The Next Big Thing

Cover for "A Breathtaking Window on the Universe: A guide to the observatory at the Roque de los Muchachos"
Cover for "A Breathtaking Window on the Universe"

Recently, I was approached by Simon Harris, (who runs the Barcelona Travel Guide) to take part in a project called The Next Big Thing, where writers blog about their current writing project and then pass the baton onto other writers and link back to the person that got them involved.

Simon is an English teacher, writer and translator who has lived in Barcelona since 1988. He’s the author of “Going Native in Catalonia” (already published) and the excellent travel blog mentioned above. His Next Big Thing is “Catalonia: The Road To Independence” (for which he is looking for a publisher).

As many of my readers already know, my Next Big Thing is my guidebook to the observatory here, which should be out by the end of the month.

What is the working title of your book?
“A Breathtaking Window on the Universe: a guide to the observatory at the Roque de los Muchachos.”

Where did the idea come from for the book?
I’ve worked at the observatory for many years, first as a software engineer at the British telescopes, then I downshifted and became a tour guide. I love showing people around the place, and explaining how it all works. It seemed the logical thing to write about.

What genre does your book fall under?
Non-fiction, either travel or amateur astronomy.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I’ll play myself and George Clooney can play my husband. It’ll be fun to film the romantic bit where we met in the Isaac Newton Telescope, under the stars in the heart-shaped island.

What is the brief synopsis of your book?
Welcome to the Roque de Los Muchachos, where 15 telescopes from 19 nations use the best night sky in Europe to explore the cosmos. Find out what it’s like to work in this strange world above the clouds. Learn about each telescope, how they’re run, and a little of what they’ve discovered.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I’m publishing it myself, but I’d like to emphasise that this book is produced to professional standards: with proper editing and proofreading, and a rather classy layout by EcoGeek.
It should be available from by the end of November.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Nearly three years, because I was busy tour guiding, writing fiction and translating. Of course that was long enough for two new telescopes to arrive, and several older telescopes to upgrade their instruments.

What other books would you compare this one to within your genre?
There aren’t any other books about the observatory here, but I’ve tried to emulate the easy-reading style of Patrick Moore or Brian Cox. The book is aimed at the general public rather than professional astronomers, with over 120 photos and diagrams, and a full glossary of all the technical terms for non-geeks.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?
Mostly the tourists I show around, because they’re so interested, and often an hour isn’t nearly enough. I’ve also had a lot of encouragement from the observatory staff, and fellow Starlight guides -(tour guides specialising in astronomy).

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
If you know any amateur astronomers, they make wonderful Christmas presents for only 15€.

Now I’m passing on to Geoff Nelder. Geoff writes thrillers, fantasy, and science fiction.

Introduction to A breathtaking Window on the Universe by Sheila Crosby

Posted by sheila

Sheila came to La Palma with a six month contract and has stayed 24 years so far. She used to work as a software engineer at the observatory, but now she's a writer and Starlight guide.

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