When Jem McCusker’s son asked her to tell him a bedtime story, she had no idea it would lead to her publishing a book.
It was a little over 12 months ago when the Springfield mother of two’s son, Sean, made a special request of his mother.
“My son has always loved books and one night he asked me for a bedtime story and I said ‘which one will we read’, and he said ‘can you make one up for me’,” she said.
“I said ‘okay, what will it be about’ and he said he wanted it to be about Ireland, because his father is Irish and granny and grandad too, and as I was sort of trying to think of something he goes ‘but we’ll make it about a frog’.”
A quick-thinking Ms McCusker rattled off a story about a magical frog who could jump so high that he jumped into the clouds, before crashing down.
Clearly impressed, Sean asked his mother to type it out “so I can read it”.
“I had about two A4 pages and then before I knew it I was working on it every night and every day Sean would come to me and say ‘mummy is my story ready yet’ and I’d say ‘not just yet’,” Ms McCusker said.
The story consumed Ms McCusker who spent countless hours after work and on weekends transforming what began as an impromptu bedtime story into a self-published debut novel.
The end result is Stone Guardians and the Rise of Eden which will be launched at Springfield Central Library this Saturday, 8 December.
“The story is actually completely different to where it started, but the core requests of it being set in Ireland and having a frog in it are there,” she said.
Stone Guardians and the Rise of Eden is aimed at eight to 12 year olds and tells the story of orphans Evie O’Malley and Peter Walsh who find a magic portal before going on a journey with Fable the frog to become guardians of Eden, along the way saving their parents from an evil witch.
Although fun and not short on fantasy, the book also deals with a range of modern day themes including the importance of self-reflection, valuing the environment and gender equality.
“I have a big problem with the way children speak to each other and bullying, and I really wanted to do something to change that because I’m so scared that will happen to one of my children,” she said.
“So self-reflection is a big part of the book, the characters travel by rainbow to reflection pools and Fable is really their guide on this journey.
“For the kids, they are reading a really cool fantasy story with a magic portal, leprechauns and rainbows but I really hope that underneath they are picking up on that message that just because you think something is okay doesn’t make it okay.
“I’m devastated every time I see a family has lost a child to bullying. It’s far too prevalent and I know my book is relatively unknown but if it changes the attitude of just one child then that is enough.”
While this is the first time Ms McCusker has written a book, her love of reading stretches back to childhood when at age 12 and faced with holiday boredom she came across the book Now You See Me by Linda Howard.
“There were very vivid descriptions in the book, and it was very engaging right from chapter one which is what you need in every good book, a good hook, and my love of books really just grew from there,” Ms McCusker said.
She said while the task of writing, editing and publishing Stone Guardians and the Rise of Eden was challenging at first, it was also extremely rewarding.
“It’s true that you get better the more you write. I don’t want to sound like a cliched writer but I’m going to here,” Ms McCusker said.
“Your characters do really teach you things along the way that you didn’t expect and so I learned a lot about my style of writing, my phrasing.”
Since having it published, the book has been doing the rounds among Ms McCusker’s family, including six-year-old Sean.
So what did the young man who started it all off think about it?
“It’s a bit advanced for Sean but I’ve read it to him and when I finished he said ‘more mummy, when is the next one’, which is great, that’s what you want to hear because kids are brutally honest. So it was nice that he liked it and wanted more,” she said.
Ms McCusker plans to make Stone Guardians and the Rise of Eden the first in a four-part series.
Book launch on Saturday
The book will be launched on Saturday, 8 December on level 2 at Springfield Central Library from 11am.
Ms McCusker will read an excerpt from the book, be available for signings and has also arranged a face painter to entertain children.
Copies of the book will be available for loan at Springfield Central Library in the future, and is available for sale from Amazon, Kindle and Booktopia.