Author interviewsSelf Publishing

Authors of Bookmundo: Jess Parker

At just 11 years of age, Jess Parker has published her first novel, The Fire Starter. The book follows a teenage girl and her little brother on a riveting adventure as they navigate the pitfalls (sometimes literal ones) of an isolationist underground civilisation.

Considering the fact that on a good day, yours truly could just barely string a coherent sentence together at that age, we knew that we had to speak to Jess (and her mum Helen) about her achievement.

Not only is Jess the youngest author on our platform, but she might just be the most selfless one too: all the proceeds from her book sales are going to be donated to the MS Society, a charity organisation dedicated to realising their vision of a world free of MS.

Needless to say, we’re proud to have an author like Jess on our platform and hope her story will inspire you as much as it has us.

Part 1: Jess

Bookmundo: Let’s start with the most obvious question: how does one end up writing a book at 11? 

Jess: I’ve always loved to read and write, and I started writing stories when I was nine. I didn’t know that The Fire Starter was going to be a proper book when I started writing it, but it all just came out. 

Bookmundo: The Fire Starter is your debut novel–how long did it take you to finish?

Jess: My book took me about eight months to write from start to finish.

Bookmundo: Can you tell us about your writing process–do you have any rituals, rules, or habits that you’d be willing to share with us?

Jess: Well, I always have to be alone and somewhere quiet. And I only write when I have an idea or feel in the mood, I don’t try to force ideas out. 

Bookmundo: Your book deals with rather mature themes including war, betrayal, isolationism, and the abuse of power. Was this always the plan, or did these themes develop naturally while writing the book?

Jess: When I started writing the book, I didn’t really know what was going to happen. I had an idea for the first paragraph and then the rest just came as I wrote. So, no, the themes that I wrote about were never planned and I kept going back through the story and editing it and changing things, even before I’d finished.

Bookmundo: What was the biggest challenge you faced while writing your book, and how did you overcome it?

Jess: I think the biggest challenge was the ending. I’d always wanted it to be a cliffhanger, I just found it hard to get there. I overcame this by only writing little bits at a time so that I didn’t feel pressured and I went over it and changed it a few times too. 

Bookmundo: Could you tell us a bit about your influences, both in terms of this book and as a writer in general? 

Jess: My influence for this book was other dystopian books I’ve read, but Suzanne Collins’ books in particular. In general, I am influenced by whatever emotions I feel at the time, whatever is going on around me or whoever I’m with. A lot of the time I’m influenced by what I’m reading as well.

Just write what makes you feel inspired and only write when you feel an idea coming along, don’t try to force it. Lastly, never give up. 

Jess Parker

Bookmundo: The National Literacy Trust has repeatedly warned that children and young adults are reading less than ever before. You’ve clearly defied this trend, however–could you point to anything in particular that has sustained your passion for reading and writing? And is there anything, in your opinion, that would motivate others your age to start reading more?

Jess: I think one of the things I love most about reading is that because it’s not actually real, anything could happen. You get different views of the past and the future and you feel connected to the characters as you get to almost experience what they are. To get other people to read more, I would tell them that they almost get to go through two different lives, their own and the main characters. Also, read what captures your imagination, not what other people tell you to, or suggest you should read. 

Bookmundo: The proceeds from the sale of these books will be donated to the MS Society–could you tell us a bit about it and what it means to you?

Jess: Multiple Sclerosis is a progressive brain and spinal cord disease. The MS Society funds world-leading research into new treatments and supports people living with MS. I’ve chosen to donate to this charity because my auntie has recently been diagnosed with MS and I want to do everything I can to help her out even if it’s not very much. 

Bookmundo: The Fire Starter ends on a cliffhanger, after a series of twists and big reveals; when can we expect the second book?

Jess: It took me so long to write the first book, so I’m not sure how long it will be before I finish my next one, but I have started it already and have some ideas. I doubt it will be finished before the end of the year, however. 

Bookmundo: Lastly, do you have any advice for aspiring writers, on Bookmundo and elsewhere?

Jess: Just write what makes you feel inspired and only write when you feel an idea coming along, don’t try to force it. Lastly, never give up. 

Part 2: Helen

I can’t overstate the importance of reading to or with your child.

Helen Parker

Bookmundo: What has your experience been throughout your daughter’s literary journey? What has your role been?

Helen: I am incredibly proud of her. She is so brilliant at writing she doesn’t really need much from me. I just give her lots of support, encouragement and praise, but also honesty—I’ll proofread her stories and if something doesn’t make sense or read well, I’ll chat to her about it and encourage her to have another try at that bit.

Bookmundo: How did you react when you first got to read The Fire Starter?

Helen: I was blown away—it was a massive leap forward from her previous stories, in terms of length and maturity. I felt like I’d had a glimpse into her future, when she is the world-famous author she dreams of being.

Bookmundo: Were you also a big reader as a child?

Helen: Yes, reading has always been one of my favourite pastimes, I read every day, every chance I get. Obviously, I was a pre-digital world child, so I didn’t have the distractions that children have today, but some of my favourite memories are reading with my parents and I don’t think any amount of tech would have changed that. 

Bookmundo: Do you have any advice for parents who want to help their kids read more?

Helen: I can’t overstate the importance of reading to or with your child. Jess doesn’t need me to read to her anymore, but I still do, every day. We both look forward to these quiet snuggly moments and now she is older, I am able to start sharing some of my favourite books with her, and I get to experience them again, through her. 

Want to support Jess and the MS Society?

The Fire Starter is available as both a paperback and an ebook. If you would like to support Jess in her goal to raise money for the National MS Society, we encourage you to buy the book directly from her Bookmundo webshop. This nets the author the highest royalties and will allow Jess to make an even more meaningful donation.

The book is also available on Amazon and Kobo.

The Fire Starter front cover

Jessica is a secondary school student who lives with her mum, dad, and little sister in Southampton. She loves cats, the colour green, tidiness, dark chocolate and chicken Kievs (not on the same plate!). However, her biggest passion is storytelling, and she can usually be found with her nose in a book.

She is already chasing her dream of becoming a world-renowned author, and The Fire Starter, her
debut novel, will be the first instalment in a trilogy of books.

The proceeds will go to The MS Society, a charity that has recently become important to Jessica and her family. They could not be prouder of her.