CJ Cooke, also known as Carolyn Jess-Cooke, grew up on a council estate in Belfast, Northern Ireland, at the height of the Troubles. She started writing at the age of 7 and pestered publishers for many years with manuscripts typed on her grandparents’ old typewriter and cover notes written on pages ripped from school jotters.
Since then, she has published 12 works in 23 languages and won numerous awards, including an Eric Gregory Award from the Society of Authors, a Tyrone Guthrie Prize, a K Blundell Award, and she has won a Northern Writer’s Award three times. In 2011, her debut novel, The Guardian Angel’s Journal, was published by Little, Brown. The novel was an international bestseller. Her second novel, The Boy Who Could See Demons (2012), is a cult classic. Her sixth novel, The Lighthouse Witches, was published in October 2021, and was an Indigo Book of the Month and an international bestseller. CJ’s work is concerned with trauma, motherhood, loss, and social justice.
CJ holds a BA (Hons), MA, and PhD from Queen’s University, Belfast, and commenced her academic career in 2005 as a Lecturer in Film Studies at the University of Sunderland. Shortly thereafter, she published four academic works in swift succession on Shakespearean Cinema and Film Sequels, before establishing her career as a poet, editor, and novelist. Now Reader in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow, CJ convenes the prestigious MLitt Creative Writing and researches ways that creative writing can help with trauma and mental health. Throughout 2013-18 she directed the Writing Motherhood project, which explored the impact of motherhood on women’s writing. She is also the founder and director of the Stay-at-Home! Literary Festival, which is dedicated to providing people with accessible, inclusive, and eco-friendly ways to access literature.
CJ has four children and lives with her family in Glasgow, Scotland.