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Village girl Jessica finds writing books horrifically exciting

By Staf Newsletter  |  Posted: January 24, 2013

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WHEN it comes to sending shivers down your spine Jessica Coleman has got it.

For the young Little Haywood author has penned three frightening paranormal novels, which are fast gaining popularity online.

And with more to follow in her Little Forest Novel series horror fans are surely in for a terrifying treat.

So it might come as something of a shock to realise her inspiration was a TV series  - starring John Nettles.

"I just love Midsomer Murders," laughs Jessica as we chat at her peaceful home in the picturesque little village.

"The first book, The Former World, was meant to be a traditional murder mystery because I love those very English murder mystery-type programmes.

"They say you should write about what you know and I had grown up in a little village where everyone knew each other so that seemed the perfect place to start.

"But the more I began writing the more my ideas changed. I started getting ideas for including the paranormal and ghosts. Both are subjects I'm interested in because none of us know what happens when we die. I'm open-minded about ghosts but I'm sceptical at the same time.

"As my ideas changed I found I was all over the place and it took me two years to actually finish it. But I was determined that I would because so many people start writing and don't finish."

Indeed the book is loosely based on Jessica's experiences of living in Little Haywood, which is a  village that she has now come to love as an adult, following stints abroad in America and travelling around Asia and Australia.

A number of the locations are also inspired by those in the village and further afield, such as Shugborough and Stafford Castle.

"When you are growing up you're not bothered about the countryside you just want to live where things are happening. Now I'm older I really appreciate it," she explains.

"I do see the books as a way to promote this area. When people find out I'm based in Staffordshire they want to know more about the locations in the books."

Little Haywood, she says, was and is the kind of place where you can't go without bumping into someone you know.

Jessica has lived in the village most of her life. She grew up in a little cul-de-sac and went to Colwich Primary School, followed by Walton High.

She recalls her Dad's love of reading Stephen King novels, which inspired in her a love of books and films.

After school she went to Stafford College, studying art and psychology at the Chetwynd Centre.

When she went to university in Brighton she chose to study Film Studies and American Studies with the hope of becoming a film maker. However, she found much of the work was theoretical rather than practical.

She did, however, get to spend a year in the USA as part of her degree. She lived in Boulder, Colorado, and loved every minute of it.

"We were in the Rocky mountains about an hour's drive from Denver and it was exactly how I imagined it would be," she recalls.

"I had an absolutely amazing time and before I came home I also went to New York and Canada."

Jessica returned home to Little Haywood in 2009 and began doing admin jobs.

In the meantime she had set up Rock Pulse, an online UK music magazine, reviewing and interviewing bands. It was her own project that she began as a teenager and is still involved in today.

The writing experience, however, proved to be invaluable but it was the creative writing course run online by Oxford University that really inspired her.

It got her thinking seriously about what she wanted to write about and gave her some vital tips to writing a novel.

After travelling for four months with a friend she began feverishly writing whenever she had a spare moment. Her family, aware she was busy with something, were keen to read the finished work, not least because she had been secretive about what it was about. Like many writers she kept her ideas to herself.

Having done her research Jessica decided against sending her work to a publisher. It is notoriously difficult to get them interested and reluctant to receive a stack of rejection letters Jessica decided to self-publish her book.

A friend, working as an editor, read it and edited it for her and another artist pal designed the cover.

She published it as an e-book on Amazon in September and it gained a lot of interest so Jessica decided to bring out a paperback version.

The book tells the story of Beth Powers, who lives in a small village and wants to move to London. But as soon as she decides to leave a dead body turns up and she and a friend begin looking into it. She then realises she has some powers and some spooky goings-on begin happening.

"The feedback has been brilliant," she smiles. "It had five stars on Amazon and lots of hits. People have said it's really good and a real page-turner, which is a huge compliment."

Since then she has written two further books in the A Little Forest Novel series, called Memento Mori and The Exalted, but they took her only a few months to complete. She is currently writing a fourth and is planning a total of eight in the series.

"I was much more organised when it came to writing the next two books," she says.

"I did a 20,000 word plan first so I knew exactly what was going to happen and what would happen in each chapter. I'm planning eight books and I know what happens right at the end of the last one.

"The beauty about self publishing, which is becoming much more popular now, is that you have total control. There's no way I would have been able to publish three books in a short space of time. It would have taken years.

"You also have more control over your work, the design of it all and everything. If a publisher was handling the books the titles would probably be different, a lot of changes would no doubt have been made. Putting something on Amazon is instant."

Jessica plans to write some short stories next. She runs monthly writing competitions on her website Darker Times FIction, which focuses on finding new horror writers. An anthology of short stories created by the competition winners and runners up, has been published, which is also available as an ebook and paperback.

For now Jessica is looking for a day job and will continue her writing in her spare time. She hopes her work will continue to get noticed so she can make a career from writing.

She adds sheepishly: "The best thing would be if someone could make a film out of one of my books. I would love that."

Age: 26

Home: Little Haywood

Occupation: Writer

Car: Chevrolet

Music: Less Than Jake

Hobbies: Music and films

Paper: The Onion

Holiday Destination: Vietnam

Food & Drink: Pizza or anything vegetarian & Tea or cider

Book: The Solitaire Mystery by Jostein Gaarder

Pin-up: Johnny Depp

Love/Hate: Old black and white comedies (especially Buster Keaton films), travelling in sunny countries, random sitcoms like Father Ted, Black Books, the IT Crowd, Green Wing/ Miserable weather, really early mornings and animal cruelty.

You can read a review of The Former World here.

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