When I first held a copy of the book I wrote in my hands I cried. I ran my hands over the cover, I smelled inside the pages, I flicked through it to read random paragraphs, and I cried. I looked at my name on the cover, the character’s name in the title, and I cried.
My entire life I dreamed this could happen. To write and release a book was my ambition from the moment I could hold a pen. As a little girl I’d draw comic books of The Bean People and stick them together with tape. As a young teen I’d write short stories in a spiral bound notebook. As an adult I’ve written novels on my computer, most of which went unfinished, many of which will never see the light of day… one of which I pinned my hopes and dreams to. I have dreamed that one day I would get to hold a book with my name on and know that I had finally done it.
I am thirty one years old and this is the culmination of a life of dreaming and working and hoping and longing and, I am certain, worthy of the tears. I have absolutely no shame about how much I sobbed. And I have no embarrassment about how proud of myself I am. So many people told me it would never happen. So many people believed I was wasting my time. So many times I doubted myself. But even when I told myself I should stop I couldn’t.
There were a few times in my life when I tried to stop working for this. I went for “real jobs” and tried to put my creativity and passion into other areas, worked towards new goals, and I’m glad I did because for one thing I had to earn money to live on, and for another I learned a lot both in life experiences and about myself. But always. always… the dream to write was there and write I did.
The basic concept for Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit came to me way back in 2010. I wanted to write a simple children’s picture book about animals that came to life when a little girl drew them. I named her Lily (originally one L) because I love the name, and Prospero because of the magical reference to Shakespeare’s The Tempest, a favourite by a master. And it was done.
Much like Bernard and Manny in Black Books attempting to write a simple children’s tale, it started to spiral out of control. The ideas in my head grew and grew suddenly it was too big. It wasn’t a picture book, it wasn’t about a very little girl. It couldn’t be. There was too much. I had to scrap the concept entirely and let my brain canon fire ideas out unrestrained by my initial concept and soon it grew into what it is now. It became the first novel in a series. It became filled with moral dilemmas, heartache, laughter and drama. It became something I’m incredibly proud of.
From the early days of my original idea, Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit was written and rewritten several times until it finally flowered as the book it is now.
So now what?
I’ve done it. I’ve released a book that is being bought and read and is residing on bookcases alongside the writers I’ve grown up admiring.
So now? More.
I want to work harder, write more. This is just the beginning. My ambitions are not limited to the one book and I am determined to do more. I have so many stories in me I want to tell. I want to work hard. I want to inspire my daughters and show them that hard work is recognised, and that they can achieve their dreams if they put in the time and effort. I want to show them that their mother is more than what people thought I’d be. When I was a single, unemployed mother, living alone with no career and no relationship, people thought I was a waste and a disappointment. That is not who I am. I want my daughters to be proud of me. I want my family to be proud of me.
I want to write. I want to write and write and write. I want my heroines to have so many more adventures of the sort you could only dream of, and I want to guide them as they go. I want to have my books made into films or TV shows and reach a whole new audience. I want teenage girls to see Lilly Prospero and her friends having dangerous adventures that don’t depend on boys protecting them or focus on their relationships or appearances. I want to inspire the next generation of writers.
I want to write.
You can check out all my contact info an links on www.jjbarnes.co.uk, I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so you can get in touch on there, as well as find links to all my work. There’s also www.sirenstories.co.uk which has all the work by both myself and Jonathan McKinney and loads of extra content such as background stories for different characters. If you want to subscribe on Patreon, its just $1 a month to help support our work and it also grants you access to our extra podcast a week, you can go to www.patreon.com/sirenstories.
Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!