What do Beatrix Potter, EL James and Fostering Solutions carer Jackie Horner have in common?
They all self-published their first novels.
Author Jackie, who fosters two unrelated teenage boys, joined Fostering Solutions with husband Jonny in 2011, while still working as a Year 6 teacher and assistant head.
“We couldn’t have a family of our own and thought we would take this and turn it into something positive, worthwhile and rewarding, as well as helping others,” she said.
“Through teaching I’d worked with a lot of children in the care system and it felt like the right thing for us, and it was. The most rewarding thing is watching a young person flourish in your care. Knowing that you have made a difference in someone else’s life is an amazing feeling: setting them on a different, more positive path than they may otherwise have taken and showing them what normal family life is like, even for a short time,” she said.
Last year she left teaching to focus on fulltime fostering, but felt that she was missing an outlet for her creative side.
“I just got up one day and told Jonny I was going to write a book! We went out that day and bought a laptop. I had never written for pleasure before, but when I began writing, I was hooked. I wrote every spare second I had – squeezing it in wherever possible. It wasn’t a chore; it was a joy!”
The result is Jailbird, a novel Jackie describes as ‘an unconventional romance’ between a Glasgow prison officer and a lawyer that mixes thriller elements and laughs.
She and Johnny joined Fostering Solutions because she had heard the agency was ‘the best’: “We found out about them through word of mouth and we’ve never looked back. The staff are amazing and we have always felt supported, even during the toughest of times. Someone is always at the end of the phone plus there are a whole host of support services available – not just for the young person, but for their carers too. Fostering Solutions have always promoted my professional development through training and regularly show their appreciation, celebrating the amazing work of their carers in a variety of ways. It’s a privilege to be part of the family!”
Fulltime foster carers have busy lives, and Jackie’s is no exception. As well as dropping the boys to school and college and the usual family activities such as days out and cinema or bowling trips she has to meet regularly with her supervising social worker, take her foster children for time with their birth families, attend regular training and write daily reports.
One of the boys is a Muslim unaccompanied asylum-seeking child so she is helping him maintain his religious identity, supporting him in his application to remain in the UK and helping him to learn English.
Jackie is also a Fostering Solutions buddy, helping new foster carers settle in to their role, and a member of the agency’s Helping Hands team, a group of experienced foster carers who support fellow carers going through difficult times.
On top of this she has just started a blog documenting her life as a foster carer, author, passionate cook and DIY fan.
As a result she doesn’t keep to a writing schedule but squeezes it in where she can. “I can get up at 5 and write before the boys get up for school. Where possible, I like to write in the morning as my brain is fresh. But sometimes I stay up when everyone else is in bed because I get peace then!” she said.
Inspiration can come from anywhere. “Stories just seem to form in my head,” she said. “It could be when I’m driving or listening to a song. Sometimes, it can come from something prevalent in the media. There had been a lot of media coverage of the use of the drug spice in prisons and I researched by watching documentaries and reading up on articles relating to spice in prison.”
Despite the tough setting for the novel Jackie says she loves to laugh and to make others laugh, and Jailbird contains plenty of humour.
“I think people will like this book as it current, relevant and is certainly a fresh twist on a classic love story. I’ve tried to make this unconventional romance edgier and have endeavoured to make my main protagonists strong yet believable. As well as the love story which underpins the novel, there is a bit of a thriller and laughs along the way too,” she added.
Fostering Solutions team manager Fatima Nadeem said: “Here at Fostering Solutions Greater Manchester we are extremely proud of the fact that Jackie and Johnny foster with us but we are also very proud of Jackie’s achievement with ‘Jailbird’. It is on my book list to read!”
The agency is also supporting Jackie in promoting the novel through social media, local newspapers and radio.
Jailbird is available from Amazon in Kindle or paperback format.
You can find Jackie’s blog at https://jdhornerofficial.com/2019/09/03/the-reluctant-blogger/