Young-adult novelist Carrie Jones took to heart the words her beloved Uncle Richard spoke to her at the end of his life. After decades of working as an attorney, he instructed Jones to “pick up the gauntlet” as she pursued her own career in writing.

During a telephone interview, the 45-year-old writer recalled her interpretation of his words: “If you can, you should always fight for others. And if you can, you should always work towards good. And if you can, you should pick up the gauntlet and try to make society better.”

That philosophy has not only informed Jones’ fiction for middle-graders and young adults, it has led her to engage in public service: serving on the Ellsworth City Council, running for the state House of Representatives, co-editing a collection of nonfiction essays about bullying and working as a part-time police dispatcher and a volunteer firefighter. She lives in Bar Harbor with her husband, Shaun Farrar, three dogs and a cat.

Over the course of her writing career, Jones has produced an eclectic mix of books, including non-fiction, high school melodrama and paranormal romance. She has recently embarked on two major ongoing projects: “Time Stoppers,” with roots from her earliest days as a storyteller, and “Flying,” to be published Tuesday, which has allowed her to explore a genre that’s new to her, science fiction.

Jones grew up in Bedford, New Hampshire. “I was pretty much the poor kid in an affluent town, which in the end truly benefited me,” she said.

Attending Bates College brought her to Maine. Meeting Irish poet and Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney at a campus event proved to be a turning point, Jones said.

“He told me you didn’t have to be wealthy to be a poet and you didn’t have to fit in and that you can be who you are and still be a writer,” Jones said. “At that time in my life, that was a very important lesson for me.”

While at Bates, Jones contracted both mononucleosis and the Epstein-Barr virus, which she said attacked her brain and gave her seizures.

“If you’re going to have epilepsy, you should have it my way,” Jones said. “I can’t tell you how lucky I was. I don’t have to take medication. It was horrible in college, but I’m blessed in that I was able to get over it and know what will trigger it again.”

Following her graduation, Jones embarked on a career in journalism, working as a reporter and editor at the Ellsworth Weekly and as a reporter at the Bangor Weekly and the Ellsworth American.

She discovered her facility for fantasy storytelling while driving to reporting assignments with her young daughter, Emily. She began spinning a story about a girl named Annie Nobody who discovers Aurora, a magical town near Mount Desert Isle. Eventually, the plot became too complicated to keep in her head, so Jones began writing it down.

“I’d write like five pages every day and give them to Emily to read in the car. She’d be like ‘Five pages? Is that it, Mommy? Really?’ ”

Years later, Jones resurrected and expanded the story of Annie Nobody. The effort led to the first volume of the middle-grade “Time Stoppers” saga, published in May by Bloomsbury USA.

“It’s the story that made me a writer,” Jones said. “In that sense, it’s the most special to me. There’s more magic in it and more hope than I might necessarily have in writing for young adults.”

In 2007, Jones enrolled in a master’s of fine art program at Vermont College. “It taught me so much about craft and exploring different genres, style,” she said. “It brought to my writing a sense of responsibility.”

By her second year in the program, she had sold two novels, “Tips on Having a Gay (Ex) Boyfriend” and its sequel, “Love (and Other Uses for Duct Tape).”

Since then she has written the “Need” series of internationally best-selling fantasies, “Sarah Emma Edmonds Was a Great Pretender,” “Girl, Hero” and “After Obsession” (co-written with Steven E. Wedel).

She also co-edited, with Megan Kelley Hall, “Dear Bully: Seventy Authors Tell Their Stories” a collection of essays. Jones said that the experience gave her a new perspective on the subject and on her colleagues.

“That their experiences of being bullied still resonated and hurt so much, that was incredibly eye-opening to me, that the pain could last so long for people I consider so strong and sturdy.”

Jones’ latest book is “Flying,” to be published by Tor Teen on Tuesday. Something of a departure for her, the novel is science fiction, rather than fantasy.

Jones said she wanted to write a book with a female protagonist who starts out as weak and grows stronger as the plot advances. “I chose science fiction because I wasn’t seeing a lot of characters like that (in the genre).”

Mana, the protagonist, leads a sheltered life until her mother disappears and is revealed to be a professional hunter of extraterrestrials. The narrative contains elements of both “Men in Black” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

“The inspiration probably came from driving home really late at night and there was some kind of random UFO conspiracy show on the radio, which I had never heard before and which kind of piqued my interest,” Jones said. “Now I know too much about UFO conspiracy theories.”

Despite juggling multiple writing projects, Jones has maintained her habits of community service. Having served as city councilor in Ellsworth for a time, she tried her hand at politics again in 2008, running as a Democratic candidate for the House of Representatives seat in Maine District 38. She did not win that election.

“The truth is I’m not tough enough to be a politician. I’m far too wimpy, and I don’t have a thick skin,” she said.

She has, however, been able to help her community by working as a part-time police dispatcher and as a volunteer firefighter, with people who are committed to working for the greater good.

“It’s exactly what my uncle was talking about, picking up the gauntlet, but in a way that’s very different from politics,” she said.

Even with accolades and contracts for more books in hand, Jones claims to suffer occasionally from “impostor’s syndrome.” The trick, however, is to keep working.

“I don’t ever not write,” she said, “because I feel so lucky to be a writer.”

Berkeley writer Michael Berry is a Portsmouth, New Hampshire, native who has contributed to Salon, the San Francisco Chronicle, New Hampshire Magazine, the Los Angeles Review of Books and many other publications. He can be contacted at:

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