Eleven-year-old P (short for Princess, a name she loathes) longs for a pet, but her father insists that all animals on their Oklahoma farm must earn their keep. While he's away on combat duty, P tries to turn his cattle dog into her pet—with disastrous results. Then P rescues an orphaned opossum that she names Ike. She hand-feeds the beguiling critter, smuggles him into school, and teaches him to follow her everywhere. But when her father is reported injured, P knows that before he is shipped home, she must betray Ike's trust and force him to survive in the wild.
"A heartwarming, vibrant story. It's a book that middle graders will want to read." --Bill Wallace, author of A Dog Called Kitty
Jen - tell us a little about how you got your start as a writer. What made you focus on middle grade fiction? What was the inspiration for Possum Summer?
Possum Summer's inspiration came from my own childhood, in a way. I got my pet possum the exact same way that P got hers, and the story stuck with me all these years. I tried writing YA, and I tried fantasy, but in the end I ended up being good at the main genre that I love most: middle grade. It's the best time to be a reader! Middle Grade books can change kid's lives - I know quite a few of them helped me through when I was that age!
I understand that you’ve lived lots of different places. Can you shed some light on that? Are you a traveler, or an adventurer? How does this inspire your writing?
I have lived in many different places! Let's see. Born in Oklahoma, went to Kentucky to work at the Kentucky Horse Park, out to California to professionally show dogs (and traveled up and down the western seaboard doing that - as high up as Washington and as low as Mexico!) and then moved to the east coast and showed my Azawakh everywhere there. Oh, and I lived in Darwin and Sydney, Australia (when I was about 20) and now I live in Berlin, Germany (since about ten years now! amazing!) I once read that a person couldn't be considered a writer until they'd lived a little, and I think I've lived enough now for a few lifetimes. So when I finally started Possum Summer, I knew this one was 'the one.' (And luckily, I was right!) All those experiences, all those emotions, everything at some point changes your writing. I am an adventurer, most definitely. My two favorite writers (excluding Wilson Rawls, who is AWESOME) are Ernest Hemingway and T. E. Lawrence ("Lawrence of Arabia"). I'd like to think I follow in their adventurous footsteps.
What is your writing process? Do you outline first, or are you a pantser (writing by the seat of your pants?)
You know, I've always been a pantser, but with this latest manuscript (as well as an upcoming one) I plotted with an outline. I find that it helps and it hurts, the outlining method. Little things often come to me as I write, things that tie together only at the end when I read through it and I say "OH! That's why that happened!" (ha!) I mourn that aspect of writing to an outline, but I try to keep the outline as general as possible so those little darlings can work their way through.
Tell us a little about your writing journey. How long did it take you to complete POSSUM SUMMER? How long did it take before your book was accepted for publication?
My writing journey was angsty and emotional. But whose isn't, right? I've been writing since I was seven, but only seriously started when I moved to Germany. I was lonely and sad, and missing everything I knew how to do. (Can we say culture shock?) Thanks to my husband, who kindly but firmly said "No, dear, you cannot write Fantasy. Get over it." I started the idea for Possum Summer. It flew out inside two months, and I revised for quite some time. I landed an agent in three days (she is the BEST) and then we went on sub. All in all, I think it took about two years for the entire thing. I can say this: Revise and revise and revise. And if your gut tells you you are not being true to the story, listen to it. There's no rule that every story needs a happy ending. And also? Do Not Give Up. And find an agent that doesn't either.
I noticed on your website, Jen, that you have two hairless cats. I have heard of these, but never actually been around them. Is this a special breed, and other than no hair, are they different than regular cats? Do they still like to be petted? Don’t you miss the soft fur?
I do! I have two Sphynx cats, who are our comic relief (when paired against my 1 year old daughter) You'd be surprised - Sphynx are their own individual breed, and the mutation of hairlessness occurs naturally in the wild, so they have ancestors in Canada and Mexico. The main difference with these guys is their personality. You've never had another cat like these...they are in whatever you're doing, they read your emotions and they are just the sweetest fellows imaginable. Being a horselover, you've often petted a horse's nose, right? WELL, imagine an entire purring little body that feels like that (shaved) nose. And warm, like a bag of hot water. They are tremendous creatures.
I know that you also love horses, Jen, and like me, you follow horseracing closely. Tell us a little about this.
I love horses. I grew up on horse books, had an appy when I was younger (and was loaned out by my dad to farmers that couldn't handle their horses - a month or two of Jen Riding (tm) and they were as calm as lambs!) and went to the Kentucky Horse Park to get an equine management degree (before they offered it in university). Somehow or other I saw a polo game there, and was hooked. I finished university at the University of Oklahoma (SOONERS!) and played polo there as well as groomed for the most famous woman polo player in the sport, Sunny Hale, who is a-maz-ing and wonderful. I got into dressage, jumping, cross country and even a little bit of sales horses in Kentucky, so I'm an all-rounder. But I love me some racehorses, as I believe most all of them are perfect for something else other than racing when they're finished. There are a number of wonderful horse sanctuaries and adoption sites where you could save one of these guys. Let me know if you need links! (The moment we live in the US you can be assured I'll be getting us a couple!)
And finally, from one animal lover to another, what’s your favorite animal?
Oh. Pretty much the horse. Yep, the horse, hands down. Altho raccoons and Sphynx cats come in closely after. :-D
Jen – are you working on anything else? Any new projects or books coming out you’d like to share?
Well *actually*, Linda, I can break the news here!
Jen K Blom's THE SPOTTED PONY, about a girl from Virginia visiting her estranged father and his feedlot in Texas for the first time ever - learning just how fleeting real affection and friendship can be when she falls in love with the wrong horse sold to Julie Amper at Holiday House books by the Stringer Literary Agency.
Wow. Wow! Exciting! So your next book will be a Horse Book. (My favorite kind) *sigh* Congratulations!! Thank you so much for stopping by, Jen, and letting us get to know you. To learn more about Jen, visit her website http://www.jenkblom.com/
Want to read POSSUM SUMMER? We have one copy to GIVEAWAY.
All you have to do to enter is:
- Leave a comment below about why you'd like to win POSSUM SUMMER. (I love animals, sounds like a great read, anything simple like that.)
- Follow this blog for an extra chance to win (applies to current followers also.)
- Repost or retweet this contest for an extra chance to win (and let me know.)
Contest runs through midnight Pacific Time, April 15th, 2011. Book shipped to US addresses only. Good Luck, Everyone!