Posted in Author Q&A

Lauren James Q&A

  1. Where did the inspiration for The Loneliest Girl in the Universe come from?lauren james.PNG

Funnily enough, it started with a question from some Physics coursework at university! The question was about special relativity, and went something like this:

An astronaut travels in a spaceship to a new planet. After a few years, a newer faster ship is developed and launched, which overtakes the first ship. How old are the two astronauts when they each arrive on the planet?

I started thinking about what it would be like to be that first astronaut, and dedicate years to travelling alone in space, only for your ship to be overtaken by a faster one before you even arrive! What would that feel like? What kind of relationship would you have with the person on the faster ship? From that, the story of Romy Silvers was born.

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.

  1. Did you always dream of becoming a writer?

I started writing The Next Together when I was sixteen, and finished the first draft when I was nineteen. I never intended to get the story published – I was writing just for myself, for fun! The first draft was very self-indulgent, and included cameos from some of my professors, and lots of in-jokes. There was no pressure to write something good. I was just writing for myself, telling myself a bedtime story after classes. I never saw it as doing something scary or difficult.

I always loved the idea of being a writer, but I absolutely didn’t think it was possible. I thought people who became authors must have spent their whole life writing, and I was too interested in doing other things for that.

My second novel The Last Beginning, which I wrote after I’d got a book deal, was about twenty times harder because suddenly there was all of this pressure. I had to push past a lot of fear which had never been there before.

Being an author is quite similar to how I imagined it, though – spending a lot of time alone, staying up late at night to write, summoning the devil in exchange for book ideas..….wait, what?

  1. How did you feel when secured your first publishing deal at 21?

It was very exciting and scary, and I still feel very lucky! When The Next Together was finished I left it for a few months, and when I came back to it, I was surprised to find that it wasn’t as terrible as I remembered. It even made me laugh a few times. I decided to send it off to some literary agents, just to see if they could give me some useful feedback.

I had absolutely no idea how the publishing industry worked, and I think I read one How To article on query letters before writing one and blithely sending it off into the aether. I found an A to Z list of agents and started emailing with the Z’s, because I thought they’d have the least submissions. In the end, I found an agent on W, after I’d emailed only six agencies. It was a very naive way to apply, but I got very lucky – my agent is incredible, and last year she was shortlisted for the Bookseller’s Agent of the Year award.

We then submitted to publishers after a whole year of revisions (I was still at university so could only really work on it during the holidays) and within two weeks, two publishers had offered. Saying it now, that seems so easy and fast, but at the time it was the most stressful, delirious fortnight of my life. I’ve been through the submission process several times since then, and it does not get any easier.

  1. What is your favourite book?

I love Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho, Radio Silence by Alice Oseman, Lirael by Garth Nix, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susannah Clarke and Far From You by Tess Sharpe.

  1. What authors have influenced your writing?

Neil Gaiman, Rainbow Rowell, Sarah Waters, P. G. Wodehouse, Audrey Niffeneger.…..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.

I read a wide range of genres, and because of that I try to make my books a little bit of every genre – The Loneliest Girl in the Universe is a bit fandom, a bit thriller, a bit romance and a bit sci fi.

I think if I didn’t write a variety of different genres, I’d probably get bored. My next books are a mix of different genres again – my latest book, which I’m still writing, is a paranormal supervillain origin story. So something completely different, again!

6. What issues do you like to explore in your writing?

I always try to include LGBT+ characters in my books. I was so frustrated as a teenager because, as a huge sci fi fan, I could never find diverse characters in the worlds I loved. Recently there’s been some amazing progress in this direction (like The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet) but at the time, it felt a completely barren wasteland. I wanted to write about a character who was gay, but the book wasn’t a coming out story. I wanted them to get to do things, while being gay.

   7. What was it like to see your books translated into another language?20864106_682217001971698_2130080875_n

It’s huge. Seeing my words in another language is something I’ve always wanted to have – so it’s incredible that it’s actually happened! I can’t quite believe it still.

I’m especially proud of the Brazilian edition, as I studied in America for a year, and spent most of my time hanging out with Brazilian students who were also studying abroad for a year. So there was a LOT of excitement amongst my friends when the translated edition came out in Brazil. They keep sending me pictures of it, and trying to persuade everyone to buy it!

   8. Would you go into space if you could?

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!

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. 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.

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Posted in Author Q&A

Siobhan Curham – Q&A

Siobhan Curham – Q&Aimg_20130818_085023

  1. Where did the inspiration for Moonlight Dreamers and Tell it to the Moon come from?

I feel really passionately about encouraging other people to dare to believe in themselves and their dreams – especially young people. I know all too well how hard it can be to pursue a dream and how easy it can be to give up. I gave up on my writing dream when I was twenty and dropped out of university. Coming from a poor background, I didn’t think I had what it took to make it in the middle class world of writing and publishing. I ended up in the worst job ever, working for the complaints department of a frozen food company – where all I got to write were grovelling letters of apology! Thankfully, I managed to overcome my self-doubt and fear and make it as a writer in the end. I wrote The Moonlight Dreamers and Tell it to the Moon to try and encourage the reader to chase their own dreams and not give up, like I did. It’s so lovely when I receive emails from readers telling me that it’s worked and reading about the Moonlight Dreamers and their adventures has given them the confidence to dare to dream.

2. Did you always dream of becoming a writer?

Pretty much – and it’s all down to my evil parents! When I was little my mum and dad had the crazy notion that TV was bad for a kid’s imagination so my siblings and I weren’t allowed to watch any TV – we didn’t even have a television in the house, and this was back in the day before the internet and mobile phones. So I had a choice – I could either learn to love to read, or die of boredom. So, I learned to love to read and out of that came a love for writing. I dreamed of one day having a shelf full of books that I had written. I’m grateful every day that that dream finally came true.

3. What were the first steps you took to pursue becoming a writer?

Well, first I went to university to study English Literature and Script-writing but sadly I dropped out after my second year. When I started pursuing my dream again a few years later, I decided to approach it like any other business and start small. So I started writing short stories and articles, which felt a lot less intimidating than writing an entire novel. Once I’d had a few of them published it gave me the confidence to go after the bigger dream of writing a book.

4. How has working as a motivational speaker and life coach influenced your writing?

It’s influenced it greatly as pretty much every book I write has the same theme as the work I do as a speaker and coach ie; overcoming fear or adversity and creating a life based around the pursuit of your dreams. I feel very lucky to do this work as it’s so rewarding to help other people achieve their goals.

5.What do you think are the main challenges that teenage girls face?

Oh, where to begin? I think there are so many challenges facing teenage girls today, way more than when I was a teenager. I think a lot of this is down to the internet – there’s a pressure for teens to attain perfection, both in their lives and physically that’s far greater today. And I think this is combined with the current obsession with celebrity – and their perfectly edited lives. The saddest thing about it is that most of the time the ‘perfection’ teen girls are encouraged to achieve isn’t even possible. The images and celebrity lifestyles are all airbrushed, photo-shopped and highly edited, as are most people’s social media accounts. I think there’s way too much pressure at school too – a topic that I highlight in Tell it to the Moon and Sky’s poem Free to Be. Young adults just aren’t free to be their true selves and I think this is a tragedy.

6. How important are strong friendships in help over these issues?

I think strong friendships are very important as they can help to counteract the pressure. There’s nothing better than having a friend who loves and accepts you for who you are; someone you can be completely authentic with. This is what I try to celebrate in The Moonlight Dreamers and Tell it to the Moon – the empowering nature of female friendship and creating a sisterhood of your own.

7. Do you think social media is making things like bullying and body image issues worse?

Yes, most definitely, because there’s no escape from it. Bullying has always happened and people have always had body image issues but it’s magnified by social media and this can be so toxic. What is encouraging is that there seems to be a growing trend towards going on an internet detox – taking yourself offline for certain days of the week or hours of the day. I think this can really help, mental health wise. It’s so healthy to take a break from it all.

8. Did you have a friendship group like the Moonlight Dreamer when you were growing up?

I didn’t have such a close-knit group when I was growing up but I did have a very best friend, who I met when I was eight and we’re still best friends to this day. We’ve been through thick and thin together – growing up on a council estate, dating trials and tribulations, career hiccups, marriages, divorces and single-parenthood – and she’s like a sister to me. I’m lucky to have many very close female friends now. I call them my soul sisters, and they mean everything to me.

9. Tell us about your best friends.

My life-long best friend is called Tina. She’s the person I can tell anything to and she gives the best advice – even if I don’t always want to hear it! Another amazing friend of mine is called Sara – I also think of her as my writing guardian angel. She was my editor for my very first book deal and she’s been my main cheer-leader ever since. Writing can be a tough business with a lot of ups and downs and she’s always been there for me. My other best friend is my dad. He’s been my rock throughout my life, always encouraging me to chase my dreams and providing me with his own unique brand of gruff, Irish wisdom.

10. What is your favourite book?

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson. She writes so beautifully. It’s like one long poem in novel form and the characters are so colourful and likeable too. She made me want to live in the world of the book.

11. What authors have influenced your writing?

When I was starting out, and basically teaching myself to write, I was inspired by a writer called Lisa Jewell. I loved the way she made her characters so real – and the settings for her books. They were so rich it was almost as if the location was a character in its own right. This is definitely something I’ve tried to emulate, especially with the settings for The Moonlight Dreamers and Tell it to the Moon. I really wanted the reader to feel as if they were in London or Paris.

12. Which Moonlight Dreamer is most similar to you

I think I’m probably a mash-up of Sky and Maali. I’m a writer and a bit of a hippy like Sky, and a hopeless romantic just like Maali! Writing some of her tongue-tied scenes with Ash was like therapy!

13.Are any of your characters based on real people?

Not really. It’s more like I take interesting elements of real people and mix them up with some fictional traits to create a unique character.

14.Will there be more books in The Moonlight Dreamers series?20270006_672566742936724_1645932775_n

I hope so. I’d love to do one more. But before that, I have another book coming out with Walker next year called Friends Like Us, which tells the story of music-loving teenage carer, Grace, and talented footballer and Syrian refugee, Hafiz. The refugee crisis is something I feel passionately about, ditto the number of young people who are having to care for members of their family. It felt great writing a book which throws a spotlight on these issues – and celebrates the power of friendship, this time between a teen boy and girl.

Don’t forget to check out our giveaway here! 😊.