Carolyn Jess-Cooke was born in 1978 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. She started writing as a child, producing first a book of illustrated short stories at the age of seven, then a series of novels and poetry collections. After years of pestering publishers she finally saw her work in print at the age of seventeen; since then her work has appeared in such prestigious publications as Poetry London, Ambit, Magma, Poetry Wales, The SHOp, Poetry Ireland, and The Wolf, and on a variety of non-print media, including a poem that has been set into a 700m ribbon of steel at the Roseberry Park Medical Facility in Middlesbrough – currently the largest piece of public textual art in the UK. Carolyn has performed her work at the Sydney Writer’s Festival, the Ledbury Poetry Festival and at the Irish Writer’s Centre, and has received numerous awards, including an Eric Gregory Award from the Society of Authors, the Tyrone Guthrie Prize for Poetry, and a Northern Promise Award.
Following a first class honours degree in English literature and classical studies at the Queen’s University of Belfast, Carolyn received a scholarship to study for a masters degree in creative writing, during which she developed the first drafts of what would later become her debut poetry collection, Inroads. Working as a piano tutor, pianist, photographer, and the occasional acting stint, Carolyn travelled the world during this time and lived for several years in Sydney, Australia. Later completing a PhD in Shakespeare on film, Carolyn took up an academic post in film studies at the University of Sunderland in 2005 followed by a senior post in creative writing at the University of Northumbria in 2009. She gave up tenure in 2011 to write full time.
Carolyn has published four non-fiction books in the areas of Shakespeare, film, and sequels, a poetry collection (Inroads [Seren, 2010]), and her debut novel, The Guardian Angel’s Journal, about a woman who dies and goes back in time as her own guardian angel, was published in the UK & Commonweath by Piatkus/Little, Brown as their 2011 superlead title and immediately hit the Bookseller’s Heatseeker’s chart. The Guardian Angel’s Journal is published in over 20 languages. Carolyn’s second novel, The Boy Who Could See Demons, was published in the UK, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands in 2012; Random House are publishing the US version in 2013. A second poetry collection, Boom!, is being published by Seren in 2014.
At the Northern Writers’ Awards 2013, Carolyn was awarded £500 towards a writing retreat to complete her second collection of poetry, Boom! As an academic, she is currently working on a research project which explores creative writing interventions for mental illness. Carolyn lives in Whitley Bay with her husband and four children.