Category Archives: Uncategorized

How to solve ~~writers block~~

Today I am going to talk about some things you can try if you feel like you can’t write.

1) Put your draft on your kindle/print it out, and read it all the way though as a book. Ignore grammar and spelling and just LIVE in your world. Make notes of ideas as you go along.

2) Find some books & films with a similar style to your book, and watch them as a fan. Make notes of the things you LOVE about them & analyse why – why did you choose to write this story? Go back to the roots of your reading self and add more of those things you love to your book

3) Do a deep dive in your characters & write some fanfiction about them. Ignore your plot, ignore your world. Take your characters & just write a scene where they’re hanging out together. Make them fight. Make them kiss. Make them banter. Just get to know them & have fun with it. You might not use the scenes, but keep them at the end of your manuscript anyway. There might be a time in the future where you find a scene they’ll be perfect in. And if not, it will be great for making you ENJOY writing again, if you’re lost.

4) Expand your world. Choose a question from this long list that is somehow tangentially related to your story (e.g. if you’re writing a dystopian where they need to overthrow the government, decide how a political election would work in your world).

5) Make a moodboard or playlist or drawing. Pick out the features you think a future reader will like the most. Add more of them. Try and see your writing from the perspective of your biggest fan.

6) Skip ahead. If you’re stuck, there’s no reason to force yourself to finish a scene before you move on. Write the ones you’ve had in your head that you’re excited to write. Any word count is progress, even if by the time you fill in the gaps it needs rewriting completely

7) Brainstorm new scenes. Don’t try and write them! Just make a list of snippets of dialogue, creepy/funny/tense moments that could bring a scene to life, endearing character traits for side characters, good names.

8) Write something in a different format. If you can’t make progress with prose, write a diary entry, letter, script, social media, text conversation, TV show, fic. It will flex your brain and add something refreshing to the manuscript – it might even give you ideas for new plots

This list has mainly been for MYSELF, because I have to finish this book and I am having the worst time getting my brain in gear. When it’s your job, you have to write even when you don’t want to. These things all help me just DO IT.

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Weird internet conspiracy theories: a primer

I’ve recently become sucked into a wormhole of internet conspiracy theories that’s taken over my life. I’ve written a post before about my massive obsession with books set online:

For me personally, books about internet culture are something I want so much and am never satisfied by. I am 23, and I can’t remember a time without the internet. I’m sure there probably was a time I didn’t use the internet (probably around the time Harry Potter first came into my life), but I don’t remember it.

Despite that, books rarely, if ever, talk about life online. There might be occasional references to Facebook, but they don’t actually talk about the internet. At least not as a vital, relationship defining form of communication, the way I use it. My friendships wouldn’t be the same without the internet. The way I speak to people, and the language and topics we cover, are completely different online to the way we talk in real life. The internet has a language all of its own.

Give me the historical novels set online. Give me the thrillers set on Tor. Give me the YA coming of age novels where a teen is trying to reconcile who they are in real life with who they are on 4chan or on tumblr (or both). I want these stories, and they aren’t being told.

Three years after I wrote that, I finally sat down and wrote a novel set on the internet. And in the process of writing it, I discussed online conspiracy theories with a lot of people. It turns out, most of my favourite, life-changingly bizarre internet events are generally unknown. This is unacceptable, because some of these stories will change your life. Especially if, like me, you crave fiction about the internet.

So I thought I’d share a list of my favourite write-ups of weird events that have happened on the internet. The fan essay is an unappreciated form of artwork that deserves to be more widely shared. Consider this a primer in the narrative potential of the internet, for anyone who hasn’t spent their whole childhood in internet black holes (cannot relate).

Note: these are all looooong. I personally put these on my Kindle and read them as weird bedtime stories, so the second link is to a PDF which you can download if you’d like to do the same.

Second note: You will probably be confused by some of the terminology and events discussed in these essays. That’s because internet culture is fast moving, and sadly, is not very well documented, unlike other periods of history (except by the University of Iowa, who I adore). Treat these documents like primary sources from Ancient Greece, and read them with the expectation you’ll have to pick up certain things as you go along. The fact that internet culture has changed so much in the three decades it has existed is absolutely fascinating to me, and makes these essays all the more interesting.

Okay, notes are done. Let’s begin.

9) The cassandra clare one (PDF) 2006 -This one is about the YA author from her Harry Potter fandom days, circa 2002 on LiveJournal. A masterclass in detective work.

8) That Lorde powerpoint (PDF) 2018 – everyone has seen this one recently, I think, about Lorde’s affair with her producer. A fresh take on the typical fan essay, that’s very visual.

7) The Scott/Tessa secret baby one (PDF) 2013 – A view into the mind of a fan who is convinced the ice skaters are not only in a relationship, but have a child.

6)  Kaylor timeline (PDF) 2015 – a collection of meticulously compiled tumblr posts documenting every interaciton that Taylor Swift and Karlie Kloss have ever had. A+ work, here.

5) The real life cult (PDF) 2002 – WHY

4) The terrifying Korean stalkers (PDF) 2012– this gives me chills, still.

3) The Dan/Phil one (PDF) 2011 – i really hope the person who researched this now works for the FBI because the level of detail is immense. This is the only youtuber one on this list, but I’m sure there’s a lot more of these kind of essays out there.

2) The inevitable One Direction one (PDF) 2014 – I LOVE THIS. (Also worthy of note: 1D’s rainbow bears)

1) The msscribe story (PDF) 2006 – The original. The best. If you read the above Cassandra Claire saga, a lot of the cast involved in that will be familar to you here. This involves a fan who desperately tried to become friends with Cassandra Clare, and ended up causing a huge rift in the community instead. This literally rewrote my brain and made me the human being I am today. (I am old enough to recognise a lot of the usernames in this story. I wasn’t there in 2001, but i was definitely in the HP fandom a few years after that.)

Happy reading, pals! And if any of the Google drive links go down, please let me know so I can fix them, however far in the future you’re reading this. Gotta keep that fan history preserved, right?

If you’d like to read more internet analysis, please take a jaunt to my fandom tag on tumblr, which is full of interesting essays and content. If you like my work, you can support me on ko-fi.

Oh and the book I’m writing, set on the internet? I will keep you up to date on its progress into the world of publishing over the next few months.

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

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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: Middle Grade and Young Adult writer Catherine Doyle

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

I am resurrecting an old blog series where I interview different people involved in the publishing industry, behind the scenes of the books. One of my oldest writing friends,

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Cat and me in 2014. We were babies!

Catherine Doyle, has a new book out. Cat and I met because we have the same agent, and got our book deals around the same time – me for The Next Together, and Cat for Vendetta, the first book in her Mafia-based YA romance trilogy.

We were both newbies in the publishing industry, and it was so incredibly reassuring having someone in the same position to me to talk to. I can honestly say I wouldn’t be the author I am today without Cat. She’s one of my first and most trusted beta readers.

Cat’s next book The Storm Keeper’s Island is the first in a Middle Grade series, and I am absolutely fascinated by the difference in crossing over to a new audience in a different genre – so I’m bring back this series just so I can be really nosy and ask her lots of questions.


To start, can you tell us a little bit about your books, both YA and MG?

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The YA Blood for Blood trilogy (Vendetta, Inferno and Mafiosa) is about a seventeen-year-old girl from the Chicago suburbs called Sophie Gracewell, who ends up at the centre of a blood war deep in the Sicilian underworld. When she falls for a mysterious boy in her neighbourhood, she tumbles head first into a dangerous society that holds the untold secrets of both her family’s past and her true identity. It’s a mix of romance, danger and intrigue, with a strong female friendship at its core.

36634765 (1)The Storm Keeper’s Island is the story of eleven-year-old Fionn Boyle, who is sent to stay on the remote island of Arranmore with a grandfather he’s never met, when his mother falls ill one summer. When Fionn sets foot on the island, an ancient magic begins to stir, and he soon finds himself at the heart of a race to become the island’s next champion – a Storm Keeper who can wield the elements of earth, wind, water and fire. But the island isn’t the only one who has been waiting for Fionn. Deep beneath the jagged cliffs or Arranmore, an ancient enemy has been waiting too. It is up to him to ensure she doesn’t rise again and wreak havoc on the world. It’s a story about adventure and family, memory and magic, and a wild, untameable sea.

Was writing a middle grade novel different from writing a Young Adult novel? Which was easier? Which do you prefer?

I didn’t find the process of writing these stories all that different – I was still focusing on character development and plot progression and trying to keep the chapters as pacey as possible. I think I prefer writing Fionn’s story because it is replete with possibility. As an author, there is just something undeniably fun about creating your own system of wild magic, and letting your imagination run riot with it.

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A YA Shot 2015 panel with Cat and Lucy Saxon on Tragic Romance in YA

Do you think there are any topics that are ‘off limits’ for MG? Is there anything that younger readers can’t handle?

Children are intelligent and curious and empathetic. They live in the same world that we do, and see and hear much more than we might think. I would say very few topics are ‘off limits’ provided they are handled with care and sensitivity, and an awareness of the age of the reader.

Do you think there is a trend for magical MG at the moment? What is so special about this type of book? What do you hope to see happen in Children’s publishing in the future?

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Magical middle grade novels have always been popular, and I can certainly see why. There’s something very freeing and exciting about stories that leap into the unknown, that stretch your imagination to its limits and look at the world through a slightly sparklier lens. They’ve always been my favourite kinds of stories.

I would love to see even more stories that have been inspired by different cultures, and in particular, magical stories that play on the myths and legends of the countries in which they’re set. Rick Riordan’s new publishing imprint seems to be focusing on this – and I can’t wait to read the books he’s championing this year. My next read is Aru Sha and The End Of Time.

Where do you see your writing going in the future? Do you want to carry on writing MG?

For now, my heart is definitely in Middle Grade Fiction. In fact, it’s still on Fionn’s island – and it will be there for another three books at least!

What are some of your favourite children’s books now and from your childhood?34219873

As a child, I loved the Chronicles of Narnia, Artemis Fowl and Harry Potter – anything with a sweeping adventure and a whole lot of magic!

My favourite recent children’s books include Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell, the Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave, Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend, and the Knights of the Borrowed Dark series by Dave Rudden. I’ve also just read and loved both The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson and Hello Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly.33832945

What are you proudest of in your career?

Selling the book of my heart to Bloomsbury and watching it set sail into the world.

What advice do you have for anyone looking to get into publishing?

Be brave, be resilient and remember – the true magic is in the editing, not the first draft!

As someone who has written YA books set in the US, your MG shifts to an island off the coast of Ireland. Was this intentional?

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I had been wanting to write a book closer to home for some time, but it took a while for the right story to materialise. The Storm Keeper’s Island is set on Arranmore, the island where my grandparents were born, grew up and fell in love. It’s inspired by Irish myths and legends as well as the real-life daring sea rescues of my great grandfather, so it is grounded in an authentic personal and cultural background, which makes it feel particularly special to me.

 

 

 

tumblr_nglmz6PdiF1tjvbzjo1_1280.pngCat and me as members of One Direction with Alice Oseman, Melinda Salisbury and Sara Barnard, as drawn by Alice.


Catherine Doyle grew up in the West of Ireland. She holds a first-class BA in Psychology and a first-class MA in Publishing. She is the author of the Young Adult Blood for Blood trilogy (Vendetta, Inferno and Mafiosa), which is often described as Romeo and Juliet meets the Godfather. It was inspired by her love of modern cinema. Her debut Middle Grade novel, The Storm Keeper’s Island (Bloomsbury, 2018), is an adventure story about family, bravery and self-discovery. It is set on the magical island of Arranmore, where her grandparents grew up, and is inspired by her ancestors’ real life daring sea rescues.

Aside from more conventional interests in movies, running and travelling, Catherine also enjoys writing about herself in the third-person

Twitter | Website

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)).

Title reveal – The Quiet at the End of the World!

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My next book, The Quiet at the End of the World, is about Lowrie and Shen, the youngest people alive in a time after humans go infertile. They have grown up knowing that they are going to watch their species face extinction, and spend their time exploring the crumbling remains of civilisation, treasure-hunting for things their ancestors have left behind – objects like the ones in the pictures.

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It took a long time to decide on a title for this book, but in the end we settled on The Quiet at the End of the World because that’s what the book is about – the time after the apocalypse, when there’s no hope, and nothing to do but wait and try to enjoy life at the end of the world (also, let’s be honest – I just wanted a longer title than The Loneliest Girl in the Universe).

I love post-apocalyptic novels, but they are always very grimdark – depressing and tragic. I wanted to subvert that trope and write a kind of soft apocalypse, with an uplifting look at humanity and kindness in the small community that would result from a large population loss (it’s a very English kind of village, and book).

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I read Station Eleven a few years ago, and really came away from that novel with a sense of just how much there still is to live for when you’ve lost everything. As a reader I feel like there are so many stories that hadn’t been told in that kind of setting – after the angst of the apocalypse, when you’re not necessarily trying to rebuild the world but live a good, happy life in the time you have left. So as a writer, I didn’t want to write a dystopia full of villains and evil governments (there’s enough of that in real life). I just wanted to write about humanity in isolation.

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I wanted to tell a story about how vulnerable life is, when the human race is an endangered species on the brink of extinction. And how easily the smallest thing could push it over the edge.

What do you do? If you know you’re the last of your kind, and nothing you do matters or will be remembered once you’re gone. How can you spend your days in harmony, when you know that every hour represents the thousands of years of human civilisation behind you? With those generations looking over your shoulder, are you ever truly yourself, or are you just the culmination of their decisions? How can you be an individual without looking ahead or behind you? Should you even try? Those are the questions that Lowrie and Shen are asking each other in The Quiet at the End of the World.

It’s out in Early 2019 (date to be confirmed) and I’ll be revealing the cover in a few months. I really can’t wait for you to meet my childhood best friends and their robot pal Mitch. You’re going to love them all.

(Also, this photoshoot took like a solid week, I had to keep giving up and coming back to it. All of the objects are family heirlooms and/or things found in our 1850s cottage when we renovated it. I love treasure-hunting and I’m thrilled I was allowed to write about it!)


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

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Lowrie and Shen – character casting


In other news:

Here are some of my recent blog posts, which you might have missed:

10 graphic novels recommendations

My last newsletter

Books for fans of The Last Beginning

BOOKS I’D RECOMMEND TO MY LGBT MAIN CHARACTER

Ladies Characters studying STEM in YA

CWAYB - Lauren JamesI am very excited to announce that I’ve written an article for the 2019 Writer’s and Artist’s Yearbook! The new edition comes out in July, and my section is on writing LGBT+ characters in children’s fiction. If you’re a writer, check it out. I learnt so much from the yearbook that I had struggled to understand about the quirks of the publication industry, and it’s a massive boon if you’re just getting started.

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Final copies of the American edition of The Loneliest Girl in the Universe are here! This is out on July 3rd.

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

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Spotted: my books auf Deutsch in Vienna’s buchhandlung Frick! I signed some copies if you’d like to buy one. I got to see my books in Prague too and it NEVER gets old. It’s one of the coolest parts of being an author. 💖

Books for fans of The Last Beginning

The Last Beginning comes out in America today! I’d really appreciate you buying it, or asking your local bookshop/library to stock it, if you’re in the USA. Word of mouth can make a massive difference, and it’s really important to get LGBT YA books in the reach of teenagers.

I know a lot of you will have already read the book, so I wanted to share some other books which you might like if you enjoyed The Last Beginning.

Time travel books

To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis

A team of time travel specialists go to the past to try to stop the Coventry blitz. Of course, things go wrong, and are made both better and worse by the interference with time – just like in The Last Beginning.

 

The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

Clove and Ella are lovers separated by time, just like the star-crossed duo in this romance novel. Sad and romantic in equal measure, this is a classic for anyone who wants a good time travel fix.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

I read this when I was six, so it firmly lit the flames of my love for time travel which was later fanned by Doctor Who and Back to the Future (see below!). I love the rules of time travel in the Harry Potter universe, which sees past selves appearing before you ever decide to time travel – quite similar to how it works in my books!

 

Funny science fiction

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

The Last Beginning is (supposed to be, and hopefully is) funny, and a big inspiration for that is one of my all time favourite science fiction novels, which is hilarious. My book is nowhere near this funny, but I’ve got to have something to work towards, right?

Red Dwarf by Grant Naylor

Based on the TV series, and even funnier in my opinion (there are a lot of sly asides by the narrator you miss in the programme), this is about a bunch of useless misfits on a spaceship, one of which is an evolved cat. There’s also a sassy AI called Holly who Spart would really like.

B^F: The Novelization Of The Feature Film by Ryan North

As I said above, Back to the Future was an early favourite of mine when I was little. For a book connected to it, you need to read this account of reading the novelisation of the film Back to the Future, by comedian Ryan North. It’s on kindle here. I’ve read it at least seven times, which is for sure more times than I have ever seen the film it is tangentially based on. It just makes me cry with laughter every time, and is the funniest thing I’ve ever read, by far. It’s not only hilarious, and a great lesson in gentle parody, but it’s also a really interesting analysis of writing for (and about) teenagers.

If you’re not convinced (I don’t blame you), here’s an extract:

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Books about a precocious teenager genuis

Matilda by Roald Dahl

Matilda is an adopted bookworm who can do maths in her head – just like Clove! They would definitely be friends.

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

Artemis is ridiculously clever and unafraid to take risks to get what he wants. He’s also very scientific, even in a world of fairies and magic.

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer by Sydney Padua

Clove studies computer programming with her mum and dad, who are scientists at the University of St Andrews. This graphic novel is a look at the lives of Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage, who invented an early computer. It shows an alternative twist to their history in which they use the computer to have adventures! If you loved Spart and Clove’s banter in The Last Beginning, you’ll adore this.

LGBT characters

On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden

Similar to Firefly, this graphic novel about a team of builders who travel the galaxy restoring ancient planetary ruins from their spaceship. One of them is searching the universe for her lost love. Really beautifully drawn.

Pembroke Park by Michelle Martin

A regency love story between two women, just like Clove and Ella, this is an LGBT Jane Austen.

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

This is set in Victorian England, and tells the story of Sue, a thief, and Maud, the noble lady she is trying to rob. Their lives are tied together in unexpected ways, made even more complicated when they fall in love. Full of twists, romance and betrayal, I promise you that once you start this story you won’t be able to put it down.


If you’d like to read The Last Beginning, there’s a beautiful hardback edition published by Sky Pony Press, which you can buy here:

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

Hive | iTunes | Kobo | Wordery | WHSmith | Amazon US

You can add the book on Goodreads or subscribe to my mailing list for updates, or read the prologue on Wattpad.

More extras: