Bookish Discuussions, q&a, spoiler free

James Lovegrove Q&A

img_0144

It’s been two days since the release of Firefly: The Magnificent Nine by James Lovegrove, (you can check out my spoiler free review here) and today I’m excited to share with you a Q&A I did with the main himself about his experiences writing his newest release.

First off let me say, I absolutely loved The Magnificent Nine, it completely took me back to the days of watching Firefly on SyFy, the show had such a particular feel and quality to it that I think you’ve really managed to capture. One of the things that, I think really helped was your use of language, a really unique aspect in the show and one that I think you’ve managed to embody brilliantly in your writing for this book. How did you find getting into that particular style? Not just the use of signature words from the show such as ruttin, shiny and gorram but the inclusion of the chinese phrases and the way the words flow in such a way that makes it instantly recognisable to a lot of fans.

Thanks. I’m glad you enjoyed the book so much .At the risk of sounding cocky, I found
it fairly easy getting into the Firefly idiom. That’s because I’ve watched every episode
and the movie at least three times, and because I love the show. The dialogue is this
delightful mix of the florid and the earthy. I was already used to writing Victorian-style
dialogue from my Sherlock Holmes pastiches, so all I had to do was add some Western-
movie grit to that. It all flowed from there. Honestly, The Magnificent Nine was perhaps
the most fun I’ve ever had with a novel. I polished off the first draft in about four
weeks. It was paid fan-fiction, basically.

Do you have a favourite Chinese curse word or phrase from the series or that you used in your book and did you get to make up any of your own?

While writing the book I put out a distress call on social media, and luckily a Chinese-
speaking Facebook friend, Yen Ooi, came to my rescue. She gamely helped me with
translating several fairly obscene phrases that I came up with, most memorably “beat
me with a wet and soft sheep cock”. From the existing Firefly pinyin lexicon, I think my
favourite is “Holy mother of God and all her wacky nephews”, which crops up in “Our
Mrs Reynolds”.

Although the language is a big help in giving your book the same feel as the show on which its based another thing that struck me was just how well you captured the feel of each of the characters, did you do anything in particular to find the actions and voices of these characters and their rhythm among themselves and each other?

The characters were so well-sketched and clearly defined in the show that it wasn’t hard
re-creating them on the page. The trick was staying true to the way the writers and
actors portrayed them, while at the same time using the techniques of the novel, such as
interior monologue, to flesh them out that little bit more. The one person I was least
certain about, to begin with, was River. Over the course of the series she changes a great
deal, swinging between wide-eyed moon-calf and hyper-intelligent kill bot, and I found
her hard to get a fix on. I was completely unsure about writing her, and I couldn’t quite
believe it when my editor told me I’d actually got her nailed. Hell of a relief.

Is there a particular member of the crew of Serenity you relate to the most?

Probably Wash. He wisecracks to hide his insecurities, like I do, but when it’s called for,
he gets down to the job and is utterly competent, as I hope I am. He’s also got a
gorgeous, tough-as-nails wife who takes no bullshit, and so do I.

Did having the opportunity to write The Magnificent Nine and it’s predecessor Big Damn Hero change the way you felt about any of the characters?

I’d always looked at Mal as a good guy to the core, but when I was re-watching the
show in preparation for writing the novels, I realised he’s pretty hardcore ruthless. He’s
more embittered than he lets on, which emerges in flashes here and there, such as in
“Ariel” when he nearly throws Jayne out of the airlock. You threaten what’s his, and no
matter who you are, you’d better expect reprisals. I think it’s Nathan Fillion’s charm
that’s deceptive here. He makes Mal wonderfully easy-going and you might think that’s
all there is to him, but there are moments when Fillion allows glimmers of the steeliness
beneath to show through. It’s a terrifically well-rounded performance.

In this book you really dig down into Jaynes emotions which are often only hinted at in the show and personally I enjoyed this closer look into a character that at first glance could have easily been written off someone who doesn’t really give much of a care about anyone but himself, your story really highlights what we see glimpses of in the show, how did it feel really getting down into all of that and what made you decide to do so?

I think Jayne gets stereotyped as the big dumb guy who likes to shoot guns. I thought
it’d be fun to up the stakes for him and give him something to care about, so in The
Magnificent Nine he reconnects with an old flame and discovers that their affair may
have had unintended consequences. Perhaps against his own better judgement, Jayne
learns to step up and do the right thing, even though this comes at a cost. Can’t say any
more than that because of, y’know, spoilers.

You’ve written over a number of genres over the years and for different age groups, how does writing a tie in novel for a series like Firefly differ from that and how did you get into it?

About four years ago I told my then-editor at Titan, Miranda Jewess, that I’d be
interested in tie-in work but only if it was Firefly. Titan didn’t even have the licence
then, but a couple of years later they did, and Miranda remembered what I’d said and
got in touch. I jumped at the chance. I like a challenge, and I also like to get things right,
so I re-immersed myself in the ’Verse and got reacquainted with the characters and the
tech, and then decided I would really lean into the Western-movie elements of the show.
I was excited because I’d never done anything like this before, neither a tie-in nor a
Western (other than a Western-inflected short story, “The Black Rider”, in the
anthology Gutshot). I had, however, had some experience with writing in other authors’
voices through my Conan Doyle and H.P. Lovecraft pastiches. It was really just a case of letting my love for Firefly show through and giving my fellow Browncoats what they
want.

Were there any particular rules of guidelines aside from the obvious when you were creating the story? If so could you tell me a little about these? Did they restrict you very much? Did you have to change anything in particular to accommodate them?

I submitted three story outlines for consideration, and Titan and the licensor together
decided which one they would like to see as a novel. So, from the outset, I was writing to
order, but still the guidelines were fairly loose. Once I’d written the book, it was up to
editorial to say what they thought worked and what didn’t, and I rewrote accordingly.
There wasn’t too much of that, in the event. Mostly it was a case of a line of dialogue
here and there not sounding quite right and needing to be honed, or a few instances of
character interaction which didn’t ring true. Any changes were minor. I felt that, even
if it wasn’t expressly stated, I was being asked just to have fun in this fictional world
and do the best job I could.

Thank you for your answers, as a last question I would love to know if you have a favourite episode of the Firefly and why?

It’s not so much a favourite episode as a favourite moment. It’s in “War Stories” when
Niska is torturing Mal and Wash at his skyplex. Zoë strides in, and Niska thinks he’s
being terribly clever and mean by inviting her to choose one of them to save, and before
he’s even finished talking, Zoë just points at Wash and goes “Him”. It’s perfect. You’re
expecting her to agonise over the choice. So’s Niska. But she doesn’t. She rescues her
husband because (a) he’s her husband and (b) she knows Mal can hold up better under
torture than Wash can. It’s both emotionally and logically the correct choice, and it
shows both how pragmatic and at the same time how loving Zoë is.

James Lovegrove is the author of several acclaimed novels and books for children.

James was born on Christmas Eve 1965 and, having dabbled in writing at school, first took to it seriously while at university. A short story of his won a college competition. The prize was £15, and it had cost £18 to get the story professionally typed. This taught him a hard but necessary lesson in the harsh economic realities of a literary career.

Straight after graduating from Oxford with a degree in English Literature, James set himself the goal of getting a novel written and sold within two years. In the event, it took two months. The Hope was completed in six weeks and accepted by Macmillan a fortnight later. The seed for the idea for the novel — a world in microcosm on an ocean liner — was planted during a cross-Channel ferry journey.

James blew his modest advance for The Hope on a round-the-world trip which took him to, among other places, Thailand. His experiences there, particularly what he witnessed of the sex industry in Bangkok, provided much of the inspiration for The Foreigners.

Subsequent works have all been published to great acclaim. These include Untied Kingdom, Worldstorm, Provender Gleed and the back-to-back double-novella Gig.  Many of his early books are being reissued by Solaris Books in a series of compendium volumes entitled The James Lovegrove Collection, beginning in late 2014.  United Kingdom was shortlisted for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, while “Carry The Moon In My Pocket”, a short story, won Japan’s Seiun Award in 2011 for Best Foreign Short Story.  It and other stories by James, more than 40 in total, have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies over the years, and most have been gathered in two collections, Imagined Slights and Diversifications.

More recently, James has moved into the Firefly ‘Verse, writing tie-in fiction based on the much-missed TV series (and its follow-up movie). His first Firefly novel is Big Damn Hero (based on a story outline by Nancy Holder). His second is The Magnificent Nine.

In addition, James reviews fiction for the Financial Times, specialising in the children’s, science fiction, fantasy, horror and graphic novel genres, and was a regular and prolific contributor to Comic Heroes, a glossy magazine devoted to all things comics-related, until its regrettable demise in 2014.

 

Advertisements
book reviews, spoiler free

Firefly: The Magnificent Nine

38486256Firefly: The Magnificent Nine

Rating: XXXX

Published: March 19th by Titan Books

“This was without a doubt the dumbest, insanest, reckless-est plan he had come up with, in a life marked by no lack of such plans.”

An old flame of Jayne Cobb’s, Temperance McCloud, sends a message to Serenity, begging him for help. She lives on the arid, far-flung world of Tethys, and bandits are trying to overrun her town to gain control of their water supply: the only thing standing between its people and dustbowl ruin. Jayne tries to persuade the Serenity crew to join the fight, but it is only when he offers Vera, his favourite gun, as collateral that Mal realises he’s serious.

When the Serenity crew land at a hardscrabble desert outpost called Coogan’s Bluff, they discover two things: an outlaw gang with an almost fanatical devotion to their leader who will stop at nothing to get what they want, and that Temperance is singlehandedly raising a teenage daughter, born less than a year after Temperance and Jayne broke up. A daughter by the name of Jane McCloud…

I was gifted an early finished copy from the lovely team at Titan books in exchange for an honest review, as a big Firefly fan, I absolutely jumped at the chance. This is the second tie in novel to the Firefly franchise but acts easily as a stand-alone.

For those who haven’t heard of Firefly before, (and it’s scary how many people that probably includes nowadays as it was originally broadcast back in 2002, seventeen years ago which feels crazy.) It was a TV show set in 2517 after humans have branched out into a new star system and follows a group of renegades, some of whom fought for the losing side in a system-wide civil war, turned crewmates aboard a Firefly class ship called Serenity. It was originally pitched as “nine people looking into the blackness of space and seeing nine different things.” In Whedon’s vision, “nothing will change in the future: technology will advance, but we will still have the same political, moral, and ethical problems as today.” Although the creator Joss Wheadon had planned for it to run for seven years, it barely lasted one season due to poor ratings but still lived on in the hearts and minds of it’s fans (or Browncoats as they are often referred to) for years to come, going so far as to petition for a continuation of the series which sadly failed. DVD sales of the singular season, however, were strong and the show even won a Primetime Emmy award. Thanks to its late success Wheadon and Universal pictures produced a feature-length film “Serenity” in 2005 to continue the series and it has since continued on via various comic series. The events that occur in this book, “The Magnificent Nine” take place between the end of the TV show and the film.

Whoever works on designing the looks of the books at Titan is amazing, this is another gorgeous book. The fantastic artwork on the front of the dust jacket is textured with the series title “Firefly” and the silhouette of the ship itself in a smooth foiling. The back of the dust jacket is simple but perfect with some Chinese kanji and a beautiful description of the ship Serenity, including the quote “She was the very picture of Serenity. From the outside at least.” The actual book itself is a perfectly matched Brown (a great nod to the Browncoats perhaps?) and an addition that is fast becoming my favourite thing to be included in hardbacks, a built-in ribbon bookmark.

The first thing that really pulled me into The Magnificent nine was the use of language. The original show has such a distinctive language style in many ways that are all brought over brilliantly into the written word with this book, from the phrasing in general, words that are unique to the Firefly ‘verse and the inclusion of the sprinkled Chinese phrases just like in the show. This made it easy to fall back into the already established fictional universe of the Firefly franchise and gave a sense of returning home as soon as I read the first few pages.

I really felt that James has also captured the individual rhythms and voices of the characters in a way that not only pays homage to the way they’re portrayed by the actors on the show but also gives us a unique insight into the inner workings of each character. Jayne, in particular, shone in this book, as a character who can often be misconstrued as selfish, unintelligent and trigger happy we really got a good look inside his head and although he can be a little of all three of those things it was refreshing to see another side of him swallowing his pride, protecting others and acknowledging that at times he can rush into things but when things are important he takes the time to think his actions through, even if they are often still part of a terrible idea, that’s just Jayne and we love him for it.

 

The plot moves at a good pace with a few little lulls here and there but it reads like a two-part episode. The fast-paced action scenes are easy to follow and visualise without being too repetitive, James seems to have a gift for making each altercation feel fresh. There are some great twists and turns throughout and although by the time most of them happened I had them figured out so they weren’t a huge surprise, they were interesting and well thought out with some great foreshadowing, again this is in line with a lot of the episodic storylines from the show. Even with some of the reveals feeling obvious however there are some surprising moments and there are plenty of tension-filled scenes where you’re not quite sure what could happen next. I loved the introduction of new supporting characters and especially River’s interactions with Jane. I’ve always found River to be a remarkably interesting character and this book is no exception, seeing her interact with a girl reasonably close to her age was heartwarming and fun. Not to mention Jane is a firecracker of a character and brilliant in her own right.

James Lovegrove has done an amazing job bringing the Firefly universe to the page with “The Magnificent Nine,” the characters leap off the page and the story pulls you in like a Jen mei nai-shing duh fwo-tzoo (extraordinarily impatient buddha). Keep your eyes peeled for a Q&A with the man himself coming soon!

A third tie in novel by the name of Generations is due in October this year and will be penned by Tim Lebbon.

 

Blog Tours, book reviews, spoiler free

Rayne and Delilah’s Midnite Matinee

40645629Rayne and Delilah’s Midnite Matinee by Jeff Zentner

Rating: XXX

Published: March 7th 2019 by Andersen

“I want to keep living in this moment forever…take the hourglass and lay it on its side.”

Josie and Delia are best friends and co-hosts on their own public access TV show, Midnite Matinee. They dress as vampires Rayne and Delilah, perform daft skits involving skeleton raves and dog weddings, and introduce the weekly so-bad-it’s-good low-budget horror movie. But the end of senior year is coming, and Josie is torn between pursuing her television dreams in a new city or staying making TV with her BFF. What’s more, she’s just met a boy, Lawson, who is totally not her type, but is just a little bit intriguing . . . Meanwhile, Delia is searching for her dad, who walked out on her and her mom ten years ago. When the private investigator she hired unearths his contact details, she agonises over digging up the past.

A road trip to ShiverCon, a convention for horror filmmakers, may just have the answers the two need – but will Josie and Delia be prepared for life taking some seriously unexpected plot-twists?

I was gifted an early finished copy of Rayne and Delilah’s midnite Matinee by the lovely people at Andersen Press, alongside a lovely box of snacks perfect for film watching, in exchange for an honest review. As you quite possibly already know if you’ve been reading my blog for a little while, I’m not the biggest fan of contemporary books but when I heard about this one I knew it was for me. When I still lived at home with my parents, me, my best friend and my mum would watch scary or crappy films together all night on Saturday or Sunday night. We did this for years, even for a little while after I moved out and it’s only been the past four years since I had my son that we haven’t really found the time to be able to do so. I figured this book would recapture some of that and it did but at the same time told it’s own story.

53676932_382718785909208_4895924931147071488_n

Rayne and Deliah’s Midnite Matinee is a bit of everything you would expect in a YA contemporary novel, there’s a strong friendship that is tested by what life throws at it, lessons to be learnt, hard choices to be made and a little bit of romance. The friendship dynamic between Josie and Delia felt off balance but I almost kind of liked that about them, on paper they probably shouldn’t work and it shows that often times they don’t but they care about each other enough to try and work through their differences. I did find I came to favour Delia much more than Josie and as a result, I was often angry at Josie and felt horrid for the situation Delia was stuck in. It’s certainly a complex friendship and a difficult message to convey about following your dreams, taking risks and really thinking about the consequences of your choices.

53864673_2284943851746966_2836036522673700864_n

For me personally I actually really enjoyed a lot of the ‘supporting’ characters, Delia’s mother in particular (and their relationship) was a chracters I found myself hugely invested in, not to mention Arliss and of course the real star of this book, Lawson. Obviously, this isn’t really his story but he quickly became my favourite thing about this book, his character feels complex, possibly more so than Josie, he has wants and goals of his own and he’s just so damn sweet and understanding. I could honestly go on about him for the whole of this review.

As for the overall plot, there were some slow moments, some emotional moments but also the occasional annoying moment when a character (usually Josie) really got on my nerves. By the end, we do get a few moments that feel genuinely tense but for the most part, the last third is absoloutley crackers and super over the top. The ending is however totally redeemed for me by the conclusion, where each character ends up, emotionally and physically by the end warmed my heart and gave me a terrible idea…

A month or so ago after I finished reading Rayne and Delilah’s Midnite Matinee, me and my mum found time, we gathered snacks, we picked films (well I let mum pick films because I’m a coward), turned off the lights, turned up the surround sound (which is evil) and sat down to watch some “scary” films. In a moment of weakness, I figured we’d film our reactions as an extra bit to spice up this blog tour post. Apparently, I scream and yell a lot while my mum laughs at me and this is what I missed the most about our evenings together, just being silly and hanging out with my mum while we watch terrible special effects, succumb to jump scares and stuff our faces.

(The good stuff, i.e the screaming and jumping starts around 6:06. I will not judge for skipping me and my mum chatting about horror films for six minutes.)

We all love some cruddy films, I personally adore Jupiter Ascending and would watch that garbage fire of writing, croaky yet shouty Eddie Redmayne and questionable dog person any day. Also, did I mention Sean Bean is a bee person? Because yeah. Either way, there’s always something we love that is not considered to be good but we love it in spite of or maybe because of that. Below author of Rayne and Delilah’s Midnite Matinee has written a review for one of this favourite ‘bad’ films and another one that my family have taken to watching every year, Polar Express.

Polar Express is a modern holiday classic and, it must be said, a very bad movie.
Let’s get the most obvious observation out of the way: the characters in this movie
look like garbage. They’re walking nightmares with the dead, glassy eyes of
reanimated corpses. Never before has something intended to be cute so badly
misfired.
Let’s talk about Tom Hanks for a second. This won’t win me any friends: I like Tom
Hanks in maybe half of what he’s ever done. I hated Forrest Gump. He does the
worst Southern accent on the planet, next to Kevin Spacey, but aside from ill-advised
YouTube videos, I think we’re pretty much done hearing it. It’s his cellmate’s problem
soon.
Back to Tom Hanks. He inexplicably plays every adult in this movie and he’s terrible
in every role. He’s a massive prick as the train conductor. Like, seriously, you’re
going to throw a kid off the magic train because they don’t have a ticket? It’s not like
they paid for the ticket, so WTF do you care? You plucked them from their house in
the middle of the night and then you’re going to abandon them in the snowy tundra
because they don’t have a ticket? Why did you stop to pick them up? But his
awfulness as the train conductor is nothing compared to his ghastliness as the ghost
hobo. Why is he playing a hurdy-gurdy? What a bizarre choice. Also, his “Santa
Claus” impression is as frightening as anything that’s ever been committed to film.
Don’t even get me started on how hard he laughs at his own leering joke about
looking for a girl. He sounds like he’s talking about looking for a girl to murder and
wear her skin.
This movie is all over the place tonally. There’s that hot chocolate song-and-dance
scene, which rules, but it also sets you up to think, “oh this is gonna be some kind of
musical with spectacular choreographic set pieces.” But nope! There’s one more
sorta subdued song and that’s it. It’s like they did “hot chocolate” and they were like
“wow, that was entirely too much work.” And then there are the two goofy train

conductor guys who look like cartoon characters amidst the other zombie characters.
They’ve come straight out of a Bugs Bunny cartoon.
I’ve seen this movie probably nine times. The scene where the Polar Express goes
down that steep grade puts my stomach in my throat every time. The scene where
the ticket flies out of the train and ends up back in it? Makes my heart soar. This
movie is terrible. I absolutely love it.

Thank you so much to Andersen Press for my gifted copy and including me in this fun blog tour! Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the tour which you can find in the graphic below.

BlogTour-v2.jpg

Do you have a favourite ‘bad’ film, tv show or book? Tell me more about it! Tell me what makes you love it so much and what makes it so terrible at the same time.

 

 

 

book reviews, spoiler free

The Near Witch

42370636The Near Witch – By V.E Schwab

Rating: XXXX

Published: March 12th by Titan Books

“Maybe one day the words will pour out like so many others, easy and smooth and on their own. Right now they take pieces of me with them.”

The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children.

If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company.

There are no strangers in the town of Near.

These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life.

But when an actual stranger, a boy who seems to fade like smoke, appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true.

The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion.

As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi’s need to know about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, about the wind that seems to speak through the walls at night, and about the history of this nameless boy

Having read a few of V.E Schwab’s books in the past and a couple of them quite recently when I heard that her first book “The Near Witch” was being republished I got pretty excited, when looking into getting into her books I had tried to find this book as it had intrigued me but was gutted to find it was out of print. I was doubly pleased to then receive a copy gifted to me by Titan Books in exchange for an honest review.

I wanted to talk about this book on an aesthetic level briefly because this book is beautiful and just feels physically perfect. The cover is a simple yet elegant pattern using a nice palette of colour, under the dust jacket the book is a lovely wine/maroon colour with a gold foil figure who I assume to be the near witch, I love hardbacks that have little “secrets” under the covers like that as I always take dust jackets off to read. It’s beautiful inside as well with the insides of the covers being covered in a nice pattern that has a palette to match the front cover and helps to capture an important part of the story, the wind. In addition to art and colour, I love that it comes with a built-in wine coloured bookmark ribbon and that although this is a hardback it’s a smaller one and is similar in size to a paperback meaning it’s much more comfortable to read. I feel like a lot of work has gone into the way this book works and it’s really paid off so wanted to draw attention to it.

As for the content of the book itself, The Near Witch is a brilliant spooky tale that I often found myself refusing to read in bed after freaking myself out a few times. The tale itself at its heart is certainly something that’s been done before, even at the time of its original publication and I can see why it may not have done well as an authors debut perhaps because there are a lot of tales about witches who are wronged by town folk who seek their revenge and steal children etc. The plot alone doesn’t completely blow me of the water like Vengeful did but it’s written and embellished in a way that really draws you in which really feels like Victoria’s writing and although nowhere near developed and polished as a lot of her more recent work is, it is very decidedly hers still.

In a rare occurrence for me, I actually very much enjoyed the relationship between Lexi and Cole, I’m not a huge romance fan unless it’s angsty or broken enough (not healthy, I’m aware, that’s what fictional characters are for), but just the way their interactions are written had me wanting more. It wasn’t the worlds most epic love story by any means but small, imperfect and not defined in any way. I loved it.

Along with the original Near Witch story we were also treated to more of Cole’s story and I absolutely adored this extra and would actually have quite possibly given “Ash-Born Boy” an even higher rating than The original story itself because although I did very much enjoy The Near Witch, I LOVED Ash-Born Boy with every fibre of my being. It definitely has the more finished quality that a lot of Victoria’s later works have and I wonder when it was written. It may just be I’m morbidly fascinated with Cole, to be honest, and his entire situation.

The Near Witch by V.E Schwab is out today and if you like spooky, witchy mysteries and even more mysterious boys and girls who fight to protect them and those they care about The Near Witch is absolutely for you.

Have you had a chance to read The Near Witch yet? If so let me know what you thought, if not tell me about your favourite mysterious boys, your best brave girls, the spookiest book you’ve read!

#SixforSunday, spoiler free

S4S – Favourite Illustrators

Another Sunday, another Six for Sunday Prompt! As with last weeks prompt calling for six points about one favourite author I am also unable to choose one favourite illustrator so this week I want to show you six of my favourite artists instead! I’m not going to go into huge detail like I would usually either, instead providing name, with a link to their Twitter, a little about what they’ve done and a glimpse of their work/style becasue my words just wouldn’t do justice to these amazing creators and I’d much rather their work spoke for them. I love each of these for loads of different reasons, some have created their own comics, online and self published, some have illustrated for huge companies, some have gone on to write and work on TV shows, all have differering art styles and I love every single one of them.

Noelle StevensonCreator of Nimona, Co-creator of Lumberjanes, also creator, showrunner and executive producer for She-Ra and the Princesses of Power.

nimonabanner

Sarah MilmanCreator of NPC Tea and The Heart of Time

npctabout

Tess FowlerIllustrator of various Marvel comics, Rat Queens, and Dungeons and Dragons – Darkened Wish (Coming soon!)

rat_queens_concept_art_by_tessfowler-d92u1pp.jpg

Faye SimmsCreator of The Foldings

header

Emma VieceliIllustrator for many, many comics including Jem and the Holograms and Paul McGann Doctor Who comic series, co-creator of Breaks and currently writing the Life is Strange comic by Titan Comics.

75a836cd25a986a6

Hari ConerCreator of Finding Home, Nyx, Into the Dungeon (and loads more)

il_794xN.1803998700_t5tf.jpg

book talk, Bookish Discuussions

Lauren James – The Q&A at the End of the World

53224052_378396186074861_4618236736906985472_n

Happy release day to The Quiet at the End of the World by Lauren James today! You may have seen my spoiler-free book review earlier in the week but today I’m so excited to share with you a Q&A session Lauren was lovely enough to do for me despite her busy schedule so thank you so much Lauren for finding the time so close to launch and the team at Walker Books for setting this up for me, it’s not every day you get to interview one of you’re favourite authors!

I loved hearing about the physics question that ultimately served as inspiration for The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, was there anything in particular that inspired you to create The Quiet at the end of the World?

I was reading a lot of science non-fiction, which I try to do as often as possible because it always inspires new ideas for my writing. I was reading Seven Brief Lessons in Physics, which was discussing extinction.
It said, “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 was the first time it occurred to me that it is a one hundred per cent probability that the human race will one day go extinct. It might be a hundred years from now or a hundred billion years, but it’s going to happen.
Which means that there’s probably going to be the last generation of people who will know that they’re the last people to ever live. That seemed to me to be an incredibly pressured situation to find yourself in, especially if there’s no hope of a cure.

Lowrie and Shen often wonder just what mark they might leave on the world after they’ve gone and how they might leave a message for others to find in the future, what would you leave and how?

Ooh, good question! I would love to create some kind of message in hedgerows. You know how hedgerows around fields in England have been there since medieval times? I’d write a message across miles of space by planting hedges to create letters. Super long term, large scale communication!

What skill would you most like to learn from the surviving populace in the lead up to the extinction of the human race?
Lowrie and Shen learn loads of stuff, like mudlarking and kickboxing and engineering. I think if it was me, I’d want to learn something really useful like first aid and medicine. Knowing how to set a broken bone seems like it would be totally vital.
Creatively, I think I’d like to learn how to make stained glass from scratch. Just because that’s something I’m planning to take up as a hobby myself anyway!

Time travel has featured heavily in your books before and in Quiet Lowrie asks Shen, “If you got one turn in a time machine, what time period would you visit?” How would you answer this question yourself?

Such great questions! I became slightly obsessed with the Cambrian explosion when I was writing the book, which was 500 million years ago when life on Earth was evolving. I would definitely go and take a look at that in person. This is also Shen’s answer, because we are pretty similar people.

At the start of each chapter, we see an entry in Shen and Lowrie’s Discovery Log book, (the beanie baby tag was my favourite) other than the ones that were more plot-relevant how did you pick the others?
A few of them are things that I’ve personally found, either at car boot sales or at the tip or genuinely in the ground. Others are ones I’ve seen on mudlarking social media accounts (yes, that’s a real thing – tidelineart is my favourite.) And a few are my wishlist items of things I’d love to find one day!

Did you have a favourite one and were there any you were particularly fond of that didn’t make it into the finished book?
I actually split up scenes to make more chapters so I could use all the ones I wanted! I was quite selfish about it, because I liked them so much. My editor wasn’t sure the logbook entries would work, but I persuaded her to let me write them – and I’m very happy with how they turned out.

We see a lot of struggles throughout this book but also adapting and working through difficult times, was there anything in particular that you struggled with while writing Quiet and did you have to adapt to solve any problems?

Finding Lowrie’s character was quite tough. I really wanted to write about another female scientist, as I do in all my books, but I didn’t want Lowrie to feel exactly like Romy or Clove. So it took me a while to find the right style of intelligence for her – she’s an engineer, so she’s very physical and thinks in terms of the mechanics of things, but struggles with the more fact-based side. Once I had worked that out, she clicked into place, but it did take a while to get her voice right.

We learn about characters Maya and Riz through old posts on social media, what do you think future generations might think of us if they were to see a slice of the activity we experience on social media today?

I think they’d be completely perplexed by how much we were all focussed on politics and debates over land boundaries, when we should have been trying to reverse climate change and save the world. We’re on the brink of destroying the planet and I think in the future it’s going to seem crazy that we knew that and yet did nothing about it.

I couldn’t finish this Q&A without asking about Mitch, a firm favourite in my heart and I couldn’t help but wonder how you decided which coloured lights to use for different answers and reactions? Did you have a list or go with what felt right? As a reader, I felt that the colours fit with his emotional responses really well and helped to build his personality for me.

I love Mitch too! The coloured lights were a very late addition – originally he made beeping noises. When I changed it to flashing lights, everything clicked into place. I definitely didn’t make a list or think too much about it – I just chose them instinctively. I like to imagine that the lights are part of a broken LED screen that would have originally displayed actual pictures and text. But only a few of the LED lights still work, so the lights seem to appear at random.

Lauren James was born in 1992 and graduated in 2014 from the University of Nottingham, UK, where she studied Chemistry and Physics. She is the Carnegie-nominated British Young Adult author of The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, The Quiet at the End of the World and The Next Together series.
She started writing during secondary school English classes, because she couldn’t stop thinking about a couple who kept falling in love throughout history. She sold the rights to the novel when she was 21, whilst she was still at university.
Her books have sold over fifty thousand copies in the UK alone and been translated into five languages worldwide. She has been described as ‘Gripping romantic sci-fi’ by the Wall Street Journal and ‘A strange, witty, compulsively unpredictable read which blows most of its new YA-suspense brethren out of the water’ by Entertainment Weekly.
Her other novels include The Last Beginning, named one of the best LGBT-inclusive works for young adults by the Independent, and The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, which was inspired by a Physics calculation she was assigned at university. Lauren is a passionate advocate of STEM further education, and all of her books feature female scientists in prominent roles. The Quiet at the End of the World considers the legacy and evolution of the human race into the far future.
Lauren is published in the UK by Walker Books and in the US by HarperCollins. She lives in the West Midlands and is an Arts Council grant recipient. She has written articles for numerous publications, including the Guardian, Buzzfeed, Den of Geek, The Toast, and the Children’s Writers and Artist’s Yearbook 2020. She lectures in creative writing at Coventry University, and works with Writing West Midlands, providing creative writing courses to children through the Spark Young Writers programme.
You can find her on Twitter at @Lauren_E_James, Tumblr at @laurenjames or her website http://www.laurenejames.co.uk, where you can subscribe to her newsletter to be kept up to date with her new releases and receive bonus content.

Events, spoiler free

The Quiz at the End of the World

To celebrate the release of The Quiet at the End of the World by Lauren James (out tomorrow! March 7th) Walker Books brought together Lauren James (obviously), Non Pratt, Alice Oseman and acting as host Sanne Vliegenthart (books and quills) for a panel and quiz followed by a signing and Q&A session aptly named, The Quiz at the End of the World.

I love attending events Waterstones Piccadilly and this one was no exception, I went on my own for a change but still managed to meet up with loads of other lovely attendees including some fellow bloggers, three of which joined me in becoming a team in the quiz! (Thank you, Nicola, from Fantastic Book Dragon, Faye from Daydreamers thoughts and Madeline from Ramblings Mads).

The event consisted of a panel first where the authors answered some great questions from Sanne, then onto the Quiz portion of the event which involved a round of guessing book covers and emoji book titles and then answering questions from Lauren, it was a super hard YA quiz which was fun but made me realise just how broad YA really is, I don’t read a lot of contemporary so didn’t managed to contribute loads (other than one Twilight question) but did found out who Lara Jean ends up at with at the end of the To All the Boys I’ve Loved before books which was my favourite spoiled I’ve ever received. After the quiz came a Q&A session where we could ask the authors questions and again this was really fun, you could really tell these authors obviously knew each other and got on well outside of this environment as well as they just gelled together so well and it made it so much fun as well as getting a little deep when we got onto the topic of who YA is really aimed at and how little input teenagers have in it which is crazy when they’re essentially the target audience.

The signing happened after and this was lovely as usual too, it was nice and relaxed and allowed us time to chat with each author as well which was lovely. All in all a great event and possibly one of my favourite panels, definitely one I would listen to again for sure.

I did film a little video with some of my journey and the panel itself as well as some of the Q&A after, I don’t like to film the entire thing as I think it’s rude but I did manage to get some of the really good moments, I apologise for the occasional cough as I was (and still am) getting over a horrid cold/sore throat thing at the moment, still I hope you’ll enjoy this sneak peek into the evening, there is no footage of the quiz as understandably phones were not allowed in case of cheating but I did film some of the Q&A as well.

Speaking of Q&A, to continue with our week-long celebration of The Quiet at the End of the World tomorrow I’m lucky enough to be able to bring you a Q&A session with Lauren herself! So I hope you enjoy the video from the event and will see you back here tomorrow!