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It's release day!


My third book, The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, is now finally out in the UK and Australia. It's been an incredible journey getting to publication day - it was the bestselling title at the Young Adult Literature Convention 2017, sold out at Edinburgh Book Festival, is being published by HarperCollins (the stuff that dreams are made of) and was reprinted before it was even published. I'm so excited for everything still to come for Commander Romy Silvers.

This newsletter is your guide to everything related to the book - it's a bumper edition full of extra content: fancasts of the characters, a book playlist, a competition, deleted scenes, book recommendations and more. There are lots of pictures in this issue, so make sure they're all loaded before you read - or click above to view the newsletter in your browser. 

Please forward this email to anyone who you think will love the book - and if you've read it, please share on social media. Your support really helps boost the book. I'm so proud of this story, and I think it's the best thing I've written to date. I hope you do too!

- Lauren x

P.S. I'm thrilled with this trailer for my book, made by the team at Engine House. Doesn't it just bring the cover to life? It gave me shivers when I saw it!
Watch the trailer!

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. 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 is via email and due to the distance between them, their messages take months to transmit. 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…

First ChapterGoodreads Amazon UK 
Amazon US | 
Waterstones | Wordery 
 Book Depository | Foyles

Where did I get the idea?

The nugget of an idea for this story first 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 knew that if I was writing a whole book where there was only really one person in isolation, 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. 

Romy is powerless, easily influenced, subject to frequent panic attacks, sensitive and lacks self confidence. She’s weak in almost every way you can name: emotionally, mentally and physically. Despite that, she’s the strongest female character I’ve ever written - because she’s the most realistic of all of my characters.

I really wanted to make a flawed character, because every woman is worth reading about, as long as they are human: with whatever strengths and weaknesses that includes. They don’t have to be likeable and admirable and special to be deserving of attention. Romy is a direct answer to the cliché of the ‘strong female character’ trope – she is weak and scared at times, but that doesn’t stop her being a strong and well-developed character. Strong doesn’t mean ‘physically skilled’, it means ‘three-dimensional’. 

The tone of the book was inspired by lots of books, which are listed below in more detail, but I just want to highlight one film which influenced the tone of the book more than any other - Stoker. 
What do you want from me? 
To be friends. 
We don’t need to be friends. We’re family.
This is my all time favourite film, described as "Alfred Hitchcock psychological thriller meets Tim Burton coming-of-age freak-out" by the Telegraph. The eerie, tense, richly visual tone of the film was something I referred to frequently when writing The Loneliest Girl in the Universe. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it - perhaps after you finish reading my book!*

*Other book/film pairings I recommend - The Next Together/The Time Traveller's Wife and The Last Beginning/Fingersmith.

Romy's fanfiction

 
In the book, Romy writes fic for her favourite TV show, a fantasy detective show about a selkie and a banshee. Even though she's unaware of it, Romy's experiences throughout the book are reflected in her writing, showing us more about her as a person than about the TV show Loch & Ness. 

A lot of teenage girls use online fandoms as a safe space to develop their sexualities, without fear of pressure from peers to move at a pace they aren’t ready for. I thought that a reliance on online resources would be even more amplified for a girl isolated from human contact. Romy uses fanfics to explore her own feelings, in a way that I hope will resonate with a lot of teenagers today. It’s also a source of instant, feel-good joy,which helps her deal with her stressful day-to-day life.

I’ve posted all of Romy’s fics about Loch & Ness on Wattpad
here, including a lot which aren’t included in the book.

Moodboard


I've had a tumblr since long before the first idea for this book entered my mind, so I've been collecting images, quotes and songs which remind me of the story from the very beginning - the first post dates back to 2011.

You can look through the nineteen pages here, and see the story develop from a very broad concept to the final book it became. Here's a moodboard made of my favourite of the images I've collected over the years:

 

 

There has also been lots of fan-made art for the book already! 
 

Romy inspired candle by @bookwormcandles (buy here)


Moodboard by simonlevvis


Art by Alice Oseman



(While not technically art, this guinea pig photoshoot taken by my mum is too cute not to include.)

Playlist

I love a good soundtrack, both when I'm writing and reading. This is definitely one of the creepiest I've ever made, and it will hopefully make the reading experience all the scarier. Listen at your own risk on Spotify or Youtube.

These first songs are about how alone Romy is, and how she struggles with that feeling of isolation. 
  • Rocket Man//Elton John 
  • In My Room//The Beach Boys 
  • Like Real People Do//Hozier 
  • We Gotta Get Out of this Place//The Animals 
  • London Calling//The Clash 
  • One//Aimee Mann
  • I Don’t Wanna Be Alone Tonight//Dr Hook 
As Romy talks to J and gets to know him, she starts to fall in love. These songs capture that feeling of the early giddy feelings of a new crush. 
  • What If I//Meghan Trainor
  • Angels//The XX 
  • Happy Together//Filter
  • Absolutely Smitten//Dodie Clark
  • Wrecking Ball//Miley Cyrus
  • You Belong to Me//The Duprees
  • Trouble//Halsey
In the middle of the book, it starts getting quite scary, so there's a lot of creepy, atmospheric songs here which I listened to while I was writing it. The Infinity is a circular ship, and the living space is around the perimeter. The centre of the ship is used as storage for the supplies needed for the new planet, like building materials and food. Romy explores the dark, cramped storage area, which hasn’t been visited since the ship left Earth’s orbit. These songs capture that feeling of claustrophobia. 
  • Digital Suicide Lullaby//Brii
  • Poison & Wine//The Civil Wars
  • Where Do You Think You’re Going//Dire Straits
  • Theme Music//American Horror Story
  • Fantasy//MS MR
  • The Devil Within//Digital Daggers
  • Help I’m Alive//Metric
  • Up Jumped the Devil//Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
  • Obsessions//Marina and the diamonds
  • Control//Halsey
  • Counting Bodies Like Sheep to the Rhythm of the War Drums//Sebastian Stroud
  • You'll Be Back//Hamilton Soundtrack
After the big climax of the book, there's a happier, more optimistic ending to the book with these final songs. 
  • Non, je ne regrette rien//Edith Piaf
  • One day I'll fly away//The Vaults
  • Life on Mars?//David Bowie
  • Worst Trip//Dr. Dog
  • Always Look on the Bright Side of life//Monty Python
  • Ground Control// All Time Low
  • Become the Colour//Emily Wells
If you have any recommendations for other songs which would fit with Romy's story, please let me know - several of these are based on people's recs!
Picture by livsbookishlife

Research for the book


I always try to make the science in my books as accurate as possible, - the time machine in The Last Beginning is also based on real life research into sub-atomic particles at CERN, like the Large Hadron Collider. For this book, I did a lot of research into space travel and the theory of space travel behind NASA’s equipment. I read a lot of non-fiction about space travel – NASA does a series of free eBooks explaining their science for beginners, so I had a great time diving into them.

More than anything, I think there’s a danger of crossing over into Fantasy instead of Science Fiction if you don’t base your technology in solid scientific concepts, and there’s never been as much appeal in writing Fantasy for me. As long as there’s some seed of truth, it’s very easy to make readers believe anything else.

I wanted to write about the fear and confinement and constant stress of being alone on a small spaceship, where you’re completely responsibility for running the ship. 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.

I watched lots of sci-fi films like Moon, Gravity and Interstellar – and that really
helped with capturing the aesthetics and design of the ship.​ I tried to explain it in a series of terrible sketches:


 
Luckily, my publishers drew a better version for me!
 

i also 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.

Reviews

Some great reviews have already come in for the book. Here are some of my favourites!

“Gripping psychological thriller with a very relatable heroine” 
The Bookseller


“A white-knuckle ride through space, science, love and fandom. I was completely gripped from start to finish. I can’t wait to see what Lauren James dreams up next!”
Sara Barnard, author of Beautiful Broken Things

“Whatever your expectations, The Loneliest Girl in the Universe will defy them. Exceptionally clever storytelling from a talented, versatile writer.”
Non Pratt, author of Trouble

“The Loneliest Girl in the Universe is shocking and brutal and has the best twist I’ve ever read. The sinister realism of Romy’s situation is as terrifying as it is gripping, and I was rooting for her from beginning to end.”
Alice Oseman, author of Solitaire

“The Loneliest Girl in the Universe is one of the most gripping books I’ve ever read. But it’s also warm, sweet, sad and heart-warming. I loved it.”
Keris Stainton, author of One Italian Summer

Dramatis personæ


It's time to meet the characters! As well as explaining who they are, I'm giving pictures of actors who could play them. 

A caveat: this is a little different from my other book fancastings for The Next Together and The Last Beginning, because I tried really hard not describe Romy's appearance in any real detail in the book. I thought that looks would be almost entirely irrelevant to a girl living alone, away from society - and I wanted to allow the reader to feel as much like they were Romy themselves without excluding anyone by describing her in a specific way.

Because of that, this is less how I personally picture her and the other characters, and more an example of how I'd like a future film to potentially be cast. But please imagine the characters in any way you wish while reading the book - in this case, it really is up to you.  

Commander Romy Silvers - Alia Shawkat

 

 
Romy has a lot of pressure placed on her to complete her mission, and even though she sometimes struggles with the responsibility, ultimately, she always does what is right. She has to be played by someone who can express a lot of subtle nuance in their expressions, and look very vulnerable.

Commander J Shoreditch - ? 
 
Romy and J communicate via email, so she doesn't know what he looks like, and neither does the reader - so I don't think it's fair to cast him just yet.  

Dr Molly Simmons - Hattie Morahan
 

 
Molly is Romy's therapist, and sends her voice messages guiding her through calming exercises from Earth. I loved Hattie in Sense & Sensibility and I think she would portray a very reassuring Molly. (Also, I've just realised she looks very like my agent Claire, who is a calming, reassuring voice on the phone in my own life. This is probably not a coincidence.)

Dr Talia Silvers - Lesley Sharp
 
 
Romy's mum is a complicated, intelligent character, and I think Lesley could really pull her off. I love the episode of Doctor Who she was in, Midnight.
 
Romy's Dad - Ricky Whittle

 
I recently watched (and adored) American Gods, and as soon as I saw Shadow I was like "that's him! that's Romy's dad!". He's a soft, gentle giant, who makes Romy feel safe and protected. He has a sweet tooth and loves arts and crafts. Ricky is still a little young, but in a few years he'll be exactly the right age, I think. Pay attention, Hollywood. ;)

Jayden Ness - Alfie Enoch

 
Not technically a character, but Jayden Ness, a selkie in Romy's favourite TV show, is such a big part of the book that I had to cast him! He's also how Romy pictures J for a lot of the time while they're talking, so even though I'm not going to cast J, this helps picture him a little. 

Lyra Loch - Georgia King
 

Jayden's love interest is a feisty feminist banshee called Lyra. 

There's a few other characters in the book, but I don't want to spoil them by introducing them just yet! I don't have actors cast for any of them except one, who I picture as Chris Pine. In a few months I might do a more complete list of all the characters.
 

Easter Eggs in other books

There are lots of references in my books – adding them in is one of my favourite parts of writing! Here's the one in The Last Beginning about Romy: 
 

There is also one other easter egg about Romy hidden in a book - but I'm not going to tell you where it is, because I want you to find it yourself. My friend Alice is also a writer, and she was writing her book Radio Silence while I wrote Romy's story, so we decided to put references to each other's writing in our books. In Radio Silence, there's a hidden reference to The Loneliest Girl, and in The Loneliest Girl, there's a reference to Radio Silence. 
 
Now that both books are published, Alice and I are going to hold a competition to win signed copies of both books to anyone who can find the easter eggs. Email the references to laurenelizjames@gmail.com with your address, and we'll pick a winner from the entries. Open internationally, closes 7/11/17 (so you've got 2 months to get reading!).

I read The Next Together series - will I like The Loneliest Girl in the Universe?


Yes, I think you will! Here's why, statistically and qualitatively: 

Chapter Extract 


You can read Chapter 1 here or listen to me read it here. This is the first video of me reading my writing aloud I've put online - so I've been a little nervous about it! I hope you like it.

How to make a space cake


For the launch of The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, Charlie Smissen made the most beautiful galaxy themed cake, with a cut-out Romy figure and a centre bursting with glitter and popping candy. Here's how she did it. 
  1. Make a chocolate cake batter (I recommend this recipe for a dense, moist Guinness Chocolate cake)
  2. Mix sprinkles into the batter and bake as per instructions 
  3. Ice the cakes together with buttercream
  4. Core the centre of both cake in a circle 3 cm wide and tightly pack the centre with glitter/sprinkles/popping candy
  5. Ice both cakes in a crumb layer of buttercream
  6. Roll out black fondant and lay over the cake, smoothing flat on the buttercream
  7. Use edible paints in white, purple and green to swirl galaxy patterns over the black fondant
  8. Make a starburst out of stiff silver card and mount on a stick for the top!
Ta da! Isn't she clever?

Books which you might like if you enjoyed The Loneliest Girl in the Universe


Books about isolated characters:


Books about internet culture:


Books with a twist: 
 

Books about survival:

I hope this taster into the world of Romy Silvers piqued your interest - and that if you read it, you enjoy the book. I'd love to hear your feedback, either by email or on social media. I'll be back in November with more news about my writing! 

Here are some of my recent blog posts, which you might have missed:  And here's some cool things I've read online recently which I think you might like too:

Upcoming Events

 

October 8th: Bath Literature Festival panel with Lucy Ivison and Tom Ellen, chaired by Lucy Powrie, 12:45 PM, £6, tickets available here.




October 13th: Panel at Deptcon3, Easons, Dublin – Tickets available here

Who am I? 

I recently commissioned this banner for my website from Alice Oseman as an introduction to who I am as an author. It's got all of my favourite things on it, so if you're new to me and my writing, it'll help you get to know me a bit better. 
The number one way a book spreads is through word of mouth. If you like my writing, please spread the word!

If you're an aspiring author you may be interested in my editorial critique services.
You are receiving this email either because you signed up at http://laurenejames.co.uk or because you participated in a promotional campaign for my books. 

My mailing address is:
Lauren James
Walker Books
87 Vauxhall Walk
London, SE11 5HJ
United Kingdom

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Lauren James · Walker Books · 87 Vauxhall Walk · London, SE11 5HJ · United Kingdom

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