Written by JJ Barnes
I love to write books, and it’s an art form that matters a lot to me.
As a child, I would fall asleep in a pile of books, even before I was old enough to read them. I grew into the woman who made holiday plans around where I’d be reading that day.
Now, I love to read, and I’m in the privileged position that my job is to write. I love everything about it. My career started with blogs and articles. Then, finally, the book I’d been working on for a decade was released. Now I’m making a movie.
I’ve been asked if, now making more films is a potential for my future, would I still want to write books?
Why I Love To Write Books
When I was a child, I always dreamed I’d grow up to be a writer. I used to write little picture books and comic strips when I was too small to write properly. As soon as I was old enough to write sentences, I was writing stories.
I have fond memories of very specific pens I used to write with; a red and white fountain pen with a round ball nib that made a lucious thick and smooth line of ink.
When I was a teenager, my mother gave me a white fake leather bound notebook, with a little attached sleeve for my pen, and gold shiny bindings. I used to carry it with me everywhere. I’d crack it out at a moments notice to scribble short stories, or start books I’d never finish
Love Of Film
It didn’t take long for my love of stories to stretch to cinema. I spent a lot of my life working my way through my parents VHS collection, old films, new films, black and white films. Dramas, comedies, romantic stories. It didn’t matter.
When I was a little older, I’d make my way to our local village shop to rent yet more films. I’d buy a can of Diet Coke and a bar of Dairy Milk, rent a film that was too old for me (but they let me get away with because I’d already rented everything on the lower shelves), then I’d spend my evening glued to my TV.
My shelves were lined with book after book about films and TV shows. Details about how they were made, interviews with the cast and crew, behind the scenes details. I bought film soundtracks faster than any other kind of album.
I Haven’t Had A Chance To Write Books In A While
One of the reasons I get asked if I’m leaving books behind me and moving permanently into film is because I’ve not written a book in a while. It’s true. I’ve been promising a third installment to The Lilly Prospero Series since the second came out in 2016. Four years later, it’s still a Work In Progress.
My last book, Emerald Wren And The Coven Of Seven, came out in 2018 right before we went into production on Gracemarch. I wrote a short children’s book, Nature-Girl Vs Worst Nightmare, with my daughter in 2019. And since then…
It’s true, my work has been very focussed on scripts. I worked on scripts for Gracemarch, then further pilots and film scripts for development. Then I moved onto Hollowhood, which filmed at the beginning of 2020.
Now, other than blogging and YouTubing, my work is the post-production of Hollowhood.
Works In Progress
The reason I know I’m not leaving books behind is because I have a constantly unsettled feeling in my guts. And I know it’s because I’m not writing.
The truth is, whilst the public face of my work has been very screen focused recently, I also write books in my free time. I say free time, but the fact they’ve never emerged into daylight probably tells you how little free time I’ve actually had.
My head is absolutely swarming with ideas all the time, and ideas I’m desperate to get down. I currently have four books in progress, which is madness but that’s because I have so many ideas in my head that writing just one feels impossible right now.
I’m working on Lilly Prospero 3, a Christmas themed book with characters from Emerald Wren, a chick-lit about a woman named Ivy starting her life over after divorce, and Zebra-Boy: a bombastic children’s book about a seven year old super hero.
Why Books Matter
The thing is, in terms of career prospects, I know I am more likely to gain financial security if my films are successful. I am a very small time author, and convincing people to read books isn’t easy unless you’ve got a massive advertising budget behind you. Watching a film is an easier sell, even a quirky little indie movie like ours.
I genuinely believe there’s a magic in books. Film is an art and I am passionate about it. I know I’ll want to work on film sets regularly because of the energy and creativity alive on them. But books…
When you write books you’re putting pictures in somebody else’s head in a unique and beautiful way. The book one person reads is never the same as the book somebody else reads, even though every word is identical. What you see in your head, the voices you give the characters, the feelings you get at different moments, they’re unique to you. They’re just yours.
In books you see faces you know, and faces you create, you see rooms you’ve been to and buildings you know. When I wrote Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit, I pictured my high school for Lilly’s high school. I pictured the factory I used to work in when I pictured Adamantine Power. But I’m the only person in the world who sees those things. When everybody else reads it, they’ll imagine something else. Maybe somewhere they know, maybe somewhere they don’t, but it won’t be what I saw when I wrote it. It won’t be what the person next to them sees when they read it.
Films Vs Books
On a film set, there are dozens of creatives. The actors will say lines differently to the writer imagined them said when they wrote them. Settings will look different based on how the set dressers decorate them. How the camera moves affects the scene, how the director controls the action impacts the mood. It’s alive and wonderful. It’s the ideas and passions of many, all merging together to construct something that everybody on that set is living for. Everybody on that set invests their hopes and dreams in.
With my books, it’s just me. My editors and proof readers will have input, and lines will change based on their job. But, ultimately, it’s just me and just my ideas and just my creativity. It’s my passion, it’s my blood. It’s just me.
I’ll never think either is a superior form of entertainment, because the craft that goes into both, the passion and commitment, the art, it’s all real and it’s all beautiful and powerful. And I don’t want to give up my life with either. But neither being superior also means neither is inferior, and my commitment to both is real.
I’ll Always Write Books
At different times in my life I’ll be working on different things. Right now it’s Hollowhood. Once the Final Cut is complete, and I send it to Jonathan McKinney to score, my job is done. Then I can write again.
That said, I’ve had a request for a couple more scripts that we’ve got to finish. I’ve still got to work on building up my blog and my YouTube, because an unfinished film and four unfinished books pays nothing and I have kids to feed…
But I will keep writing. I will work on my books. I have to. I love them too much. Books are real magic in a world where we desperately need magic to be real.
More From JJ Barnes:
I am an author, filmmaker, artist and youtuber, and I am the creator and editor of The Table Read.
You can find links to all my work and social media on my website: www.jjbarnes.co.uk
Buy my books: www.sirenstories.co.uk/books
Follow me on Twitter: @JudieannRose