Jessica publishes under the pen names Jessica Stilling (for literary fiction) and JM Stephen (for Science Fiction and Fantasy novels.)
Jessica Stilling grew up in McHenry, IL, a town near Chicago. She has studied literature and creative writing at The New School and City College of the City University of New York. She has worked in publishing both as an editor and at a literary agency and she has had short fiction published in numerous literary journals. Jessica has taught at The New School, The Gotham Writer's Workshop, SUNY Old Westbury and The City University of New York. After living in New York City for more than fifteen years, Jessica now resides in Southern Vermont, in a two hundred year old farmhouse where she has a dog, a cat, two amazing children and too many chickens to count. She writers for the local newspaper there.
The idea for The Beekeeper's Daughter, Jessica's most recently, literary novel, came from her time reading Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar.
"I was reading The Bell Jar for the second or third time and I remember thinking that I really wanted to know more about Esther Greenwood's life. I thought it was such a shame that Plath had passed away before she got to write more. I always thought there was so much more inside Plath and I wanted to explore that space, the world of women and mental illness and how sometimes even when we have great drive and great talent, our demons catch up with us and it's not enough."
This novel explores women who suffer with mental illness and how they relate to society.
The idea for Betwixt and Between came to Jessica through her children...
"The idea for Betwixt and Between came to me while I was playing with my two year old son. He had just discovered his shadow and as he was waving his hand around, playing with it, I told him, “You know I know a story about a boy who lost his shadow.” I then proceeded to tell him the story of Peter Pan, the lost boys and Neverland. As I was telling him this story the idea for this novel sort of fell into my head and I thought, 'What if the reason the lost boys never grow up is because they are no longer living.' And so the premise of this novel was born."
This novel explores one of the darkest times in a parents’ life, the almost unimaginable, death of a child, through this part realist and part fantastical story.