Chapter Two with Lauren James

We asked Lauren James, author of The Next Together, all about her second novel, The Last Beginning!

The storylines of The Next Together and The Last Beginning are completely intertwined. Did you write both books together or did you write one first and then cross reference?
I actually didn’t know there was going to be a sequel until I finished writing The Next Together. When I got to the end I realised that there was this whole other story to be told, from the other side of things. I then wrote the first draft of The Last Beginning, and luckily it coincided quite well because I was working on the edits for TNT. 

I was able to go back in and seed in lots of scenes and conversations and plot developments that I’d come up with while writing TLB. It was lots of fun, writing offhand mentions of certain characters in TNT, knowing that readers would glide over them without paying attention – and then the minute they read TLB, they’d be like “OH MY GOD. I’ve known them since the last book!”

Much of The Last Beginning is set in the future. How was it to write those chapters?
So fun. I loved coming up with the futuristic technology. I always try to hold back on making futures very different from modern life – because comparing our world now with how 1960s sci-fi imagined the millennium would be, there aren’t as many advances as expected. I want to tone it down enough to keep it realistic – and avoid embarrassing myself in a few decades with my wild ideas!

The Last Beginning includes way more science than The Next Together. As a science graduate did you enjoy writing these parts? 
I loved it so much. It’s one of my favourite parts of writing. I’m actually writing a science fiction thriller right now inspired by a special relativity problem I was assigned as coursework for uni (no, seriously. I am!).

In your 6 Questions with Lauren James interview you said that you were challenged by the historical research that was involved with The Next Together. Was that an issue when writing The Last Beginning?
Not at all – there’s only one historical setting, and it’s one that I’ve already written about. I did refresh my memory a bit, but I made things a lot easier for myself this time around!

There are lots of very clever twists and revelations in The Last Beginning that were a joy to read. Were there any plot lines that you were concerned you might not be able to resolve?
I think that the hardest part was keeping track of what was happening from the perspectives of the different characters in each scene. Because there is a lot of time travel, the characters all come from different points in time, and that changes where they are in the story’s chronology – and what they all know, or don’t know, about each other. Sometimes I’d have a character offering up information they didn’t actually know (yet), which made me feel a bit stupid – and gave my editors a headache!

Knowing how much people enjoyed The Next Together, did you feel any additional pressure when writing The Last Beginning?
Yes, definitely. Because I wrote it after I’d got a book deal, it was about twenty times harder because suddenly I knew that people were definitely going to read it. I had to push past a lot of fear which had never been there before. Eventually it all clicked into place though – and I began worrying about my next book!
You said that the idea of people falling in love over an over has been with you a long time, is it strange to have finished that story?
So weird! It feels like a period of my life has ended. I’ve been writing about Kate and Matt since I was sixteen – eight years!

You’ve written a short story (Another Together) featuring Matthew and Katherine in a time period not explored in The Next Together. Are you tempted to write more novellas?
I’d love to write more set in this world. Maybe about Ella and Clove’s relationship in the future. Another Together was from Matthew’s point of view – I’d love to write from Ella’s! I’ve already written some short stories for my website, because I can’t let these characters go.

Matthew and Katherine’s relationship is something that you’ve explored in so much detail so how was it to write about Clove and Ella and Tom and Jen?
I loved it. It brought so much depth to the world, and context to Kate and Matt. I particularly loved exploring Tom more, and seeing where he ended up after his part in Kate and Matt’s story. And I love Jen so much – she’s a strong female scientist! Basically, I love them all.

And finally, have you started working on book 3 and if so, is there anything you can tell us yet?
I have a few other projects coming up, but they haven’t been announced yet, so I can’t say much more than that I’m sticking with science fiction, and focussing on a thriller next.