Credit: Teresa Barrett Photography
Jessica Khoury is the author of many books for teens and young readers. Her stories have been translated into over a dozen languages and have been finalists for awards like the South Carolina Junior Book Award, the Ignyte Award, the Maine Student Book Award, the Oklahoma Sequoyah Masterlist, the Amelia Bloomer Project, and many more. Her bestselling middle grade debut The Mystwick School of Musicraft was named one of the Best Audiobooks of 2019 by Audible and is one of the Top 20 Most Listened-To children's books of all time.
In addition to writing, Jess is also a fantasy cartographer and illustrator. Her artwork has appeared in NYT Bestsellers, video and tabletop games, and of course her own books.
Jess currently lives in Greenville, South Carolina with her husband and daughters. She spends free time hiking in the mountains, playing video games, and sketching new characters for new stories.
longer, less official bio!
I've known I wanted to be an author since I was four years old, and I read the book Danny and the Dinosaur. The ending made me feel pretty sad (I won't give away spoilers--you will have to read it yourself to see why!) so I decided to write a "sequel" to the story that made it happier. So you could say I started my writing journey with, yes... fan fiction! My preschool teacher read my story to my class, and that was the moment I knew I wanted to be a writer.
After that, I wrote and read constantly. I would even skip recess at school to go to the library instead! My favorites were the Hardy Boys, the Phantom Tollbooth, any books with dogs or horses, the Redwall series, and everything by Jean Craighead George. In third grade, I won the Young Georgia Author Award for more fan fiction I wrote--this time featuring myself and the Hardy Boys. I still have those little trophies sitting in my office!
I wrote my first novel when I was 13 years old. It took me a full year, and I worked on it every day after school. Sometimes I would write for five or six hours a day! It was called Tirel and was about a boy who found out he was the lost prince of a magical kingdom. That book will never be published (it wasn't very good) but I learned so much about writing and, importantly, about how to finish a book. It was a huge step forward in my writing journey!
In college I wrote my next novel, The Heiress of Rhiangar. This fantasy story was very, very dear to me, and I worked hard on it for four years before trying to get an agent to help me publish it. Whereas my first novel taught me how to finish a book, this story taught me how to let one go. It was soundly rejected by every agent I sent it to, which was a really tough time. I truly thought it was the best thing I could ever write, and so I thought my lifelong dream of becoming a writer was over.
In fact, the day I gave up on that book, I took a long walk through the woods to feel sorry for myself and wonder why I'd wasted so much time on a hopeless dream. It was during that walk that a picture popped into my mind: a heartbroken girl trapped by glass walls, surrounded by jungle. I was so intrigued that I ran home and began writing about her, and an hour later, had finished the first chapter of Origin, the book that just one year later would be published all over the world. So this book, my third novel, taught me the most important lesson: Never give up trying. There is always another story to tell.
Now, more than ten years later, I have 13 published novels and hope to write many more! I love writing for young readers, because really, I feel I am writing for my 13 year old self. I write the kind of books I know I'd have loved back then. When I was feeling lonely or bullied in school, books were always some of my best friends! I hope my stories make kids feel the same way my favorite books made me feel: safe, adventurous, and capable of facing all the challenges of life.
My other passion is for art. I love drawing my characters and especially the worlds they live in. So I also work as an illustrator, drawing maps for my books and for other authors' books, as well as for game studios, RPG groups, and other map-lovers. You can check out my illustration work here! Also look for my maps in the front of my Skyborn books.
I also really enjoy traveling the world. I love seeing new places, and have been to many countries including New Zealand, Botswana, South Africa, Nicaragua, Japan, Austria, Lebanon, Germany, the United Kingdom, and St. Lucia. I can't wait to add more places to this list!
My two other hobbies (I have a lot of them!) are soccer and video games. I am a soccer fanatic, and played striker from the time I was 8 all through college (where I still hold the scoring record!) I've also coached soccer (and loved it) and refereed (and hated it). My idea of a perfect summer is any summer with a World Cup (go Spain!) I am also a huge gamer, whether its PS5, Oculus, Switch, or mobile. My favorite games are either open-world RPGs like Horizon Zero Dawn or Tomb Raider, or battle royales like Apex Legend.
Currently, I live in Greenville, SC, near the Smoky Mountains, with my family. I find nothing more inspiring than hiking and looking for waterfalls. I have always gotten my best story ideas while tramping about in the forest!