Soon after Jessica was old enough to walk and talk, her parents realised two things.
The first was that she had an incredibly vivid imagination. Unlike many small children, she was content to spend hours at a time amusing herself, inventing ever more dramatic games of kidnap, runaway orphans and wicked stepmothers. When she wasn’t playing, she could often be found listening to an audio book, Roald Dahl, perhaps, or her favourite Enid Blyton, becoming lost in the tales woven by others. Even as a child, Jessica cherished a dream that one day she would be a writer herself. Always a shy person, she revelled in the ability to escape into another world, something that remains true to this day.
The second thing which gradually became apparent to her parents was that there seemed to be something wrong with her sight. She was forever tripping over toys left lying around on the floor, or being chided for sitting too close to the television (“You’ll get square eyes if you don’t watch out.”) It took several years of appointments with specialists, of brain scans and visual tests, but when Jessica was five years old, experts diagnosed her as having Retinitus Pigmentosa, a degenerative disease affecting the retina.
At school, Jessica’s teachers did everything in their power to make life as easy for her as possible, including providing her with a CC TV and computer. However, as she approached her ninth birthday, her sight had deteriorated so severely that the teaching staff no longer felt equipped to meet her needs. It was decided that she should transfer to Dorton House, a weekly boarding school for the visually impaired. For Jessica, this was a dream come true. Having devoured all the boarding school stories she could lay her hands on, from Billy Bunter to Mallory Towers, she couldn’t wait for her own adventure to begin.
Of course, her time at Dorton House wasn’t quite the round of classroom pranks and midnight feasts she had anticipated. Nevertheless, her nine years there were extremely happy. In addition to the standard subjects, she learned to read Braille and to use a computer with speech output, was introduced to talking kitchen scales and white canes, and mastered countless every day skills to help her adapt to life as a visually impaired person. Outside of lessons she tried her hand at horse riding and archery, fell in love, and had her first painful dose of heartbreak. When she left at eighteen, she did so not only with top grades in her exams, but most importantly with the encouragement of her English teacher, which gave her the confidence to pursue a career as a writer.
Perhaps as a result of going away to school, spending more time in the company of her peers than her own family, Jessica developed an intense interest in people. Everything about them fascinates her. She loves to observe the ways in which they interact, their steadfast loyalty and tendency to hurt those closest to them, their capacity for both cruelty and kindness. It’s this understanding that makes her such a skilled writer. In the words of multi-published author Molly Ringle, “Jessica has an amazing talent for creating true-to-life characters, throwing them together in a gorgeous setting and letting the sparks fly.”
This insight into the best and worst aspects of human nature comes to bear particularly strongly in her novel “Dark is the Sky”, soon to be published by All Things That Matter Press. An emotional read fraught with tension and unexpected twists, the novel follows a family’s struggle to come to terms with the past. Twelve years after tragedy tore them apart, the Camerons reunite for the first time since that terrible summer’s day. Far from being allowed to lay their ghosts to rest, however, a shocking revelation almost destroys them for a second time.
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