Bookish Discuussions, q&a, spoiler free

James Lovegrove Q&A

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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.

 

book talk, Bookish Discuussions

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

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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.

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Thursday Tag – Rapid Fire Book Tag

32105026_10155216836891581_3102756452771561472_nI realised recently that I really enjoy doing Tag posts because they’re so fun and  a nice way to learn a little about each other so I’m going to aim to post a Tag post three out of four (or so) Thursdays of the month and on the other Thursday I’m thinking a TBR post for the month? We’ll see how it works out. For today however I decided to have a go at the Rapid Fire Book Tag orgially created by Girl Reading and I found it while checking out the gorgeous blog of Cafe Manon and decided to give it a go!

E-Book or Physical Book?
Physical book. I do read a fair bit on my kindle now thanks to Net Galley and some ebook only releases etc and it defintley has its pros and I can see why people might prefer it but I prefer something with pages I can physically turn and I love to be able to look at all my books on my shelves.

Paperback or Hardback?
Paperback. They’re just more comfortable to read, it’s that simple.

Online or In-Store Book Shopping?
Both. We don’t have a book store in our town and I can’t always afford the extra bus fare to get to one so if thats the case and I’m desperate for a book I’ll get it from Amazon with free next day delivery or if I’m going to a physical store and already know at least one of the books I’m getting I order it for click and collect because often it’s a little cheaper that way. I usually then end up picking up another book anyway!

Trilogies or Series?
Trilogies. I think some series just go on so long that I forget about a lot that has happened or I’m just not as invested as I once was. I find their endings are often a lot less satisfying as well.

Heroes or Villains?
Villians. Always. I love a good anti hero too.

A book you want everyone to read?
This is a tough one to be honest, there are loads of books I love and want people to read and enjoy but not everyone has the same taste so it would have to be something that is good no matter what. I think maybe Invictus by Ryan Graudin, The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James, Poison Study by Maria V Snyder, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline orrrrr A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas?
And The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien.

Recommend an underrated book?
Another difficult one because I don’t know nessicarily know what books other people consider to be underrated? I loved but don’t seem to see much about Invictus by Ryan Graudin, a great, fun stand alone book that was so well done and possibly one of my favourite stand alones in general.

The last book you finished?
The Smoke Thieves by Sally Green

The Last Book You Bought?
I had no self control and brought five in one go.
A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J Maas
The Smoke Thieves by Sally Green
The Gospel of Loki by Joanne Harris
Circe by Madeline Miller
The Exact Opposite of Okay by Laura Steven

Weirdest Thing You’ve Used as a Bookmark?
A daisy? I’ve used basically everything >.<

Used Books: Yes or No?
Yes. I’ll admit I don’t use them often purely because I get a huge kick out of the book buying experience etc and I currently have a library fine I need to pay but there’s absolutley nothing wrong with used books.

Top Three Favourite Genres?
1. Fantasy (Usually YA)
2. Sci Fi (Also usually YA)
3. Historical Fiction

Borrow or Buy?
Buy. This is an entire ritual almost for me that is probably on par with eating chocolate for me when it comes to enjoyment. I’ve always been a bit of a shopaholic and the day I brought my first book myself was one of my happiest.

Characters or Plot?
Characters. I realised this when playing the Mass Effect games and knowing that no matter the plot I would play the hell out of any game with those characters because they were real to me. Don’t get me wrong it’s hard to get good characters out of a bad plot but not impossible.

Long or Short Books?
Short. Or medium length would be good? I get too bored/impatient with really long books about 350/400 is perfect. I’m reading Gospel of Loki atm which is 302 pages and feels like a great size too but probably too small to tell a lot of stories well.

Long or Short Chapters?
Short. Same as above, I just get bored and it’s much more satisfying to finish chapters quicker.

Name The First Three Books You Think Of…
1. The Gospel of Loki by Joanne Harris (Currently reading and is right next to me)
2. Gemina by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman (Husband is reading it right now)
3. The Constant Princesses by Phillipa Greggory

Books That Makes You Laugh or Cry?
Both? I tend to cry a fair bit at books if they get me in the feels enough and I like being that emotional invested but I love it when a book can do both.

Our World or Fictional Worlds?
As fictional as possible although I do enjoy a but of historical fiction at times.

Audiobooks: Yes or No?
Yes. I don’t usually have an audio book as a main read unless I’m using whisper sync with a kindle book because I don’t have as much oppertunity to listen to it as I do to pick up a book and read. I love them both but I do prefer physical or ebooks.

Do You Ever Judge a Book by its Cover?
Yes. Often.

Book to Movie or Book to TV Adaptations?
It depends but I do love to check them out and see what they’re like. I’m usually fairly good at keeping the two seperate in any case and just enjoy more of something I enjoy usually.

A Movie or TV-Show You Preferred to its Book?
Game of Thrones. (This was also Manon’s answer and I totally agree) the books are a total slog and I just enjoy the direction they’ve taken the show more.
Also Stardust. The book is great but I love the film.

Series or Standalone’s?
I don’t knooow! I’m notoriously usually unhappy with series endings but sometimes there just needs to be more. I love standalones but I think with the right book I would prefer series.

I hope you enjoyed todays tag! As usual I tag ALL OF YOU. If you’re reading this and want to do this for yourself then feel free and let me know so I can check out your answers!

Jemma.xx

jemma setterington