At just 11 years old, Jess Parker published her first book writing services, The Fire Starter. The book follows a teenage girl and her little brother on a fascinating adventure as they navigate the obstacles and traps (sometimes literal) of an underground civilization isolated from the world.
Considering that most of us, even at the best of times, could barely make coherent sentences at that age, we couldn’t help but talk to Jess (and her mother Helen) about her feet and how she achieved it with just one decade and a little of life.
Jess is not only one of the youngest authors on our platform, but also one of the most altruistic: she donates all the profits she receives from the sale of her book to the Multiple Sclerosis Society, MS Society of the United Kingdom, a charity dedicated to realizing their vision of a world free of multiple sclerosis. Needless to say, we are proud to have an author like Jess on our platform and we hope that her story inspires you as much as it does us.
Part 1: Jess
My bestseller: Let’s start with the most obvious question: how does one end up writing a book at 11 years old?
Jess: I’ve always loved reading and writing, and I started writing stories when I was nine years old. I didn’t know The Fire Starter was going to be a real book when I started writing it, but it all worked out in the end.
My bestseller: The Fire Starter is your first novel, how long did it take you to finish it?
Jess: My book took me about eight months to write from start to finish.
MI bestseller: Can you tell us about your writing process? Do you have any rituals, rules or habits that you would like to share with us?
Jess: Well, I always have to be alone and in a quiet place. And I only write when I have an idea or feel like it, I don’t try to force ideas.
My bestseller: Your book deals with very mature themes, such as war, betrayal, isolation and abuse of power. Were these themes always in your plans or did they develop naturally during the writing of 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 the rest came as I went along. So no, the topics I wrote about were never planned and I was always going back to the story, editing it and changing things, even before I finished it.
My bestseller: What was the biggest challenge you faced when writing your book and how did you overcome it?
Jess: I think the biggest challenge was the ending. I always wanted it to be a cliffhanger, but it was hard for me to get there. I got over it by only writing small chunks at a time, so I didn’t feel pressured, and I revised and changed it several times.
MI bestseller: Can you tell us a little about what inspires you, both for this book and for your role as a writer in general?
Jess: My influence for this book was other dystopian books I’ve read, but particularly those by Suzanne Collins. In general, I am influenced by the emotions I feel at that moment, what is happening around me or who I am with. I am often influenced by what I read as well.
Write only what makes you feel inspired and only when you feel an idea coming to you, don’t try to force it.
Lastly, never give up.
My bestseller: The National Literacy Trust has repeatedly warned that children and young people are reading less than ever. However, it is clear that you have defied this trend. Can you point to something in particular that has underpinned your passion for reading and writing? And, in your opinion, is there anything that would motivate other people your age to start reading more?
Jess: I think one of the things I love most about reading is the fact that because it’s not real, anything can happen. We have different visions of the past and the future and we feel connected to the characters because we can almost experience what they are. To get other people to read more, I would tell them that they can almost experience two different lives, theirs and the protagonists’. Also, read what catches your attention, not what others tell you or suggest.
My bestseller: Profits from the sale of these books will be donated to the Multiple Sclerosis Society (MS Society) in the United Kingdom, can you tell us a little about that and what it means to you?
Jess: Multiple sclerosis is a progressive disease of the brain and spinal cord. The Multiple Sclerosis Society funds research into new treatments and supports people suffering from this disease. I decided to donate to this charity because my aunt was just diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and I want to do everything she can to help her, even if it’s just a little.
My bestseller: The Fire Starter ends with a cliffhanger, after a series of twists and big revelations; When can we expect the second book?
Jess: It took me a long time to write the first book, so I don’t know how long it will take to finish the next one, but I’ve already started writing it and I have some ideas. However, I doubt it will be finished before the end of the year.
MI bestseller: Finally, do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers, on MI bestseller and elsewhere?
Jess: Only write what inspires you and only when you feel an idea coming to you, don’t try to force it. Lastly, never give up.
Part 2: Helen
It never hurts to insist on the importance of reading to or with your children.
MI bestseller: How has your experience been throughout your daughter’s literary journey? What has been her role in it?
Helen: I’m incredibly proud of her. She is so brilliant at writing that she doesn’t need much help from me. I just give her a lot of support, encouragement and compliments, but also honesty: I look at her stories and if something doesn’t make sense or doesn’t read well, I talk to her about it and encourage her to try that part again.
My bestseller: How did you react when you first read The Fire Starter?
Helen: I was amazed: it was a huge leap from his previous stories, in terms of length and maturity. I had the feeling of getting a glimpse of her future, when she is the world-famous writer she dreams of being.
My bestseller: Were you also a great reader as a child?
Helen: Yes, reading has always been one of my favorite hobbies, I read every day, whenever I can. Obviously, I was a child of the pre-digital world, so I didn’t have the distractions that kids have today, but some of my favorite memories are of reading comedic writers with my parents and I don’t think any technology would have changed that.
Would you like to support Jess and the MS society?
The Fire Starter is available in both paperback and eBook formats. If you want to support Jess in her goal of raising funds for the National MS Society, we encourage you to purchase it directly from her online store at Book undo. This way, the author receives the largest royalties and Jess will be able to make an even more significant donation. The book is also available on Amazon and Kobo.