Sixteen-year-old Jillian Dunlay of Overland Park is that unique teenager who already knows what she wants to do with her life. In fact, she’s even taken the steps to reach that goal.
The Blue Valley West High School sophomore can already list author on her resume after publishing her first novel, “Untamed,” last April.
Her book is a 280-page dystopian thriller about a group of teens whose lives suddenly change when they discover they were genetically modified for government use and are part of a rare group called the Untamed. She said fans of popular books like “Divergent” and “The Hunger Games” will likely be drawn to this novel.
Jillian’s book started as a seventh-grade creative writing assignment. The assignment eventually came to an end, but Jillian’s writing did not.
“I wrote the majority of the book during that time, and after the project was over I chose to continue,” Jillian said. “I just fell in love with the characters and the storyline.”
So she spent the next two years writing, editing and publishing the book through Amazon’s publishing platform called CreateSpace. The book sells for $.99 on Amazon.com. and is available in paperback for $10.99.
It took a lot of organization and discipline on Jillian’s part to commit to the publishing process. She worked on the book while also juggling honors classes, being a member of her school’s color guard team and working a part-time job.
Jillian said she would set aside one hour each week to write without distraction. She said she tried really hard to hold herself accountable and that her parents did as well.
It appears her hard work has paid off. Jillian has already sold more than 100 copies and the book has earned a perfect five-star rating from readers.
That’s something Jillian’s mom, Jennifer Dunlay, said fills her with pride.
“It’s great to see your child be successful and accomplish this at such a young age,” Jennifer said. “To see people we don’t know enjoying the book is really exciting.”
This isn’t the first time Jillian has seen her writing published. In 2015, she had one of her poems featured in the Johnson County Public Library’s Elementia Magazine.
She credits one of her elementary school teachers for helping to ignite her passion for the written word.
“Writing has always been something that I love and a creative outlet for me and it is an incredible thing to make imagination come to life through words,” Jillian said. “Publishing this book gives me the drive to continue with it as an adult.”
Jillian said she would like to make writing her career after she graduates from college. In the meantime, she has already started working on her second book. It’s a mystery novel that she hopes to publish in 2019.
But for now, Jillian is focused on marketing her current book, “Untamed.” She has been invited to speak at a Kansas Authors Club event later this month where she will get the opportunity to read aloud from a section of her book.
Jillian won an award from the group in 2015 when she submitted an excerpt from the book in a contest in her age division.
To return to the group for an event is especially thrilling for her. Jillian said she continues to be amazed that she can now call herself a published author.
“It’s been a very humbling experience,” Jillian said. “This is something that I have worked so hard on and I am glad readers have given me such a positive response.”