Category Archives: the loneliest girl in the universe

A statistical analysis of the science of writing

I finished drafting my seventh novel this week! It’s crazy to me that I’ve written so many books. In a lot of ways, I still feel like I’m only just finding my feet as a writer. The process of writing a book is really mysterious to me, so I wanted to talk about the process of getting a first draft on paper.

I’ve been using a website called mywriteclub for a few years now, long enough to have gathered data on how I wrote three complete novel drafts. The first was a book about ghosts in 2016, which took a full year:

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As you can see, this was a very complicated and drawn out process, as I edited it halfway through drafting (HUGE MISTAKE), taking out 20,000 words and really slowing me down.

The second book I kept a record of was The Quiet at the End of the World in 2017, which took 6 months:

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This one was a lot more simple, with no editing happening during the writing process (phew!). The third was my current Untitled Project, which took 7 months:

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Again, quite straightforward, but with a very long break in the middle while I did other projects (and also accidentally wrote another novel, which I didn’t use mywriteclub to track – I wrote it too fast, with about 45k written in a fortnight. I know, ridiculous, and definitely an outlier for my writing process).

From these graphs, I can see that I write novels of a pretty consistently length of 70,000 words. I always take at least one break somewhere in the middle (to do edits on a different book), usually for around a month. After I’ve taken a break, I always write a bit faster than before I paused, because my brain has had a chance to decide what comes next. I average around 2500 words a day during sprint times. I usually sprint for a week at that speed before slowing down again. I write a lot in spring, and much less during the summer.

While these graphs are all really different, the books actually always take a similar amount of writing days to complete. My seventh book took around 30 full writing days, as a very rough estimate. Ghost book took 33 days, and The Quiet took 31 days. Those are the days I was increasing my word count, not including the ones where I was plotting the book (or staring at the screen and not making any progress, which happens a lot).

If I’m working ten hours a day, that means each book takes at least 330 hours. According to Microsoft Word, my total editing time on book 7 was 21,000 minutes (350 hours), though I’m not sure how accurate this is, as I’m sure I changed documents a few times, and wrote scenes in other places before pasting them in.

editing time

So, it takes me at least 400 hours to draft a novel. Which is a scary figure to know. Because this book is under contract (i.e. it sold before I started writing it), technically, I could work out my hourly rate. This book will probably take another month to edit, if not longer – say another 400 hours. Then I’ll be promoting and publicising it, online and in person. All of which is unpaid, so the time taken has to be taken account in the earnings from the sale of the book. So – do I make minimum wage from writing a novel, based on the guaranteed income I currently know about? (Assuming it doesn’t ever sell out its advance and make any royalties –  AKA, the worst case scenario.) I think I do. Just.

The fact that I am unsure on that is a very worrying thing, as a full time author. This job is a risk, in a lot of ways. But the fact that even when I’m under contract, I’m still not sure if I’m doing work that will earn me a living wage, shows that some things need to change for authors to have sustainable incomes. An author still puts the same amount of work in, regardless of whether the book is a success or not.

Every writer writes at a different rate. Someone else might write the same novel as me in twice as long, or half the time. Does that change how much they should receive as an advance? Should this vary as they gain more experience and become faster writers? How could such a thing be calculated?

I don’t have any answers to this, I’m just trying to analyse the data I’ve been collecting about my writing over the last few years. Here’s what I know: I work as fast as I can. I have deadlines, and I am very efficient with my time, and at this point in my career, it takes me at least 1000 hours to develop a novel ready for publication, as a very low estimate.

As it supposedly takes 10,000 hours to get good at something, that means that after 7 books I still have a long way to go. I’m very interested to see where these figures change when I reach that point.

Also: I’m sure there are more accurate ways to track the time it takes to write a novel (I think Scrivener can do this?) but, honestly? I think it would stress me out to know a more exact figure that this. Part of the creative process is not knowing how things are going to work out. If I was comparing my drafting to a timeline of the last book I wrote, I think I’d go a little mad!

In other news: I have some upcoming events –

November 3rd-4th: Clexacon, Novotel London West – Tickets here

November 10th: SFX Con 2 at Foyles Charing Cross, London – ‘Tech Wars’ panel with Peter F Hamilton, Richard Morgan, Pat Cadigan and James Smythe. Tickets here

The Quiet at the End of the World comes out in five months, in March! Here’s one of my favourite scenes, of Lowrie having breakfast with her parents and their dogs, Victoria and Albert. It makes me smile even though I’ve read it a hundred times:

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There are now enamel pins and art prints in my etsy shop.

I’ve started a fortnightly books & baking newsletter.

Teachers! I still have a few slots open for events in World Book Day week – which in 2019 falls on the release week for The Quiet at the End of the World! If you’d like your class to help me celebrate, email me.

I’ve given a lot of interviews over the last few years on different blogs, so here is a complete collection of all my answers.

 

 

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Cover reveal – The Quiet at the End of the World

Drumroll please! I am very pleased to share the cover of The Quiet at the End of the World!

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Out March 2019, this is about the last boy and girl born after humanity stop being able to conceive. With GOLD FOIL 💃

This was designed by Lisa Horton: http://lisa-horton.squarespace.com

How far would you go to save those you love? 

Lowrie and Shen are the youngest people on the planet after a virus caused global infertility. Closeted in a pocket of London and doted upon by a small, ageing community, the pair spend their days mud-larking for artefacts from history and looking for treasure in their once-opulent mansion. Their idyllic life is torn apart when a secret is uncovered that threatens not only their family but humanity’s entire existence. Lowrie and Shen face an impossible choice: in the quiet at the end of the world, they must decide who to save and who to sacrifice…

Some of my favourite things about this cover:

+ The mix of biological (the gold nervous system), mechanical (the cogs) and electronic (the fluorescent vertical code) elements

+ Lowrie & Shen holding hands and staring off into the distance like they’re contemplating the future

+ that quote!

+ the font which is now officially My Brand’s Font

+ The deep dark beautiful glowing blue

The Quiet at the End of the World will be published in the UK and Australia with Walker Books in March 2019.

Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository | Tumblr tag

commission

Illustrator @stoffberg has just started accepting commissions, and I couldn’t resist getting this lovely artwork done of Lowrie, Shen and their robot pal Mitch from The Quiet at the End of the World. I love Miles’ style, and he’s captured the mudlarking gang and the crumbling ruins of London so well. I’m thrilled.

IN OTHER NEWS:

I’ve started a fortnightly books & baking newsletter.

I wrote an article on LGBT+ fiction for the Children’s Writers and Artist’s Yearbook 2019, which published this week.

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The Loneliest Girl in the Universe is currently £3.89, if you’ve been waiting to snap it up.

From September I’m going to be running the Rugby Sparks Young Writers group for Writing West Midlands, so if you know anyone in years 5-9 in the area who loves to write, let them know.

I have designed some enamel pins which are up for preorder now.

The Loneliest Girl continues to orbit around America. Here are some nice new quotes:

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And here’s a snazzy Epic Reads title generator for it…

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I made this to celebrate the first ever LGBT STEM day, for my favourite grumpy gay computer programmer, Clove Sutcliffe:

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And that’s all, folks! Hope you’re having a good heatwave where you are . . . x

Behind the book – Audiobook narrator Lauren Ezzo

Previously in this series: Agent | Ghostwriter UK Editor Library Assistant  | Publicity Assistant | Typesetter | Cover Designer | Foreign Rights Manager |Blogger |Scout |Translators Book charity Copyeditor | Journalist | US Editor  | Scholastic Book Fair Product Manager | MG/YA Author

Last week I interviewed Catherine Doyle, and this week I have another special guest on the blog – the narrator of the audiobook for The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, Lauren Ezzo. This is my first English-language audiobook (I do have one in German), so I am incredibly excited to listen to my book spoken out loud. I’m anticipating that it’ll be a strange but wonderful experience.

I was given the choice of a few different narrators by HarperCollins, and I chose Lauren because her sample sounded like Romy in my head – she perfectly captured the mix of confidence and naivety that Romy has. If you’d like to listen to Lauren’s version of Romy (and, of course, buy it!), there’s a sample on the Audible page and another on soundcloud here.

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With that, onto the interview!

How did you become an audiobook narrator? Did you do any work experience
or internships?

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In college, I majored in Theatre/English — which was, in retrospect, a pretty great setup! I  was hired for my first title by Brilliance Publishing — a friend of mine from school was working there and happened to know they were hiring new narrators. I went in with copies of ‘Love Wins’, by Rob Bell, ‘Fragile Things’ by Neil Gaiman, and ‘Twilight’ (maybe you’ve heard of that one). The rest is history!

What books have you worked on in the past?

Several!! At this writing, I’ve narrated over a hundred, hooray!! Some favorites or notables include “The Last to See Me”, by M. Dressler, “Rules for Werewolves”, by Kirk Lynn, “The Butterfly Garden”, by Dot Hutchison, “Kill All Happies”, by Rachel Cohn, “The Hundredth Queen” by Emily R. King, and, sincerely, “The Loneliest Girl in the Universe”. [All of the books narrated by Lauren on Audible are here]41kblU0-EyL._SL500_.jpg

Ahh, thank you so much! How long does it take to record a book? 

It depends on the title — the general formula I use is about two minutes per page — so for a 300 page book, I’d budget 10ish hours. “Loneliest Girl” was a bit different since many of the ‘chapters’ are so short — less than a page sometimes, so she took about 6 hours!

Do you do it in one sitting?

I do and don’t record all in one sitting — usually I like to work in sort of standard business days — 9ish to 5ish, with breaks and lunch — to keep easy track of my progress and keep things expedient. If I were able to record all in one go, though, I think I would….to stay in storyteller brain for that long would be great for me and the book.

Do you work from home? What kind of equipment do you need?

I do! I have a custom built isolation sound building courtesy of my loving father, and when I do record at home — a la “Loneliest Girl” — that’s where I’ll be! Pared down as simply as possible, all you need to record is a good space, a microphone, an interface (a machine which converts soundwaves captured by the mic into binary for the computer to read), and a computer, and I have all of these — but of course things get a bit more complicated and technical than that.

I also have a lot of filthy tea mugs and cookie crumbs in there, but you don’t really NEED those….

How do you choose voices for characters? Do you take notes in advance of a recording session? 

Ooof, good question. Not enough people ask this one! First I look at my ability. When the text says something to the effect of. ‘ the deepest, rumbliest voice EVER’, I look to see what my version of that can be that will fit the tone of the story — sincere? comic? scary

Secondly, I look to see what my author wants or needs — so, with “Loneliest Girl”, I knew Romy should sound a little like the main protagonist from ‘Hundredth Queen’, since that’s what you (Lauren) listened to!51bpDKF1wKL._SL500_

Then I go to my text — what descriptors am I given? Pitch, accents, even body characteristics– does this character have jowls, or big teeth? Are they painfully shy? And I let all those things sort of percolate in my brain, along with the theme and feel I get from the book.

For Romy, I knew what my base voice was, but I thought it was also important that she’s a little immature — not her personality, but the fact that her adolescence has taken place in isolation. She has no peers to mimic or bounce her thoughts off of, and no adults on which to model her behavior, other than what she sees through her messages and downloaded media.

So I tried to err on the side of youth, enthusiasm, when we first meet her, and then adjusted accordingly as the plot proceeded. There’s also a lot of ‘me’ voice in Romy, since she’s so relateable — a lot of her reactions and syncopations are mine.

J, Loch, and Ness I had fun with — these are all characters whose voices we hear through Romy. Her brain and emotions ‘distort’ them. I wanted Loch and Ness to be a little overdone, overdramatic — Romy’s ideals. And J…without giving too much away, I wanted to sound a bit like the ‘best friend’ — the guy everyone falls in love with.

What is the most difficult part of recording books? (mispronouncing things would
worry me!)

DEFINITELY worrying about pronunciation!! And listeners will nail you every time on that! But there are resources to take care of those things, and they’re usally not a huge issue in the end.

I think for me the most challenging aspects are the same for any collaborative artist — I want the work to be good and intriguing, and for my performance to suit it — not just for me, but for its author, its engineer, its publisher, its listener. Audiobooks are NOT an isolated experience. I’m the voice of a given title, but many, many people get to it before and after I do, and the pressure to deliver, for me at least, can be scary.

What’s your favourite part of your job, and what are you proudest of in your
career? 

Another really good one!!!! My favorite part of my job is that I get PAID MONEY to ACT and READ. Those are my favorite things in the world. If I can ever get paid to nap and eat, we’ll reevaluate, but that’s the best part. These are the things that make me happiest.

What would be your #4dreamprojects

Only 4!?!?! Okay.

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1. Anything Neil Gaiman. Preferably a title he’s written as a gift  to me personally, but really anything of his would do.

2. The “Loneliest Girl” sequel, set after Romy reaches Earth II, chronicling her rise as its first matriarch.

3. A book from my childhood; see below

4. A previously male-narrated classic, a la Dracula, Phantom of the Opera, Remains of the Day, Hero’s Journey…the guys get a lot of good ones.

A Loneliest Girl sequel, huh? Well, we’ll see….. 😉

Has being involved in publishing changed how you read books for pleasure? 

Big yes. In the first place, I have less time to do this. In the second, I’ve learned IMMENSE amounts about writing, and what makes effective writing, from all the reading. If you are an author, please, make reading at least some of your work aloud part of your editing process!

I read out loud and it is SO HELPFUL. Especially in later edits, it’s so easy to skim over sentences and reading aloud really catches you up on the clunky things.

What are some of your favourite recent reads from your childhood? 

444357Eeee I love this!! My ‘first’ book was the picture book “Put Me in the Zoo” by Robert Lopshire — the adults in my family had to hide it from me, they got so sick of it.

Other first loves include “Go Dog Go”, The Time-Warp Trio, “His Dark Materials”, Shel Silverstein, “The Hobbit”, “Harry Potter”, numerous Eyewitness books, “The Cricket in Times Square”, “Ender’s Game”, “Walk Two Moons”, “Because of Winn Dixie”, “Belle Prater’s Boy”, “A Wrinkle in Time”, “Pure Dead Magic”, Tamora Pierce, Suzanne Fisher Staples, “The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales”, Avi, Magic Treehouse, and really anything if it held still long enough.

Do you have any advice for aspiring narrators? 

Acting classes are esential – I’d say at least a year’s worth, of reputable training, but really
that should be continuing as your career progresses. Invest in a quality microphone
within your budget; no USBs should be visible anywhere. Be courteous and kind to
everyone in the industry you come across — you don’t know who they are or who
they’ve worked with, and they deserve a pleasant interaction at the very least. Listen
to other narrators and industry professionals, and decide what is good for you —
there’s a lot of advice. You don’t have to take it all, and it’s not possible anyway. If
it fits you, that’s the best advice. Also brushing your teeth and McDonald’s hashbrowns get rid of mouth noises in situ.

Thank you for the wonderful interview, Lauren! I learnt a lot from this – and now I kind of want to become a narrator too. 


Lauren Ezzo is a Chicago based audiobook narrator and commercial voice
talent. A Michigan native and Hope College alumna, at this writing she has
narrated over 100 titles for authors including Catherine Ryan Hyde, Adam
Rapp, M. Dressler, Christopher Rice, Kirk Lynn, Lauren James, & Dot
Hutchison.

She has won multiple awards for her narration, including several
“Best of the Year” lists, and several Earphones Awards. In 2016, her
performance of “The Light Fantastic”, by Sarah Combs, co-narrated with
Todd Haberkorn, was named one of AudioFile’s best books of the year. She
was accorded the same honor in 2017 from School Library Journal for her
narration of “To Stay Alive: Mary Ann Graves and the Tragic Journey of the
Donner Party”.

In 2018, she was Audie-nominated as part of a full cast of
narrators for Best Original Work, “Nevertheless We Persisted”, performing
two pieces – one of which she authored. She is a proud member of the Audio
Publishers Association, and a lifelong bookworm. Follow her exploits on
Facebook at @laurenezzoaudiobooks, on Twitter at @SingleWithFries, and
on the web at laurenezzo.com!

Trailer for The Loneliest Girl in the Universe

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe is out on July 3rd with Harperteen, and they made me a little trailer…. [swoons]

A surprising and gripping sci-fi thriller with a killer twist

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 captain of the Eternity, and their friendship 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….

Now nominated as a YALSA Quick Pick!

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

You can add it on Goodreads or subscribe to my mailing list for updates.


In other news:

The  Wall Street Journal reviewed it:

Romy Silvers is 16 years old, haunted by memories and utterly alone. In Lauren James’s gripping romantic sci-fi thriller “The Loneliest Girl in the Universe” (HarperTeen, 303 pages, $17.99), she’s the sole surviving passenger—and now commander—of a spacecraft hurtling toward a remote, habitable planet with the mission of founding a colony.

Born on the ship, Romy has no experience of other people than what she remembers of her parents and what she can see of life on Earth from movies and TV shows stored in the ship’s computer. A tech genius, Romy is also surprisingly normal: She writes fan fiction starring characters from her favorite TV series and corresponds at great intervals (because of her distance from Earth) with her therapist. When Romy learns that another ship is coming, one with superior technology that will allow it to overhaul her before she reaches the planet, she’s thrilled and relieved: She won’t have to settle Earth II on her own. Better still, the commander of the approaching vessel, “J,” is young, charming, communicative—and lonely too. As news comes of catastrophic war on Earth and NASA severs contact with Romy, she finds herself drawn yet more deeply into a relationship of trust and love (and momentary lust) with a compelling stranger who seems to have an uncanny feel for her deeper thoughts and desires.

Warning sirens may not yet be going off in Romy’s spaceship, but they will be blaring in the minds of readers age 13 and older, and rightly so. As a psychological drama, “The Loneliest Girl in the Universe” is a good read with several shocking twists. It’s even sharper as an extended metaphor for certain risky realities of modern adolescence. Teens who feel isolated are often tempted to seek solace in online relationships; they are wise to remember that a stranger who seems warm and genuine may have dark motives and ominous intent.

 

So did Kirkus and Bustle (who also think that The Last Beginning should be made into a film (I mean….same)).

News update!

A lot has been happening recently, so I thought it was about time I posted a bit of an update!

I was on BBC Coventry and Warwickshire Radio today talking to Brody Swain about World Book Day! It was my first radio interview and it was incredibly fun – you can listen here from 2hr 12mins!

My US publisher Sky Pony Press have put my short story ANOTHER TOGETHER, about Kate and Matt solving a murder at Bletchley Park, up online. If you’ve been waiting to read this you can now download it for free here!

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Some snazzy book flashcards also arrived from Harperteen featuring The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, as well as their other superstars authors. Very appropriately, my book was chosen for the ‘plot twist’ question.

 

All of which is to say that I have two US publications this year and the publicity is amping up for release! The Last Beginning is out in two weeks, and looks like this:

It was highlighted by Barnes and Noble, which was thrilling. The Loneliest Girl comes out in July! I’m very excited for both.

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I’m absolutely thrilled to be longlisted for the Australian Inky awards, alongside some absolute heavyweights!

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Also, Alice’s new book is going out into the world! If you like Contemporary YA, you need to check out I Was Born For This asap. I blurbed it:  “Alice Oseman was born to write this novel. A dark and funny look what happens when online fandom collides with real life in messy, bittersweet detail. Exposes the reality of being a fan – and being famous – without holding back any punches.”

Since I last blogged, I’ve been hard at work on editing my next book. I’m really excited for this one, which I think is set to be my longest and most ambitious book yet…. I’m cautiously optimistic I’ll pull it off. I’m hoping to do a title reveal soon, but for the eagle-eyed amongst you, you might be able to find a sneak peek of it on a certain book site….. 😉

Most of the time I’m just staring helplessly at notes like this:

 

 

I have a few events coming up –

24 March – The Northern YA Literature Festival: Feminism in YA panel with Katherine Webber, Annabel Pitcher, Matt Killeen – Free tickets available here.

14 April – YA Shot: Privacy, entertainment & technology panel with Kerry Drewery, Laura Steven & Sophie McKenzie  – More information here.

Other things I’ve been doing: making jam, walking and falling in love with Dogs Trust dogs, viewing houses and loving STRIKE. I’ve also started posting every book I read on twitter (January and February)

And that’s all from me! Hope you’re enjoying March, whether you’re somewhere nice and sunny or snowed in like me (please stop before my London trip to see Hamilton this weekend, the Beast from the East).

Lx

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:

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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:

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

Books about isolated characters:

 

The Yellow Wallpaper (free eBook) | Lirael The Diary of a Young Girl

Books about internet culture:

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FangirlKiss Me First Fic: Why Fanfiction is Taking Over the World

Books with a twist:

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K-Pax | We Were Liars | We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Books about survival:

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Life As We Knew It A Closed and Common Orbit | Aurora