Taking stock of 2017

It’s that time again! I’ve done a review of the year for the last few years – here’s 2015 and 2016. I started because I missed having the clear cut ‘evaluation’ of each year which you get from exam results at school and university – it felt weird that years could pass without any kind of indication of whether it had gone well. (I know, I know, I’m overly reliant on success as a measure of happiness. You don’t need to tell me.)

Anyway, it’s incredibly satisfying to look over the past years and see how far my career and life have come since I graduated and became an author. This year has been busier than ever, and at times it feels like I’ve not managed to stop all year – so one of my goals for 2018 is to rest a little bit, and not feel like I need to keep swimming to stay afloat. I don’t think I’m in danger of sinking just yet, so I can afford to slow down my pace just a tad to make sure I’m working on the things I really want to be working on, and that my personal life, health and fitness is getting some attention too.

So, without further ado – here’s my 2017!

The Good

Fiction writing


I edited my third novel The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, which was published in September in the UK, Australia and New Zealand. It went into a second printing before release day, and was the bestselling title at YALC 2017. I got a book deal for The Loneliest Girl with Harperteen in the US, and received ARCS for it. It’s also sold to HarperCollins Brasil.


I wrote, edited and published a novella about Clove and Ella from The Last Beginning, Another Beginning.


The Next Together was published in the US, Russia, Germany and Brazil. The Last Beginning was published in the Czech Republic – and I got to meet the translator and sign it in a bookshop in Prague. translator

I outlined and pitched multiple new novels to my agent and/or editors.

I wrote book 4 (in 3 months!) and did the first round of edits. I also edited a book about ghosts, one which I thought might never see the light of day.


Non-fiction writing

I wrote a commissioned memoir article for Buzzfeed –  7 Times Studying Science Taught Me To Be Brave. I wrote a draft of a non-fiction book, which was a completely new experience for me, and taught me a lot, even if it never goes anywhere.

I started taking on editorial critiques. I judged the University of Nottingham short story competition (for which I wrote a short story about Kate and Matt at the university in 2016).

I wrote some blog posts:

I also wrote multiple lengthy issues of my newsletter, which has increasingly become my most pleasurable part of social media.


The Loneliest Girl in the Universe got some great press reviews, including “Gripping psychological thriller with a very relatable heroine” from The Bookseller, “Black Mirror-esque. A fantastic slow-build drama” from SFX, and “The Loneliest Girl is a page-turning science fiction thriller with some terrific twists” from Philip Reeve.

Walker commissioned a book trailer, which was truly an I’ve-Made-It moment:

tumblr_ovekdl4Fe61qa24muo1_1280I did 27 events, including Edinburgh Book Festival and Bath Festival, plus my first international event in Dublin.

I also did lots of school events, the highlight of which was at the Eden Project in Penzance, when The Next Together was nominated for the Kernow Book Awards.




I had two book launches, one at my local independent bookshop and one in London. My family and friends all came along, and it was just the most wonderful if not overwhelming week.


I chaired events for Jennifer E Smith, Paige Toon, Ayisha Malik, Patrice Lawrence, Frances Hardinge, Lucy Saxon and Maggie Harcourt.

I wrote a whole series of extras for my books, including playlists, moodboards and short stories:

I filmed lots of Youtube videos, including:

I went to London Book Fair for the first time, where The Loneliest Girl was featured on the front of Walker’s catalogue.

I blurbed some amazing books, including Chainbreaker, The Hazel Wood and Dotwav.




I read 220 books – my favourites were The Pearl Thief and Sourdough. I went to countless book events, including David Mitchell makes piano drabbles in a cathedral and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie fangirling with Nicola Sturgeon.

I travelled to Dublin, the Giant’s Causeway, Prague, Sofia, Scotland and Cornwall.

I went to see lots of plays and concerts, including Hedda Gabler, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Antony & Cleopatra, The Addams Family, Dream Girls, Angels in America, Lorde and a truly terrible one staring Jude Law.

I did some new things for the first time – including willow weaving and canoeing on Birmingham canals. I took my car for its first MOT. I started going to a weekly car boot sale with my mum at 5.30am on Sundays (it’s worth it for the deals). We also started going to National Trust properties, including Baddesley Clinton, Charlecote Park, Packwood House, Kenilworth Castle, Buckingham Palace, Holyrood Palace and Edinburgh Royal Botanical Gardens. In 2018 we’re considering, gasp, actually becoming National Trust members.

My friends Sarah and Clare came to book events with me in London, Dublin, Edinburgh and Newcastle, which was just the best thing ever. It was also such a joy to watch them both succeed this year – Sarah graduated with a Masters in Publishing and Clare made some amazing career moves. I’m so proud of my squad!


I started looking at houses, and went to many, many viewings – which is a whole new part of adulthood that I had to learn from scratch. I made about a dozen financial spreadsheets and spoke to financial advisers and accountants (eek).

The bad


I still struggle a lot with driving, as I’ve mentioned in every one of these yearly reviews. I’m just not a natural, and every time I drive somewhere I’m absurdly proud of myself for conquering my worries. I think this is just something I’m going to have to learn to live with until I’m driving often enough that it becomes easier.

I read 220 books – but somehow obtained even more than that which has gone unread. I get sent books from publishers now, but also buy them, and find them, and just somehow attract them, and it’s . . . becoming a problem. I need to start reading books I already own!

Last year I started donating blood, but the two times I’ve done that this year I’ve felt faint afterwards, and caused a lot of fuss with the nurses. I’m going to keep trying, but they’ve said I may not be able to donate if I feel like that again, which is a disappointment.

My family have had a lot of illness this year.

photo (1)

My adorable baby guinea pigs grew into gigantic hormonal monsters, and started fighting so much they had to be split up. Their neat hutch turned into a sprawling labyrinth of pens, taking up more room than my entire bedroom (no joke).


I did a lot more events than any year before, and I didn’t always handle that very well. I rarely managed to do any work on days when I had events, and often took days off afterwards to recover.

In general, I made myself sick with stress quite a lot this year. My method of dealing with that tended to be to carry on working from bed, which isn’t the best, to say the least.

I have a terrible work routine, and the more work I have to do, the later and later my sleep pattern shifts. This year at the height of my workload I was working until six in the morning – which is not only very unsociable waking hours, but means I was seeing very little daylight. This autumn I’ve not been swimming as much as I used to, because I spent nearly a month away from home – and when I was at home, the gym was closing just as I was waking up! Not ideal.

I’m not really sure what the solution to this is, because I’m most efficient at writing when I’m uninterrupted, which in a busy house only usually happens at night. It takes time to get into the writing ‘mode’ and when things are going on all the time, it’s very easy to slip out of it without having achieved much. I’m hoping that when I move out I’ll be more able to get into the writing zone during normal daylight hours. (Maybe.)

There were quite a few bumps in the road in deciding on my fourth novel, and many different pitches were discussed and discarded. I’m very happy with the result, but it was a very stressful process which I’d very much like to avoid in the future.

The lengthy process meant that I ended up writing the first draft in only three months, which is half of my usual time. I didn’t do much else during that time, and was very anxious about it. I also missed several deadlines this year because I was trying to juggle so much stuff. Luckily I have very relaxed editors who hid their worry very well!

It’s really hard to discuss things like this about publishing without feeling ungrateful – I am in a very, very privileged position as a traditionally published author who can do this as a full time career. But there are parts of it which are pretty terrible sometimes.

And, one problem that I’m sure is in everyone’s summary blogs this year – it’s very hard to write in this political climate. I’ve found it hard to balance being well informed and actually….achieving anything.

In summary, here are my new year’s resolutions:


  1. Move out
  2. Find a work schedule that doesn’t affect my health/lifestyle
  3. Do less events(!)
  4. Get my ghost book published

Well. What a busy year!

Happy new year, everyone! What are your new years resolutions for 2018?


Books I Want to Read in 2018

There are approximately 200 books I need to read next year, so this was an incredibly hard list to narrow down. So I cheated a bit, and have split them up into quite a few categories.

Last year I chose 17 books I wanted to read in 2017. I managed to read 14 of them, except The Gallery of Unfinished Girls, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, A Conjuring of Light, Defy the Stars and The Ravenous – all of which are sitting on my bookshelf waiting patiently.

This year I started reading a lot more non-fiction, so if you have any recommendations for those coming out next year, please let me know. My knowledge is limited on that front!

Previously: 15 books I want to read in ’15 | 16 books I want to read in ’16 | 17 books I wanted to read in ’17


There is some really amazing UKYA coming out in 2018, and these are some of the ones I really can’t wait for. There are plenty more though, including my own – there’s a semi-complete list here.

My Heart Goes Bang  | In Your Light | Second Best Friend  | Goodbye, Perfect

Bonus: Alice Oseman’s not yet announced new book, which I’ve already read cough-cough-cough


I have a difficult relationship with USYA, in that there’s a lot of hype about them and then they don’t always live up to expectations. So I tend to stay away from authors I’ve not read before these days. However, here are four authors who I really love, and I can’t wait to see what their next books are like. I’m particularly excited for Angie Thomas’ second novel!

Barbed Wire Heart | On the Come Up | Leah on the Offbeat  | Puddin’ (Dumplin’ #2)

Science Fiction

I am so excited about these that I am positively quivering. I love the free short story The Lady Astronaut of Mars, so I really can’t wait for the full length duology prequels coming this year (two! We’re blessed with an abundance of female scientists!). I will also read anything Becky Chambers chooses to bless us with, as her first two books make my top ten lists every year. Bring on the spaceborn few!

Time Was | Record of a Spaceborn Few | The Calculating Stars | The Night Masquerade (Binti #3)

Historical Magicians

In 2017 I had a reading epiphany: I have a favourite genre, and it’s not the one I write. It’s a niche sub-genre about historical magicians, like Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell and Shades of  Milk and Honey (the golden intersection is also when they are rich murderers, of course).

Since I realised this was my ultimate jam, I’ve not had a single book slump, because I’ve stocked up on historical magic books. I love any and all of them I read. So here’s some new ones coming out that I’m very excited for. (I’ve already read advanced copies of Circe and  Chainbreaker and love love loved them.)

Sorcerer Royal (Sorcerer to the Crown #2) | The Dark Days Club #3 | Circe | Chainbreaker

Books about the ocean

Because who doesn’t love a good sea book? I love Kirsty Logan’s quirky magic, and I’m very much looking forward to having my heart torn out by Louise O’Neill twice this year, as her adult debut Almost Love is also coming out.

The Surface Breaks | The Gloaming | The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror

Middle Grade

Most of these books don’t have covers yet, but I am incredibly excited for them none-the-less. These all have more than a hint of magic and there’s something so nice about reading books for younger readers occasionally. I think YORK was one of the underappreciated books of 2017 that doesn’t get discussed enough, and I can’t wait for the next part.

 The Clockwork Ghost (York #2) | A Spoonful of Murder (Murder Most Unladylike #6)

No covers yet:  The Storm Keeper’s IslandPages & Co

What books are you looking forward to in 2018? Except for mine (!) I have three releases this year. The US editions of The Last Beginning (February) and The Loneliest Girl in the Universe (July), and the UK edition of my fourth book (September). It’s going to be a busy one!

My (personal) best books of 2017

It’s the season to round up our reading years! This year I read nearly 220 books, so it was difficult to choose my favourite ten, especially as I’ve read some truly excellent books this year. Some really important books about feminism and racism achieved the recognition they deserved this year, so those made it to the top of my list. These are all published in 2017.

If you’ve already read all these, then firstly – please send me some recommendations, as you clearly have excellent taste! Secondly – my top ten favourite books of every year since 2011 can be found here, for some things you might not have discovered.

Finally, a reminder from an author – if you’re making your own list of favourite books of 2017, please make sure you thank the author by adding your reviews to Amazon. It’s a small, quick thing that can make a huge difference to authors.

10. We Are Okay by Nina LaCour



Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. But even thousands of miles away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she’s tried to outrun.

Achingly sad and beautiful, WE ARE OKAY is a book I’ll be thinking about for a long time. Marin is an orphan, who was raised by her grandfather. When he dies, she runs across the country to university instead of facing her grief. Completely alone, she plans to spend her 25 day Christmas break in an empty dorm building, eating ramen and reading poetry about solitude. But her ex-girlfriend and lifelong best friend has other thoughts on the matter.

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9. Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness by Peter Godfrey-Smith

A philosopher dons a wet suit and journeys into the depths of consciousness to tell a bold new story of how nature became aware of itself.

A fascinating look at how evolution makes our brains think, told through the mysterious actions of octopuses. That cover deserves awards alone, too.

292372118. Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe. 

I’ve seen this around for years (it’s a particular favourite of booktubers) but never picked it up. Finally my friend Kat forced it into my hands, and I’m so glad she did. I devoured all 8 volumes and now eagerly await new issues. Not for younger readers – it’s very explicit.

7. Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart 33843362.jpg

The story of a young woman whose diabolical smarts are her ticket into a charmed life. But how many times can someone reinvent themselves? You be the judge.

A worthy follow up to We Were Liars, this genderbent The Talented Mr Ripley, told in reverse chronology, is a masterclass in writing unlikeable female characters who are unapologetically evil.


6. Binti & Binti Home by Nnedi Okorafor25762847

Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs.

These short novellas can be read in one sitting. They highlight how white and homogeneous alien races in science fiction can be, by showing how a real diverse alien race might be. Binti’s culture mirrors an African tribal cultures.  This also features a STEM-studying female character (a rarity in fiction – my list numbers only 30, and I wrote 3 of them). Binti is truly unique and I will happily read another dozen stories about her.

326133665. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas 

Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. 

Hugely important, in every way. Beyond that – wonderfully told, with an unmistakable voice.

338717624. The Power by Naomi Alderman


What if the power to hurt were in women’s hands? Suddenly – tomorrow or the day after – teenage girls find that with a flick of their fingers, they can inflict agonizing pain and even death.

The perfect answer to people who think there’s no need to be a feminist today, because sexism has been ‘fixed’. It amplifies all the little everyday niggles of inequality that it’s so easy to overlook, by examining what would happen if it was reversed. It’s noticeable then, for sure.

3. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi30849411

Effia and Esi: two sisters with two very different destinies. One sold into slavery; one a slave trader’s wife. The consequences of their fate reverberate through the generations that follow. 

This is such a unique (and horrifying) way of showing what national identity has been lost by Africans taken into slavery. Hugely important and powerful, and destined to become a classic.

2. Sourdough by Robin Sloan33916024

Lois Clary, a software engineer at a San Francisco robotics company, codes all day and collapses at night. When her favourite sandwich shop closes up, the owners leave her with the starter for their mouthwatering sourdough bread.

The perfect mix of science & magic to leave you dreaming of sentient bread. A book I wish I had written.

1. The Pearl Thief (Code Name Verity prequel) by Elizabeth Wein34593693

Sixteen-year-old Julie Beaufort-Stuart is returning to her family’s ancestral home in Perthshire for one last summer. Tensions are already high when a respected London archivist goes missing, presumed murdered. And then she notices the family’s treasure trove of pearls is missing.

I’m a huge fan of thirties detective novels like Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers, and this is my perfect spin on that – there’s murder, rich people living frivolously, dogs, Bronze age marine archaeology, castles, cross-dressing Cabaret shows, TREASURE-HUNTING, pearls, buried treasure (did I mention the treasure?), river trawling and Harriet Vane mentions. I’m so into it in every way.

Ellen and Frank are brilliant love interests, and Lady Julia Lindsay MacKenzie Wallace Beaufort-Stewart must be the most iconic female character in YA history. She’s smart, sassy and always says the unexpected. She goes off to fight in World War II in Code Name Verity as a spy, she kisses whoever she pleases, and as Ellen put it, takes whatever she wants. She had a really brilliant character arc in this book – you really see her blossom from an unsure fifteen year old into the person she’s going to become in Code Name Verity.

Reading this has made my heart ache all the more for her and what happens in the next book, and I’m very afraid that I’ll never be able to read CNV again for fear of my heart quite literally exploding in sadness.


Bonus – my favourite books published before 2017:

The Hare With Amber Eyes: A Family’s Century of Art and Loss by Edmund de Waal

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley

Lord Peter Wimsey series by Dorothy L. Sayers

The Magpie Lord by K.J. Charles

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers


Christmas Gift Guide – 6 beautiful books that would make great gifts

Books mentioned (all links to Amazon UK):

The Fir Tree http://amzn.to/2kBtmsx
The Sleeper and the Spindle http://amzn.to/2jc46sC
Mistletoe and Murder http://amzn.to/2kcAd7N
Bad Girls Throughout History http://amzn.to/2AEdN7t
The Power (special edition) https://www.awin1.com/cread.php?awinmid=3787&awinaffid=305053&clickref=&p=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.waterstones.com%2Fbook%2Fthe-power%2Fnaomi-alderman%2F9780241341698
Homegoing http://amzn.to/2jwkWzo

Cover Reveal – American edition of The Loneliest Girl

Today I have an exciting exclusive cover to show you – the Harpercollins cover for the American edition of The Loneliest Girl in the Universe!


Days since The Infinity left Earth: 6817

The daughter of two astronauts, Romy Silvers is no stranger to life in space. But she never knew how isolating the universe could be until her parents’ tragic deaths left her alone on The Infinity, a spaceship speeding away from Earth.

Romy tries to make the best of her lonely situation, but with only brief messages from her therapist on Earth to keep her company, she can’t help but feel like something is missing. It seems like a dream come true when NASA alerts her that another ship, The Eternity, will be joining The Infinity.

Romy begins exchanging messages with J, the commander of The Eternity, and her friendship with J breathes new life into her world. But as The Eternity gets closer, Romy learns there’s more to J’s mission than she could have imagined. And suddenly, there are worse things than being alone. . . .

I love this cover so much! I asked for something similar to the cover of WE ARE OKAY by Nina La Cour, and they really came through. The colours even match!


It’s a little like an art deco movie poster, and the elegant simplistic design really highlights Romy’s isolation and desire for human contact. The circle looks like a planet, a porthole and space full of stars, all at once. The font matches the UK edition – and the fonts used for The Next Together and The Last Beginning too – which I love.

The little details really bring it to life, I think – her hand pressed against the glass, her plait, the shadow of her body on the windowsill. I’m absolutely and utterly in love.

It’s illustrated by Amir Belhoula, who is a really wonderful artist – here’s some of his other work:


I really can’t wait to see this printed in hardback. It’s going to be stunning. The edition is out in July 2018, in hardback, audiobook and eBook.

Finally, because I can’t resist, here it is next to my other covers, for ultimate impact. The two covers for Loneliest are so different but both capture the book so well!


I hope you love the new cover as much as I do!

First Chapter  Amazon UK |  Amazon US | Waterstones | Wordery |  Book Depository |Foyles  | Barnes & Noble | WHSmith | Hive

In other news: It’s officially Autumn! I hope you’re all having a mustard yellow, pumpkin-spiced October filled with all the Halloween-themed snacks that Tescos have on offer.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been dividing my time between editing my next book and doing events to promote The Loneliest Girl in the Universe. This is the first time I’ve had a proper ‘tour’ for a book release – I’m doing eighteen days of events around the country from Edinburgh to Dublin. It’s been hard to find time to write in-between all the travelling! It’s a new part of the job for me, but I really love meeting you all, so it’s worth all the frantic writing-on-my-ipad-on-the-train days I’ve had.

It’s totally worth snatching every moment to work on my new book, though, because I’m so in love with it – I can’t wait to announce what it’s about in my next newsletter! Lowrie and Shen, the protagonists, are some of my favourites I’ve ever written, and it feels strange that none of you know who they are yet.

Right now I’m doing structural edits on the book, which means I’m dissecting a 4-page long editorial letter from my editors, who listed everything that’s not working about the book at the moment (in a very nice way!). I then make adjustments based on their thoughts, some of which are little things like clarifying how a piece of technology works, and some are larger, like changing the pace of a plotline or cutting out a subplot completely. It’s a bit like making a mosaic – you cut up your book into lots of scenes and reshuffle them around, then paint over the cracks. I really enjoy it, but it’s also quite scary chopping up a complete book into pieces. It gets worse before it gets better.

The way it usually works is that I’ll alternate between angsting about how terrible the book is, and gleefully declaring I’m nearly done and it’s a work of art. Once I enter a new phase, I immediately forget about the last one. And then do it all over again, taking myself by surprise.

Anyway, we don’t yet have a title for this book, so I’ve been going through thesaurus websites frantically trying to find good words for one! If you’re doing NaNoWriMo this year, I’m documenting my writing progress on the website here – add me!

A few new events have been recently announced – check out my events page at laurenejames.co.uk/events for more information.


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:


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: