The illustration is of Princess--she's named for her grandmother, but everyone calls her P, at her insistence. She is roughly nine-years-old, very determined, and a total tomboy! (Jen says, "she's a female Tom Sawyer.") Her description of P was so vivid, I didn't have any trouble drawing her. Oh, and don't forget little Ike, the possum, too!
1) What is POSSUM SUMMER about?
Princess is a die-hard tomboy growing up in the middle of the Oklahoma plains with only two friends in a thirty-mile radius: her best buddy Mart and her mutt, Blackie. Her dad's off in Iraq and her mama is gone all day working, so she's in charge of the farm and all the inhabitants living on it for the summer. When she finds an orphan opossum kit in the ragged remains of a possum her dog just killed, she has a real tough decision to make.
Save him against her father's wishes? Or let him die?
From the moment she looks into his eyes her heart is lost, and she decides to try it - no matter the cost to her. But when Ike the possum's cover is blown and tragedy strikes, she struggles to find the power in herself to get past the price he has to pay.
2) What inspired you the story about a possum?
Well, I had a possum when I was small and they are very misunderstood creatures. Saying that, I am a HUGE fan of the animal/kid novel, and always knew I wanted to write about that connection. I've had this book in my mind for a long time - almost 20 years now!
3) How did you use your own personal experience for the story?
A lot of me is tied up in this book. I too lived on a farm in the middle of Oklahoma, I too loved a possum (and a raccoon, and a deer, and a goose, and and and) when I was small...but what happens to P is entirely of her own devices.
4) What is your process for story construction like?
I'm a pantser. I never know the end of the story before I get halfway through. I begin with the character and go through to his motivation. A fellow critiquer once said a wonderful line to me: "answer me why this character wants to tell this story." It's what I begin with now every time, and work from there.
5) What's it like working with Marlene Stringer?
Fantastic. Marlene is a once in a million agent. She encourages, she takes a personal interest, she is determined and wise and funny...she never, ever gives up on a writer, and sells like a madwoman. I can't possibly find enough good things to say about her. Her middle name is WOW. :-)
Thank you, Jen! It was great interviewing you and POSSUM SUMMER sounds so intriguing! Looking forward to the day it's in print.
Enjoyed this interview? If you're an author, editor, agent, or illustrator and would like a five question interview and a drawing of your character (or of yourself), email me at rtlovejoy (at) yahoo (dot) com. Check out the FAQ page for more info.