When I write my book reviews, I always try to contact the author and ask them a few questions about their book so I can add some interesting quotes into my piece. When I wrote to Lauren James, author of The Next Together, she responded with such wonderful answers that I decided to put them into a blog post of their own! I didn't expect to be sharing these questions so please forgive how sloppy some of them are... If you'd like to read my book review of The Next Together first, the link is here! I was wondering
why you chose the time periods that you did, and if there were any time periods
that you'd have liked to have written about but weren't able to?
I would have loved to include lots more of Kate and Matt’s lives,
but I think it would have been far too complicated to read – and I can’t even
imagine trying to write it! It was a little complicated to keep track as it
was - especially during editing, when I struggled to remember which plotlines I
had written, which I had removed from an earlier draft, or had yet to write! As
the plot involves time travel elements, this made is especially confusing, both
for myself and my editor. I had to make a lot of posters keeping track of
Why did you chose 3 main time periods? Also, in your mind were
there an endless number of reincarnations or was there a certain amount?
I thought three would be the maximum that readers could keep track
of – but there are definitely more. You can read a medieval short story about
one of their other liveshere.
Were there aspects of Kate and Matt that you based on people in
I think both Kate and Matt are a little bit of me, but apart from
just shamelessly stealing my own characteristics - Matt is based a little on
Prince Char from Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine. I absolutely adored that
book when I was thirteen, and I would have taken a bullet for Char – and Matt!
Kate is inspired by Jim Kirk as played by Chris Pine in the Star Trek reboot,
because when I saw that film I was desperate for a silly, lewd, brave character
like him - but who was a girl!
How long did it take you to write, and was research a HUGE part of
the writing or did you just add in the details later?
I actually chose the timelines in the book based on which I could
research for free, mainly using my university library and primary sources
available to access on Google Books. I was a student when I started writing as
a hobby, so I didn’t want to spend any money on history textbooks. It seemed to
work out quite well!
In hindsight, choosing a storyline with multiple historical time
periods might have been a bad idea for my first ever novel, which was hard
enough to write without the research. If there was anything I couldn’t find out
through research (even when I caved and bought textbooks, after I realised I
wanted to make the story into a proper novel!) I used my imagination, and a bit
of dramatic licence.
You said in your '6 Questions with' that this story has been with
you a long time, were you nervous to share it?
I’m ecstatically petrified right now! I’ve been writing this story
since I was sixteen – seven years ago! – and it’s been two years since I was
offered a book deal, so it definitely felt like publication day would never
arrive. I’ve put my whole heart into the book though, and I don’t think I could
have made it any better than it is. I’m very happy with it!
Did you find it hard to write a convincing love story?
Their relationship is just based on what I imagine being in the
perfect relationship with your soulmate would be like – when you both have your
flaws and irritating traits, but those things fit together perfectly, and just
make you love each other more.
There’s a very flirty carriage ride near the start of the book, in
the 1745 timeline, which is full of unresolved sexual tension and intrigue, and
it was the very first thing I wrote which clicked for me. That’s when Kate and
Matt’s relationship and chemistry came to life, and after that it all seemed to
I think the snippets that we see of Kate and Matt’s interactions
whilst in a long term established relationship really help to bring them to
life and make their love story seem genuine. I hope so, anyway!
Did you always have a 2 book storyline in mind? My god, that
epilogue! I read it over and over and then had to calm myself because I'd
gotten a little overexcited about the prospect of a follow on...
I didn’t! It was always going to be a standalone novel, but as I
got closer and closer to writing the end, I realised I just needed to find out
what happened next. So I had to write it! I like to think of the series as Jane
Austen meets Doctor Who, and that is even more appropriate for the sequel than
for The Next Together.
How much input did you have regarding the final product of the
actual book like with the page design and stuff? I thought the notes and
maps were such a fabulous idea because it was like a scrapbook or like a
detective's notebook! I think Walker do such a good job of making books feel
special - I remember thinking how gorgeous the page numbering in Non Pratt's
I designed crude versions of the maps and notes in Microsoft Word
(originally just as a way to procrastinate from writing!). Then the Walker
designer Jack Noel (who also designed Non Pratt's books) took all my notes and
made them into professional graphics. He did an excellent job, and I absolutely
adore the finished book. There are so many little details, like the timelines
across the tops of the pages which match up with the time period in the
chapter. It’s so rewarding to read! The biggest thank you to Lauren James!
The Next Together is Lauren James’ debut novel
and my, oh my I LOVED it. Telling the stories of Katherine and Matthew as they
live life after life together, it's a real beauty inside and out. Walker books have done a spectacular job of designing this book and making it feel so special; with gorgeous maps, notes and letters, The Next Together feels like a vamped-up detective's notebook crossed with a scrapbook of Matthew and Katherine's lives!
There are three main settings used to tell
their stories, England 2039; Carlisle 1745; and Crimea 1854. Katherine and
Matthew appear in each time period, each time as different incarnations of
themselves. Lauren says that these timelines were chosen 'based on which I could research for free, mainly using my university library and primary sources available to access on Google Books. I was a student when I started writing as a hobby, so I didn’t want to spend any money on history textbooks.' In 2039, Matt and Kate are 18 year old biology students studying at
the University of Nottingham and bonding over their shared interest in their
relatives. Upon discovering that Kate’s aunt, Katherine, and Matt’s uncle, Matt,
were killed by the government in 2019 for being terrorists, Kate and Matt set out to prove their
The 1745 version of Katherine finds herself
orphaned after her grandmother dies and she has to move in with her aunt and
uncle. Katherine now lives in a castle, has servants, and travels in a horse
drawn carriage – a life that without her grandma's guidance feels overwhelming.
Fed up by her aunt’s pushiness at a social gathering one evening, Katherine runs
outside into the cold where she is brought a blanket by her coachman, Matthew. Over
time, an unlikely friendship develops between them, and together they pledge to
protect Carlisle from the Scottish Rebels.
Things are again completely different in 1854
when Katy is living life as a man servant to a journalist covering the Crimean
war. After leaving the orphanage aged 12, Katy began living as a boy called Kit
so that she could avoid the workhouse. Now 16 and working as a member
of the house staff for army general, Lord Somerset, Katy is commissioned by her
boss to spy on the journalist who is reporting the war for The Times, to make
sure that only ‘safe’ information is making its way into the knowledge of the
general public, and more importantly, the Russians. The journalist who she is
to work with is 21 year old Matthew, a young writer hoping that by reporting the truth about the
English army’s conditions, public support would increase and conditions on the front-line would
I really love it when a book can’t be described
in a single paragraph because it makes me feel that I’ve read something
extra-special. The Next Together is such a brilliant book where every single word has been so carefully used to create the perfect
storyline. With such an ambitious plot this potentially could have felt clumsy and confusing, but Lauren's flawless attention to detail ensured that her book felt clever and exciting, so much so that I was captivated and interested the whole way through and not once did I feel bored nor did I flick ahead to see how
many more pages I would have to endure. So much of the charm of The Next Together comes
from Lauren’s ability to make you feel that you know Katherine and Matthew
because even after just a couple of pages you’re rooting for them and are
invested in their stories. I asked Lauren if aspects of Kate and Matt were based on real people to which she replied, 'I think both Kate and Matt are a little bit of me, but apart from just shamelessly stealing my own characteristics - Matt is based a little on Prince Char from Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine. I absolutely adored that book when I was thirteen, and I would have taken a bullet for Char – and Matt! Kate is inspired by Jim Kirk as played by Chris Pine in the Star Trek reboot, because when I saw that film I was desperate for a silly, lewd, brave character like him - but who was a girl!'
To accompany the three main stories, each chapter begins with a note left from either 2019 Katherine or 2019 Matt to the other. It’s an interesting addition because 2019 Matt and Katherine are the focus of 2039 Matt and Kate’s storyline and I liked how this intriguing technique was used to allow me to piece together the connections between both stories. I loved the mixture of notes pinned to the fridge, a written on napkin, text messages and letters, and think that Lauren deserves so much praise for so cleverly weaving together 4 individual stories about the same characters in such a magnificent and wonderfully easy to read way.
I also loved that certain themes connected one story to another as it really helped to tie it all together and portray the fact that it's the same people in each story. In both 1745 and 1854 Katherine dresses as a male to enable her to do something heroic, and in all three stories her parents are absent. I also enjoyed the way that Lauren portrayed the power balance between Katherine and Matthew: in 1745, Matthew is in a more powerful position as a journalist, in 1854, Katherine is the most powerful as a Lady, and in 2019 and 2039, both are scientists and are on an even footing. Reading The Next Together reminded me a little bit of that episode in Friends (you know the one) when Monica and Chandler get together even when he's a loser and she's fat to prove that they were always destined to be together. I liked how Lauren explored the ideas of inevitability and destiny without the storyline ever feeling repetitive.
A few months ago when I saw this book referred
to as a love story, I was a little worried that it would be a bit heavy and
emotional but in fact it’s not like that at all! I particularly liked that both
characters are light-hearted and jokey (and even a little sassy at times *looks at Katherine*) because
it removed that sensation of prying that as a reader you can sometimes experience. Lauren says, 'Their relationship is just based on what I imagine being in the perfect relationship with your soulmate would be like – when you both have your flaws and irritating traits, but those things fit together perfectly, and just make you love each other more.' Lauren managed to strike the perfect balance between not making me feel like I
was third-wheeling Katherine and Matthew’s relationship but also still letting
me get that lovely squishy feeling when they were being all cute and nice. For
that reason I’d say this book is fab for those who like romances and also fab for
those who, like me, don’t want to be slapped in the face with a sickly love
Despite being a book about reincarnation and
time travel, The Next Together felt honest and real in a way that many contemporary YA
novels struggle to achieve. This was definitely down Lauren's depiction of normal narrative and
her brilliantly written recognisable characters. I especially loved reading Kate’s relationship
with her grandmas, Flo and Nancy, because it felt touching and completely familiar, reminding me a lot of how I chat with my grandparents. I also thought that the inclusion of gay grandmas was a really
lovely way of adding diversity to this book.
I’ve read some really brilliant books this year
but The Next Together is without a doubt the most adventurous and imaginative.
It’s going to be hard to do this book justice with just a review but I think that
Alice Oseman (author of the incredible Solitaire) has done an excellent job by describing it as ‘an explosion of
storytelling’. This book is truly amazing and after that killer epilogue I’m SO excited for the sequel,
The Last Beginning to be published next year.
know in the comments if you have read#TheNextTogetheror if it's a book that you're going to add to your TBR
list! Thank you SO much to Lauren for letting me question her - read the full Q and A HERE!