An unexpected e-mail appeared on a Saturday which began the transition of a local girl to up-and-coming published author. Jessica Khoury, age 22, a graduate of Toccoa Falls College, resident of Toccoa and wife of Benjamin Beeman, received a response to her query from Lucy Carson of The Friedrich Agency. Carson, now her personal agent, made her interest clear in Khoury’s young adult debut book “Origin.” Once some big changes and edits were applied to the book, Carson started on finding a publisher. Razorbill, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group, took a liking to Khoury and “Origin.” Though she cannot discuss the original offer from Penguin, Khoury did mention that they deemed it “significant” explaining that it was “big enough to turn all the heads in the publishing industry.” The offer would go on to become one of the biggest deals for a debut author that Khoury and Carson had ever seen.
When asked about how long she has wanted to be a writer Khoury said, “Since I was four years old, and I was in preschool at Ebenezer Baptist Church. I wrote my first book there, it was fan fiction.” After winning the Young Georgia Author’s Award in third grade, Khoury said it was “very affirming” that she had a future in writing. She won the award from another fan fiction piece about her and the Hardy Boys. “I thought I had arrived. I thought I was like the author of the year or something for that little trophy.”
Now with 250,000 copies of “Origin” about to be distributed worldwide this fall, it seems as though Jessica Khoury has arrived. “It was crazy. It originally started out as 100,000,” Khoury says, discussing how many copies of the book Penguin was going to make, “and then within a week they bumped it up from publishing in January of next year to October.” Along with the quarter of a million copies, the publishing company has also sold international rights in Germany, the Netherlands, and recently in Spain. They also expect more to come over the summer. “Origin” has been listed by Penguin as one of their fall “breathless reads” meaning “it’s one of their top books,” according to Khoury.
Khoury goes on about how it feels with all this attention in such short time: “It probably still hasn’t fully sunk in, because every time I think I’ve reached ‘Oh I can’t get any bigger than this.’ ‘It can’t get any better than this.’ it does.” Along with the publishing success her agent has given her, Carson found a film agent for Khoury, Michelle Weiner of Creative Artist Agency, who literally responded overnight to the book wanting to turn “Origin” into a movie. “There’s nothing definite but there has been some interest,” says Khoury. Even with all the surreal events, Khoury still claims that she will always be a small town girl.
Khoury talks about her feelings with the attention of “Origin” and how it will or will not change her life in Toccoa: “I’m not sure ‘cause it’s not out yet so I don’t know. I know I’m going to be traveling a lot, but it really doesn’t change that much about who you are, how you work, what you do, and I plan to keep coaching soccer and coming to TFC plays as long as I’m in Toccoa and none of that will change.”
Writing may soon be what the world knows Jessica Khoury for, but her accomplishments in soccer and drama are what she was known for in Toccoa. Three time All-American for soccer, most goals per season and career for TFC, and also former president of the TFC Drama Club (now called TFC Theatrical Society) along with directing and acting in most of the plays. She even came back after she graduated to direct another play. “It’s [soccer] probably the thing I, that and drama club, are what I miss most about college,” says Khoury. However, though she may miss soccer and drama, with “Origin” becoming available for purchase on September 4th, the future looks very promising.
For more information about “Origin,” you can check out Khoury’s blog at www.jessicakhoury.com and updates can be found on her Twitter and Facebook accounts: https://twitter.com/jkbibliophile; and http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jessica-Khoury/34360201233456
[Chance Rigdon is a rising junior, contributing to The Talon. For more information, find him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter @ChanceRigdon.]