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Gracemarch From Idea To Publication

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On the JJ Barnes Blog, I share the experiences with my new book Gracemarch from idea to publication and my first time on a film set ahead of the release this week!

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Writing Books

Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit Book Release Party
Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit Book Release Party

Stories have always been part of my identity. When I was little I drew comic book pictures to tell stories, then once I had progressed to being able to use words, I spent hours and hours of time writing them. I had a white leather binder with a thick gold clasp, either a gift or stolen from my mother, and I filled it with short stories that I then demanded my parents read. Time and time again I attempted to write a novel, but inevitable wandered off the story path within a few chapters before giving up, but time and time again I tried.

When I was about 20, I found what would ultimately become my First Story. The character of Lilly Prospero came to me, a girl with a magical ability to bring her drawings to life. At first, this story was a simple children’s story I intended to illustrate and target at ten year olds. But as I wrote, the concept of what life actually meant started to come through. These drawings that were coming to life were no longer just pictures, they were living, breathing creatures with their own personalities and right to life. From that notion, the story changed into a YA story that explored concepts of life and death, and the corrupting influence of power when control over life and death is given to a human being.

It wasn’t until I was 30 and had spent hours talking about how to construct a story with my partner Jonathan McKinney that Lilly Prospero And The Magic Rabbit was actually a complete story, and was published just before my second daughter was born. This launched a career as an author that, while small and not impressive compared to the Greats of our industry, I am incredibly proud of. Now, with five published novels behind me, I am readying myself for the release of my new book, Gracemarch.

Gracemarch From Idea

In 2017, a good friend of mine, Cliff Thomas of Artisan Films, asked me if I had ever written a script. As a TV and film obsessive, I had many times attempted to write scripts, but never to completion and never with any genuine belief that it would come of anything. TV and film production was for those with industry connections in big cities, not the likes of me in my small town. Cliff disagreed, and it was in that disagreement of my self imposed limitations that he gave me a gift I can never repay. He gave me the belief that I could do it.

Having worked in film production for many years, Cliff was ready to start producing his own original content, and was looking for a short film script to launch that new path with. He asked me to write a fifteen minute horror, and send it over to see if it was something he could work with. I wrote a story about two sisters, Jane and Cassie, returning to their childhood home and hearing scary noises while uncovering family secrets. This script was well received, and I was asked if I could make it longer, perhaps for thirty minutes of screen time.

That thirty minute script was read by Cliff and others, and one day he contacted me to say an actor from Game Of Thrones, Ross O’Hennessy, had seen it and asked if there could be a part for a man… and if the script could be longer. Perhaps enough for either a TV series or a feature film.

I’m not an idiot, I obviously agreed. Bringing Jonathan McKinney on board, we brain stormed. Worked out how to take this small idea of two sisters discovering a family secret, and develop it into a complete and fleshed out story.

Soon, other actors were signing on. We were sent self tapes of actors auditioned, watched really incredible and talented performers reading the lines we had written from the characters I had created, and were tasked with selecting our favourites. This was a huge challenge, as everybody was amazing, and rejecting talented people is an awful feeling, but we did it, and soon our cast was complete.

Gracemarch went into production in 2018. We drove around Britain to a variety of locations, met incredible actors and a crew of absolutely amazing artists who brought our story to life. It was a life changing experience, and solidified my passion for working on film sets that I wanted to recreate time and time again, and actually got to in 2020 when we filmed Hollowhood.

However, things went awry. We had to pause production, and when in 2020 the pandemic caused lockdown we couldn’t restart. Our story, so beautifully filmed and produced was set adrift.

Gracemarch To Publication

While we wait to restart production, seeking funding and working out how to adapt to the amount of time that has passed, I took the script and began adapting it into a novel.

First, I transcribed each scene, turning stage directions into prose, and writing out the dialogue directly. Then I fleshed out those scenes, adding Jane’s interiority, developing the settings, and creating images for the reader that would have been presented through direction, scenery, and performance choices. I then filled in additional scenes, explored aspects of the story and the characters that there wouldn’t have been time for in a two hour film, but which developed the story and created a richer experience.

Soon, this script was a complete novel. Not a novel of just my ideas, the script was co-written with Jonathan McKinney and is filled with ideas and concepts created from brainstorming ideas with Cliff, but a novel I am proud to have written from a story created as a team.

Today is Monday the 16th, and I am just five days away from a story first conjured in 2017 finally being allowed out into the world. Gracemarch will be published on Friday the 20th and I am so excited, but also incredibly nervous. This story was created in an unusual way with a unique history behind it, and we have waited so many years for it to finally see the light. Will it be loved? Will it be hated? Will it… even worse… just be forgotten? Gracemarch is a story so precious to me because of all the experiences I have been through on its journey from idea to publication, and because of how important my co-creators are in my life. And I so hope it is enjoyed.

Gracemarch JJ Barnes, Jonathan McKinney, Cliff Thomas

Gracemarch The Novel

Jane Waters lives a mundane life, working as a waitress, and with a boyfriend who doesn’t seem to care. Her sister, Cassie Waters, is a glamorous horror writer, traveling the world, and far too busy to listen to Cassie’s woes. The two sisters live very different lives, disconnected from one another, and unaware of a family secret that’s about to come to light.

When their mother dies unexpectedly, Jane and Cassie are pushed back together. Their lives become intertwined as they explore the mysteries their childhood home holds, and remember their sister Susie who died tragically in childhood.

As Susie’s memory starts to dominate their lives, they don’t realise that a mysterious organisation is monitoring their every move, and powerful people are closing in on them.

What secrets did their mother have? How are their lives about to change? And what really happened to Susie?

Gracemarch will be released in ebook, paperback and hardcover on October 20th, and is available to pre-order on Kindle now.

Gracemarch The Future

I’d be absolutely thrilled if the interest in this book is such that production on our film can be restarted. The experience on that set had a profound effect on my life. I would never have had the incredible experience of writing, filming, editing and releasing Hollowhood without it. I would never have believed I was capable of living a dream that childhood me had long since rejected as too big and too grand without it. And I would never have met some of the most impressive people who have gone on to become some of my most genuine and precious friends without it.

Gracemarch the film may one day come into fruition, and if (when?) it does, I am going to scream it from the rooftops and share every step of the way with such pride and excitement.

Until that day, I hope you will find the excitement and joy from reading this novel that I found in writing it. I hope you laugh, cry, and shudder your way through. And I hope when you finally reach the end, you can close the cover with a satisfied smile that you had an experience crafted by somebody who loves stories so very truly, and is thrilled every time she gets to share one.

Find more from Gracemarch:

Website: https://www.gracemarch.co.uk/

Pre-order: https://amzn.to/3rXARwQ

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gracemarchseries/

IMDB: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8766992/?ref_=nv_sr_srsg_0_tt_1_nm_7_q_gracemarch

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