Interview With Author Jessica Taylor-Bearman

# Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!

My name is Jessica Taylor-Bearman and I am an award winning author of the bestselling book A Girl Behind Dark Glasses. The sequel called A Girl in One Room was published in March of this year.

# What is/are the real-life story(ies) behind your book(s)?

Both my books are memoirs that follow my journey from being a normal teenager to suddenly becoming incredibly unwell with a neuro immune disease called M.E., which I call the M.E. Monster.

A Girl Behind Dark Glasses follows the start of my illness when I was in hospital, trapped in my body and lost my ability to speak, move and eat. It explores my loss of identity and what it is like to suffer without a voice. It shows the severest form of the M.E. Monster and the misunderstanding from others which comes with the condition.

A Girl in One Room follows on from Dark Glasses but is about me finally returning home from hospital despite still being seriously unwell to find that the rest of the world has moved on… my friends have gone to university, my baby sister is now setting her exams and I have not moved on. It follows my desperate attempts to live within the boundaries of the one Room that I live with and the impact I manage to make from there.

# What inspires/inspired your creativity?

When I was in hospital, thirteen years ago, my Gran suddenly died at a young age. She was my biggest cheerleader and she used to always tell me that we were going to write a book together…so when she passed, I knew I’d have to do it in her name. She has always been at the forefront of my mind because I never got to say goodbye to her.

My 22 month old daughter inspires me creatively too. I watch her explore and learn new things everyday, and she has inspired me with a couple of ideas for a picture book!

# How do you deal with creative block?

I take some time out and try not to panic. If I am finding writing a struggle, I tend to start to feel a bit stressed which makes me feel a lot more physically unwell. So if I am stuck when I am writing my book, I change and do something different like write a poem or do some painting. I am always being creative just in different aspects.

# What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?

I honestly think the biggest mistake is not being authentic. Every author has a unique take on the world, a different style of writing but I don’t think it works if you try to be J K Rowling…yes take inspiration, but you need to be you.

# Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?

I always feel that titles need to stand out. They need to entice a reader to pick up your book. Long before I became a published author, I was an advocate for my condition. I came up with videos that had hard hitting titles ‘The World of One Room’ and ‘Seven Years in the Making’…A Girl Behind Dark Glasses was in my mind as soon as I decided I was going to write my story. I think a good front cover is essential because again it needs to be interesting, it needs to look aesthetically pleasing…but maybe that is just because one of my only qualifications from school is in design!

# How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?

It can be hard because writing is so personal. But being an author and writing a book is an art form and everyone has different tastes. It can be hard when people react really strongly, but I know in my heart of hearts that the books I have written are to the best of my ability…and that is all I can do.

# How has your creation process improved over time?

When I was writing my first book, I didn’t really storyboard. I was too ill and I had barely any cognitive energy to concentrate. So I didn’t write the book in order, it was literally typed onto my smartphone and then woven together at the end. In A Girl in One Room it was much more planned with a storyboard and I feel it is better for it. In my third book which I am writing now, I have broken it down much more in planning and that is helping to make the writing process much easier.

# What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book(s)?

I think as my books are both memoirs, I had a lot of flashbacks that came to me when I was editing them. I had to really delve into very difficult parts of my stories that I hadn’t thought about or mentally processed and it was hard. I had memories of nearly dying, being abused, being shouted at, and being terribly unwell that I had never dealt with.

The best part was holding a physical copy of my books in my hands. It is a completely surreal moment, but the smell of the books, the feel as I turned the pages brought me right back to being a teenager reading books all the time and really dreaming that one day I would hold my own.

# Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?

My first book was actually telling a story that nobody knew about. By the time the book had come out, people knew me as a bedridden activist who had been in an American documentary called Unrest. Some had seen a few of my blogs and awareness videos which I had made on YouTube, but nobody knew about the time before that. The years of torturous suffering. I had faced.

It was really successful and I did feel a pressure to deliver with the second because it was a story that some people knew – or thought they knew – a lot about…but I had to remain true to myself and my style. So it was a balancing act!

# What role do emotions play in creativity?

They play a huge part in my creativity. I have very limited energy due to my condition so I like to make sure I am completely emotionally in the zone to write. Sometimes I play a track of music on repeat that fits the moods I am trying to get to, other times I maybe feeling passionate about something that is not something I am writing about…so I write spoken word poems, write blogs, write articles and I even paint too.

# Do you have any creativity tricks?

Always do something creative that you are passionate about. Even if I am feeling really unwell, I will always write a sentence about my day…and even though it feels insignificant, it always becomes something…an idea for a short story, an idea for a poem, a chapter in my book or even something to write in social media.

It keeps my ideas fresh and my imagination full.

# What are your plans for future books?

I have so many plans and I don’t think I will be staying to the one genre! So I am currently writing the third instalment and last follow up to my other two books, which is going well. I have ideas for a novel and I also have ideas for a picture book series too!

But I am still battling with my health, so anything I do might take longer than it would for a non-disabled author!

# Tell us some quirky facts about yourself

I have actually got a piece of art which lives in Ethiopia with the King of Laughter! I created a type of painting which I called a Laugh – O – Gram…it was created at a time where I couldn’t move and I realised that laughter was physical…if someone made me laugh my body would shake and jerk, so I got my carer to put a paintbrush in my hand and got people to make me laugh, which the movement created my paintings!