The Great Novel Contest 2019: Jesse Bethea – Grand Champion Spotlight

Jesse Bethea won a publishing contract from Bellwether and infinite bragging rights for his unpublished manuscript, Fellow Travelers, as the grand champion of the Great Novel Contest 2019.

Learn more about the Great Novel Contest 2020.

Fellow Travelers follows the journey of Bindra Dhar, a young woman who, after being welcomed into the global community of professional time travelers, finds herself targeted by an enigmatic time criminal named Thurmond. As she discovers new allies and adversaries on her mission to stop Thurmond’s agenda — and to survive it — she learns that time travel is more dangerous and morally fraught than she ever could’ve expected. Fellow Travelers is a book about people who happen to be time travelers, their wants, their needs, their feelings, their fears, and their community.

Born and raised in Fairfax, VA, he fell in love with Ohio University’s Media Arts program and the scenic campus during a visit with family, so Jesse moved to Ohio to attend OU in 2010. Jesse loved his time there so much that Alden Library was an important location in his novel Fellow Travelers.

In 2014, Jesse moved to Columbus and immediately started writing for ColumbusUnderground.com. By 2015, he was working for The Ohio Channel (Ohio’s version of C-SPAN) as an assistant producer.

On the rare occasions when Jesse gives himself a break from writing, he enjoys hiking, true crime podcasts and reading, specifically non-fiction disaster/survival narratives. According to Jesse, “any situation where people have had to eat each other, I’m in.”

Jesse was encouraged in his literary abilities at an early age. He came from a family of readers and librarians who didn’t limit his reading or potential, a family who gave him “all the notebooks and pens and pencils” he could ask for.

He found inspiration to write as a child from Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli and Hoot by Carl Hiaasen. These books are “both partially about exploring hidden worlds and characters on the fringes of everyday life.” He was also influenced by The Power of Un, a book that led to his “lifelong subconscious obsession with time travel and its implications.”

These early interests in time travel and adventure culminated in Fellow Travelers, a world where moments in time provide a map the mind can travel.

Jesse had a great team in his corner during the writing and editing of Fellow Travelers. “My biggest supporter was definitely my wife Melissa, a voracious fantasy reader who encouraged me to keep going by reading every chapter in about fifteen minutes and then demanding a new one. She even made a hardcover version of the book for my birthday. My dear friends Nikki Lanka and Emily Sirney read early drafts and give some essential feedback. My best friend Haylee Pearl helped immensely by quizzing me on the rules of the time travel world and community.”

When it comes to writing advice, Jesse knows the writing process is different for different people, but he does have a piece of advice for those who listen to music when they write. “If you’re going to listen to music while you’re writing, which I find helps me focus, make sure you don’t listen to music with lyrics. That will, generally speaking, break your focus and defeat the purpose. Listen to instrumental music only. Or music with singing in another language. My go-to playlist on Fellow Travelers was the album “Ball of Fire” by the Skatalites — totally instrumental, very assertive, insistent ska music. It felt like the horn section was scolding me whenever I wasn’t typing.”

Fellow Travelers found a home with Bellwether thanks to Jesse’s superb writing skills and the Ohio Writers’ Association’s novel contest. This wasn’t the first contest Jesse entered with Ohio Writers’ Association. He submitted to the Great Novella Contest in 2018. When he heard about The Great Novel Contest 2019, he took a shot. All his hard work paid off. Jesse’s manuscript is now on its way to being a published novel.

Stay tuned for updates and announcements on publication from Bellwether. Fellow Travelers will hit shelves worldwide in the summer of 2020.


Do you have an unpublished manuscript that deserves recognition?
Check out The Great Novel Contest 2020 and get ready to submit.