Jessica Wilberforce is a qualified solicitor who has been working as a teaching assistant and copy writer so she has the flexibility to take her son to and from school and be with him as much as possible.
I love being a mum more than anything else in the world and my son and I have a terrific bond.
She creates original content for various companies for their websites and blogs and has written about everything from ice hotels to dental implants and laying block paving.
I once wrote an instruction manual on how to install an orangery roof (having first had to Google, ‘What is an orangery?’); a year or so later, a different company contacted me (not realising that I had written that piece) and asked me to write another one and sent me a link to my own article, saying, ‘This is a good example of what we want.’
Enduring Fear is her first novel.
Before we talk about your book, I think it would be interesting for people to know how your late autism diagnosis came about.
My son was diagnosed with autism a couple of years ago, though we’ve known since he was very young; he’s also dyspraxic. It only dawned on me that I’m autistic a couple of years ago, after I did some research into autism in girls and women to see if there was something I could do to help a little girl in my class, whom I knew to be autistic. I read the information about how it often presents in girls and I felt as though I understood myself for the first time. Everything slotted into place; I looked at my entire life in a different (and more positive) light. I cried! I’ve been masking for my entire life – I have very clear memories of studying the other girls, copying their faces, hand gestures, laughs, topics of conversations, and practising it all in a mirror at home. Of course, I never got it quite right…
This, though, I thought was normal in a weird way. I thought everyone did it. I also thought that everyone remembers everything they see, like a video that you can play back, rewind and view from different angles. I thought that there was something wrong with me when I had total meltdowns at the prospect of getting lost or being late. I thought there was something wrong with me because I never had friends for very long, or because I never seem to ‘feel’ things the way other people do: I’ve never felt grief, or love, or excitement … those emotions are very cerebral for me, but I think other people feel them in a different way to me, given that they express them and react to them so profoundly.
Anyway, the funny thing is that although my revelation was news to me, apparently almost everyone who knows me had assumed that I already knew I was autistic. When I told everyone my ‘revelation’ they looked at me a bit blankly and said things like, “Well, duh…” and “You didn’t know??”
Give us an overview of your novel, Enduring Fear.
Quirky 24-year-old Sephy has moved to Yorkshire to escape her troubled past. Now she has a good job, a home and a devoted best friend – all the ingredients she needs to live the drama-free, normal life she craves.
Being normal isn’t easy for someone who can perceive other people’s auras, though. Sephy can tell at a glance whether someone is essentially good or bad and what mood they’re in, but keeping this a secret leaves her feeling isolated and alone.
When an old adversary threatens her, Sephy is forced to face her demons. In doing so, she uncovers her own true nature and she is not weak and defenceless…She has power and now she has to decide how to use it.
What inspired you to write it?
I’ve always loved reading and writing. My favourite book series have been Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Paranormalcy, Skulduggery Pleasant. After writing non-fiction for so long as part of my job as a copywriter, I felt that I wanted to try to write fiction of my own. It began as storytelling, a way of relaxing and escaping everyday stresses – disappearing into my own little fantasy world was incredibly liberating, and finding just the right words for what I wanted to express was greatly satisfying. I had little pieces of the story that I began writing down and gradually they formed a coherent plot and Enduring Fear was born.
How does being autistic influence your writing?
I’ve been writing this for about 4 years – so I had the basic plot in my head long before I thought about being autistic. Initially, it was a hobby – a bit of escapism. When I write, I relax and I can feel a different part of my brain working; it’s a literal and figurative ‘buzz’ that gives me utter peace. I have an amazingly strong long-term memory, so holding storylines in my head and finding parts within the book that I wanted to add to or amend was easy.
The book is about a young woman, Sephy, who has always felt different and has had to pretend to be normal all her life, and ultimately she finds out why this is – she’s told that she was born this way, and that far from being a bad thing, her difference is actually a source of considerable power. The story is an urban fantasy/paranormal romance, and the reasons for her difference are far removed from my own, but with the benefit of hindsight I can see that my subconscious was heavily involved in directing the plot! Sephy is described as ‘quirky’ and ‘socially awkward’ and there are enough neurodiverse (ND) traits in there that I think fellow NDs will recognise her for what she is, but I don’t expressly state that she’s ND or autistic, because she doesn’t know it herself. When I realised that she (like me) is autistic, I didn’t want to overdo that element of her character – it’s one of her ‘ingredients’ but I didn’t want to stray into the realms of stereotyping or make it all about that one part of her.
In Book 2 I will be raising it more expressly as Sephy gets to know herself better, but it will still be within the context of her character as a whole.
Who is the ideal reader and how do you see the book being used?
Enduring Fear is an urban fantasy – it’s set in Yorkshire in current times, but there are fantastical and supernatural elements. It’s a New Adult book – for people who like Young Adult themes but want to read about characters who (although they still have quite emotional and dramatic lives) are a bit more grown up than the teenagers who feature predominantly in YA books.
Anyone who is a fan of:
- the Paranormalcy books by Kiersten White,
- Hush Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick,
- Fallen by Lauren Kate,
- Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
- the Twilight saga by Stephanie Meyer
will, I hope, like the style and themes of my book.
What’s the message you want your readers to take away after reading Enduring Fear?
I want them to fall in love with the characters, and care about what happens to them next. I’d love Sephy to become known as a positive ND character with identifiable strengths and relatable challenges.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about the book?
I had a great copy editor, Lynn Curtis and she helped me to sculpt the book into a highly readable narrative. Showing it to her was a huge leap of faith that ultimately gave me the confidence to take it to the next step and publish. Traditional publishing wasn’t going to work for me – it’s a niche genre and I’m a first-time novelist without a major social media presence, so agents and publishers are unlikely to take a punt on this first novel. Nevertheless, Lynn was very enthusiastic about the story and my writing and encouraged me to get it out there in full confidence that I would receive lot of lovely feedback and reviews from those who read it. If anyone does decide to read my book, I’d ask them to please, please leave me a positive review so that others will be encouraged to take a look at it for themselves.
If our readers leave with only one message after reading this interview, what would you like it to be?
There aren’t enough positive neurodiverse characters out there, and there aren’t enough autistic writers either. I hope that there are some autistic people out there who will identify with Sephy and, through her, appreciate that autism can be a strength, not an abnormality.
What words of encouragement can you offer to other autistic creatives?
Our brains are amazing. We can do extraordinary things. If you get joy out of your hobby or interest, embrace it and let it grow. Great efforts are being made across our community to persuade wider society to understand, accept and embrace us. As creatives, we can do our part in this to make autism more mainstream and commonplace.
- Buy Enduring Fear on Amazon US* or Amazon UK
- Enduring Fear Book Cover designed by Peter O’Connor of Bespoke Book Covers
If you liked this interview, you may also like:
- Asperger Author Who Knows She’s on the Right Path
- Bringing the Worlds in Her Head to the Real World
- More books by autistic authors
- More curious interviews with interesting authors and entrepreneurs
- Shop in our Amazon Influencer Autism Book Shop
*The links to buy the books are our affiliate links. By purchasing using these links, you will not only support the author, you’ll be raising funds to support our autistic team of contributors for their work too.