How to research a book set in space

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:

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Luckily, my publishers drew a better version for me!

spaceship

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:

tumblr_ogn4vskybm1qa24muo1_1280 (1)

The dark side of writing a book set in space: the calculations. Ah well. It was all worth it in the end.


The Loneliest Girl In The Universe

cover - near finalCan 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…

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

“Black Mirror-esque. A fantastic slow-build drama.” ~ SFX

 Amazon UK |  Amazon US | Waterstones | Wordery |  Book Depository | Foyles  | Barnes & Noble

The Loneliest Girl In The Universe is the third novel by Lauren James. It is a psychological thriller set in space and will be published by Walker Books in the UK and Australia on 7th September 2017, and Harperteen in July 2018. You can add it on Goodreads or subscribe to my mailing list for updates.

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.

Sign up to be notified when the US edition of The Loneliest Girl in the Universe is published and ARC copies are available for request.

If you leave a review of the book on a retail site like Amazon, Waterstones or Barnes & Noble, I will send you a signed, personalised bookplate. Fill out this form to claim your bookplate.

My tumblr posts about The Loneliest Girl In The Universe are all collected here. Here are some links to get you started:

Published by Lauren James

Lauren James was born in 1992, and has a Masters degree from the University of Nottingham, UK, where she studied Chemistry and Physics. She is the twice Carnegie-nominated British Young Adult author of The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, The Quiet at the End of the World and The Next Together series, as well as the dyslexia-friendly novella The Starlight Watchmaker and serialised online novel An Unauthorised Fan Treatise. Her upcoming release is The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker. 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. Her books have sold over fifty thousand copies in the UK alone, and been translated into five languages worldwide. 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. The Last Beginning was named one of the best LGBT-inclusive works for young adults by the Independent. Lauren is a passionate advocate of STEM further education, and all of her books feature female scientists in prominent roles. The Loneliest Girl in the Universe was inspired by a Physics calculation she was assigned at university. The Quiet at the End of the World considers the legacy and evolution of the human race into the far future. Lauren lives in the West Midlands and is an Arts Council grant recipient.  She has written articles for numerous publications, including the GuardianBuzzfeed, Den of GeekThe Toast, and the Children’s Writers and Artist’s Yearbook 2020. She teaches creative writing for Coventry University, WriteMentor, and Writing West Midlands, providing creative writing courses to children through the Spark Young Writers programme.

2 thoughts on “How to research a book set in space

  1. I’m hearing such amazing reviews for The Loneliest Girl in the Universe! I can’t wait to read it 🙂

    Like

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