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My next book – The Starlight Watchmaker!

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Surprise! I have a SECOND BOOK coming out this year!

The Starlight Watchmaker is a novella about a lonely android watchmaker at an alien academy, and the pompous Duke who drags him out of his attic workshop. It’s coming out in paperback in July with Barrington Stoke, and it’s designed to be really readable for struggling readers.

I had so much fun writing this, as I basically combined all of my favourite things into one story. There are hints of Binti, Jeeves & Wooster, Starfleet Academy from Star Trek, Saga, Howl’s Moving Castle and The Watchmaker of Filigree Street. It’s full of sentient volcanoes, bicycle-riding-butterflies, clockwork birds and golden gears and cogs.

I can’t wait to tell you more about it over the next three months – first off, by showing you the gorgeous cover next week!

Wealthy students from across the galaxy come to learn at the prestigious academy where Hugo toils as a watchmaker. But he is one of the lucky ones. Many androids like him are jobless and homeless. Someone like Dorian could never understand their struggle – or so Hugo thinks when the pompous duke comes banging at his door. But when Dorian’s broken time-travel watch leads them to discover a sinister scheme, the pair must reconcile their differences if they are to find the culprit in time.

A wildly imaginative sci-fi adventure from YA star Lauren James, particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers aged 13+.
#StarlightWatchmaker

The Starlight Watchmaker is a 20,000 word novella which will be published in paperback and eBook by Barrington Stoke on 16th July 2019.

Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository | Waterstones | Foyles | Wordery | Preorder a signed paperback copy from my Etsy (comes with assorted bookmarks and postcards)

Tumblr tag | Join mailing list to be notified on release day | Writing inspirations

 

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Day course at University of Cambridge

Popping in for a quick announcement! I’m going to be teaching a day course at University of Cambridge this November called ‘Write the one percent: creating diverse, inclusive fiction’. More info here.  If you work in a UK state school you can get a 50% bursary on the tuition fee!

During the course of this day-school, we’ll explore the key concepts of diversity in writing and consider why it’s important for writers of all kinds to make their work inclusive. We’ll define some of the most under-represented identities and uncover the common pitfalls in writing about them. How can we avoid stereotypes and inaccurate representation? Thoroughly researching an identity before writing is key, and together we’ll look at how to do that. Through a creative writing exercise, you’ll come to realise to what extent a new perspective and identity can bring real depth and richness to your writing.

Course Programme
10:00 The basics of diverse fiction

11:15 Coffee

11:45 Writing outside of your own experience

13:00 Lunch

14:00 Respectfully writing about sexuality and race in prose

15:15 Tea

15:30 Discussing political and social issues in fiction

16:45 Day school ends

 

Also, The Quiet at the End of the World was in this week’s  Waterstones Weekly newsletter, which I was DELIGHTED by!

And for any speedy readers who have already finished reading The Quiet at the End of the World, I just posted a deleted scene where Lowrie and Shen steal an antique carriage.

 

Science representation in YA

The Quiet at the End of the World features two characters who study STEM, just like my other books (I have a niche, and it is intensely nerdy characters). This time, Lowrie, the protagonist, is an engineer and her best friend-slash-lifelong-crush Shen studies evolutionary biology. They are also both archaeologists, but they would never call themselves that. Lowrie has her own workshop full of tools and carries a supply around with her just in case there’s anything that needs fixing and/or breaking open. Shen has a permanent stack of books he wants to read, full of information he hopes will help him understand the crumbling civilisation around them. He’s not so great at the physical side of things, but he has Lowrie for that. She and Shen are the perfect team – skills and smarts, they call it.

Read the rest at Sunday YA!

Sensitivity readers in traditional publishing

You might have seen that this week a black author pulled his book due to backlash over representation, only a month after an Asian author did the same.

I don’t usually comment on twitter discussions like this, but I think this is a worrying trend that has wide implications for the US YA publishing industry. This issue with diversity has been going on for several years, and many authors have pulled out of book deals due to poor representation. As an author, I have watched this and taken note – however, publishers do not seem to have done the same. They are not learning anything from these cases.

Publishers have a responsibility to their authors to make sure that books are edited to a professional standard, which is no longer just about legibility and plot structures. These days, having accurate and respectful diversity is a core and essential part of a novel, and the traditional editing process is clearly not working.

Publishers need to include sensitivity edits – where an editor from that specific demographic/culture/disability/etc is hired to comment specifically on accuracy in representation –  as a compulsory part of the editing process. Otherwise cases like the above examples occur, when an inexperienced author is the one to suffer due to negligent editing. This can affect their whole career.

It is the equivalent of sending an apprentice out into the field without training or safety certifications, and letting them get injured on their first day. And hiring another apprentice, and letting the same thing happen. And wondering why your apprentices keep dying.

These kind of situations should not continue to happen in a time when advice, resources and freelance editors (of any speciality and narrow field of interest) are so easily found with a single Google search. This should ESPECIALLY not be happening to BAME authors. Hiring own voices writers and trusting that their lived experience will guide them is not enough: they need support and guidance just like anyone else, in any new job.

In any other industry, this kind of manufacturing error would be addressed and fixed with a new addition to the process. Authors should be given the training that is clearly needed, especially when the costs are negligible in comparison to the losses – both emotional and monetary – of these events happening repeatedly.  It’s shocking that publishers are not putting steps in place to ensure that this does not happen – again and again and again.

Authors are not contracted employees at publishers, and so the companies do not feel the need to train them in the way they would a full time member of staff. Yet clearly the knowledge and abilities of authors are worth investing in, and should be guided. Because doing otherwise creates problems for everyone. Authors are not disposable, replaceable, and short term.

Unless something changes, the next logical step in this endless groundhog day saga will be that sales teams at publishers will decide that its too ‘risky’ to publish any diverse fiction at all. They will see that they are losing money whenever they try. They will avoid it completely. That obviously is not an option that we can accept as a community. We have an ethical responsibility to build a better, more inclusive system for everyone.

Diverse fiction is not a trend, and if publishers cared about representing these communities properly, they would be investing resources, time and care into creating books that everyone involved can be proud of. There is no way to avoid scrutiny in the internet age: there is no shortcut here. This has to be done right, otherwise individual – often marginalised – authors are going to continue to take the blame for publishers’ mistakes.

 

Where I got the idea for The Quiet at the End of the World

Exactly two years ago, in March 2016, I posted a quote on Instagram from a book I was reading, which is not something I usually do.

“We are a short-lived genus of species. All our cousins are already extinct. We are perhaps the only species on Earth to be conscious of the inevitability of our own mortality. I fear that soon we shall also become the only species that will knowingly watch the coming of its own collective demise, or at least the demise of its civilisation.”

It just really spoke to me and I wanted to share it. Then I carried on with my life and forgot all about it.

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But at the back of my mind, the quote and idea were clearly simmering away because three months later in June 2016, I was backpacking around Cambodia. I woke up in the middle of the night in a grotty youth hostel and scrambled for my travel notebook and wrote out a book idea.

It was about the last boy and girl born after humanity stopped being able to conceive, who have to watch the human race go extinct. That idea grew and grew, and blossomed into The Quiet at the End of the World.

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The idea changed a lot while I was writing it. From the first draft onwards, it changed wildly as I tried to decide how to tackle such a lofty subject. At one point there were aliens, which there definitely aren’t anymore.

I’m really happy with how it turned out, though I clearly owe Carlo Rovelli, who wrote the original quote, a big thank you.

Playlist for The Quiet at the End of the World

 

 

Not long now until the book comes out! There’s already been some AMAZING reviews:

“I’m still sobbing quietly over how beautiful and heart-wrenching this novel was. Seriously, this might be my favourite sci-fi book? Of all time? I JUST CAN’T EVEN BEGIN TO EXPRESS HOW MUCH I LOVED IT. Can I pluck all the stars from the night sky to give to this glorious bound paper creation?” – Written Word Worlds 

“I loved the science and the take on “what does it mean to be human?” – a beautifully complex question answered so well. There’s twists and turns, so much love, characters you’ll root for and so much intrigue.” – Steph A Little But A Lot 

“It’s sending shivers down my spine. It feels too real, too much like a warning of what’s to come.” – Sectumsemprah

“The world in this book is richly described and frighteningly believable. I love how Lauren’s books are realistic and grounded in science, at the same time as being completely unique and unpredictable. It’s refreshing to find a book with such a creative, surprising plot and I had no idea what was going to happen!”- YA under my skin

“The Quiet at the End of the World by @Lauren_E_James just had a massive plot twist about halfway through and I am shook. I don’t know how she always manages to create such wonderful plot twists and I cannot wait to keep reading.” –  The Reading Fangirl

I’ve been waiting with bated breath for reviews, so I am UTTERLY THRILLED right now. People like it!!

If you’d like to read it, there’s a giveaway on my twitter you can enter:

And here’s the prologue:

TQATEOTW_Prologue

Finally, I wanted to share the playlist! You can listen to it on Spotify here.

This is a fun, cheerful, happy book, for the most part. The music I listened to when writing reflects that. These songs summarise the tone and affection in this book.

Last Party//MIKA

MMMBop//Hanson

Something Just Like This//The Chainsmokers

House Party//Sam Hunt

The Whip//Locksley

Holes//Passengers

Classic//MKTO

What’s Up?//4 Non Blondes

Folding Chair//Regina Spektor

Dance Apocalyptic//Janelle Monae

Don’t Lie//Vampire Weekend

Control//Halsey

Girls Chase Boys//Ingrid Michaelson

Stop the World I want to get off//Arctic Monkeys

Remember Me//Coco soundtrack

Marry You//Bruno Mars

Let me know if you listen to this, or if you have any suggestions for other songs for the book!