Be completely shameless about it in your query letter. If you love the zombie cats in your novel, make sure they are front and centre in your query. You need to find an agent who loves your book as much as you do, and spending months crafting the perfectly written query letter isn’t going to do that – but maybe persuading them to read the book with the promise of zombie cats might.
Thank you once again, Lauren, for taking part in this Q&A!
Thank you to Hazel and all those organising The Northern YA Literary Festival, firstly for hosting this event but for allowing us book bloggers to get so involved and have the opportunity to interview some amazing authors.