When I started writing Dear Lina in 2016, I was 29. I had recently come out and I was thinking about the future. Brexit and the election of Trump in America, along with what social media crowned the worst year ever (although, perhaps 2020 has taken that crown now…), weighed heavily on my mind as I considered a question that many people my age think about: did I want to have children?

Dear Lina

Dear Lina

And so I began to write. I wrote down the reasons I thought it would be a bad idea for me to have kids: my career wasn’t established or stable; not wanting to put my body through the stress; global warming and the fact that most governments aren’t doing enough about it; my health conditions, some of which can be genetic; so many other pressures both internal and external. These reasons took shape, became a conversation I had with myself at bus stops and during lulls at work. I conducted thought experiments, imagining carrying out my day with the added responsibility of a child. That thought experiment became the first chapter of Dear Lina. Eve made the opposite decision to me: to have a child and watch her grow up in the world I imagined.

I was born in Ireland, and the UK has never truly felt like home to me, which became more difficult when my accent faded. Seeing the racism and xenophobia that flows around Brexit – the campaign, the vote and the still-ongoing aftermath – I considered what it was to live in this country. I am a hidden immigrant. My (mostly) English accent, the fact that I’m white, and having lived here for so long grants me a number of privileges. The disconnect I feel between my identity and the way the world sees me, though, creates a deep divide within me, which informed my world-building. I wrote about what the country would be like without any immigrants. What if all of us were chucked out of the UK? What if it became government policy? This was the world I chose to write about, and I am constantly terrified when things I started to write about four years ago become realities. And even with that horrendous near-future in mind, I never imagined I would be editing and releasing my book during a global pandemic.

Dystopian fiction has always been one of my favourite genres. The first time I read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale at the age of fifteen I was riveted. I devoured Brave New World and Never Let Me Go, made lists of speculative futures that I wanted to lose myself in. Whilst editing, I read Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents, seeing parallels to life in the 2020s in Octavia E Butler’s words. Taking an aspect of our current world and extrapolating details to a logical extreme fascinates me, and that’s what I wanted to do with Dear Lina.

Biog: Jess is a queer disabled feminist and activist, whose writing focusses on LGBTQ+ character representation, mental health visibility, and the lives of women. Her short story Destiny appears in the anthology (Re)Sisters: Stories of Rebel Girls, Revolution, Empowerment and Escape. Her work has also been featured in Novelty Magazine, Severine Lit, The Tiny Narrative, and on Dear Damsels, including their print anthology for 2019. She writes alongside a creative collective of women who met through the amazing Write Like a Grrrl course. She has written a TinyLetter about her mental health called The Stories I Tell Myself, as well as a blog about her experiences with endometriosis called Eight Years and Counting.

Dear Lina is her first novel.

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