Why I chose to write in an epistolary format

The Next Together follows the various lives of Katherine and Matthew as they meet and fall in love throughout history. There are timelines in the recent future and distant past, and each time a mysterious being is tracking Kate and Matt’s relationship, and making sure they fall in love and save the world in every life….

Each lifetime is very different, so the book is made up of lots of interwoven genres – The Next Together is a historical drama, a conspiracy theory thriller, a science fiction adventure, and plenty more besides! Because of the number of different timelines, I thought the story needed something to tie it together, so that it didn’t feel like a collection of stories about separate people. I decided the best way to do that was to include documents and letters in the novel, as well as prose.

My characters Kate and Matt are the same people, but sometimes they are equals and sometimes they aren’t. In one timeline Matthew is Katherine’s servant, in another the opposite is true. This allows for a lot of variety in the way their relationship develops, so I wanted to make sure I kept an element of continuity throughout the book. I thought it would help to have something to tie these characters together – to each other, and to reality. I needed to make it clear they were the same people, regardless of the time period, or whether they are texting or writing letters in fountain pen.


There’s something about the visual aspect of epistolary books – the documents, graphics and pictures – which makes it seem more real. It makes a story come to life. When you can see that a character has the same handwriting in 1745 or 2039, it adds a satisfyingly rewarding feeling to the story.

I also did a lot of historical research, and uncovered many newspaper articles and old diaries and letters, which really brought the periods of history to life for me. I wanted to recreate that feeling in the novel – of history being about real, flawed people, instead of statistics in a textbook. I wanted to bring the sense of humour and life I’d read about to my novel.

lauren-james-pic-2.jpgOriginally posted at the Dymocks blog

Published by Lauren James

Lauren James is the twice Carnegie-nominated British author of many Young Adult novels, including Green Rising, The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker and The Loneliest Girl in the Universe. She is a RLF Royal Fellow, freelance editor and screenwriter. Lauren is the founder of the Climate Fiction Writers League, and on the board of the Authors & Illustrators Sustainability Working Group through the Society of Authors. Her books have sold over a hundred thousand copies worldwide and been translated into six languages. The Quiet at the End of the World was shortlisted for the YA Book Prize and STEAM Children’s Book Award. Her other novels include The Next Together series, the dyslexia-friendly novella series The Watchmaker and the Duke and serialised online novel An Unauthorised Fan Treatise. She was born in 1992, and has a Masters degree from the University of Nottingham, where she studied Chemistry and Physics. Lauren is a passionate advocate of STEM further education, and many of her books feature female scientists in prominent roles. She sold the rights to her first novel when she was 21, whilst she was still at university. Her writing has been described as ‘gripping romantic sci-fi’ by the Wall Street Journal and ‘a strange, witty, compulsively unpredictable read which blows most of its new YA-suspense brethren out of the water’ by Entertainment Weekly. Lauren lives in the West Midlands and is an Arts Council grant recipient. She has written articles for numerous publications, including the Guardian, Buzzfeed, Den of Geek, The Toast, and the Children’s Writers and Artist’s Yearbook 2022. She has taught creative writing for Coventry University, WriteMentor, and Writing West Midlands.

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