CHS grad set to promote book she wrote at age 14

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There’s a serial killer on the loose in Cartersville — well, at least there is in Jessica Branton’s first novel. 

The 2014 graduate of Cartersville High School will be returning to her hometown to talk about her young adult thriller “How to Experience Death for Beginners” Tuesday from 6 to 7 p.m. in the Nathan Dean Meeting Room of the Cartersville Public Library at 429 W. Main St.

Set in Cartersville, the novel focuses on a CHS student who helps the FBI capture a serial killer called the Bartow Slasher. 

“It's a book about a girl named Casey Darling who experiences the death of a person near her,” Branton, 23, said. “This curse, which is what Casey considers it, is then brought to a head when a serial killer comes to her hometown. Casey, her friends and her crush then try to track down the killer. Along the way, she tries to get a grip on her last year of high school and spend quality time with her friends.”

The young author, who is living in Statesboro “for now,” said she wanted to do a presentation at the library  because “this is kind of where it all began.”

“My book takes place in Cartersville, and since it is my hometown, I wanted to come back and show it to my friends, family and anyone else in the city who wants to read it,” she said. “I believe I will be talking about the book as well as signing it. However, we are also going to be talking to aspiring teen authors about writing and their thoughts on writing and my book.”

The strong Cartersville connection is one reason Youth Services Coordinator Thomas Shalin wanted Branton to visit the library to talk about her debut book. 

“I think it’s neat for teens to see and hear from local authors and see that the local teens and young adults are creating things,” he said. “She even placed her thriller in her hometown, which makes it an even more  unique read. Having it at the library gives access for more students from different schools to be able to attend.”

Writing a full-length novel at age 14 was “weird” for Branton, who has a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Georgia and just graduated last Saturday from Georgia Southern University with a master's degree.

“Especially since I originally gave Charlie's Port [her publisher] about 120-150 pages and said, ’This is done!’” she said. “It clearly was not done, but it was an amazing and insane thing when I turned in the last draft.”

Those pages were her down payment on what ended up being a 330-page book, which was released in February and is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million for around $16. 

“So, I think I wrote the first half of the book in about a month, but after that, I needed to edit and expand on it,” she said. “I think that part took about a year. There was a lot of editing afterwards, but I was definitely finished with the book pretty quickly.”

Branton, who is working on the sequel, said writing and finishing a novel is something she had always wanted to do. 

“The character of Casey Darling introduced herself to me, and I started unraveling the idea of a person who could experience death and what that would do to someone,” she said.

As a writer, Branton said she enjoys “creating the characters and the world” in which they live.

“I love that aspect of it,” she said. “Now that [the book] is out in the world, I really do love hearing others’ opinions on it. I want to grow in the areas people dislike, and I love hearing about how much people love it.”

Teen writers and fans of young adult literature are encouraged to attend the free event at the library.  

For more information, call 770-382-4203.