Thursday, August 4, 2011

Author Interview with Jennifer Holm

Jennifer Holm, or Jenni Holm, has really spread her wings in kidlit. She has written many books for the middle grade audience including three Newbery Honor books- OUR ONLY MAY AMELIA (Harper Trophy), TURTLE IN PARADISE (Random House), and PENNY FROM HEAVEN (Random House). She is also the co-creator of the BABYMOUSE (Random House) graphic novel series. 

Holm was born in California and raised in Pennsylvania. Having studied at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, Holm calls herself "the happy product of a classic liberal arts education." She studied International Relations and believes everyone should learn a little bit more about diplomacy. After graduating from college, she produced commercials and music videos for clients like MTV and Nickelodeon before she became an author.

How awesome is it that you received a Newbery Honor for your first book, OUR ONLY MAY AMELIA. I see May Amelia as this untamed tomboy with an untapped maternal side, which she reveals after her sibling is born. How were you able to cultivate her character and voice?
Have I mentioned I'm one of five children? And the other four are boys? I guess you could say I longed for a little sister when I was growing up.

Being that OUR ONLY MAY AMELIA was inspired by the story of your great-aunt, what would you talk to your great-aunt about if you could have a conversation with her today?
I think I would probably ask: "Outhouses? No toilet paper? How did you do it?"

How did your experience as a former producer of commercials and music videos help you in your writing?
It has really helped, especially with BABYMOUSE. My brother Matt, the co-creator of BABYMOUSE, and I actually use a storyboard to write and lay out BABYMOUSE. Filmmakers use storyboards to lay out scenes shot by shot.

In your BABYMOUSE graphic novels, you capture a lot of the angst a young girl goes through while making her predicaments funny at the same time. What is your strategy for crafting humor?
I try and tap into my elementary school self and remember every humiliating and frustrating thing that ever happened. Trust me-I have plenty of material!

Because your brother, Matthew Holm, illustrates BABYMOUSE, do you have an influence over how the illustrations go?
I'm the older sister—I always get my way! (Just kidding.) I lay out the spreads (how the cells are arranged on the page), but when it comes to the actual illustrations, I pretty much leave him alone because … I can't draw.

What were your favorite books/authors to read while you were growing up?
My favorite novel was THE BLACK CAULDRON by Lloyd Alexander, and my favorite cartoon strip was PRINCE VALIANT by Hal Foster.

Are there any current projects or upcoming book releases you'd like to mention?
I have a new novel out right now called THE TROUBLE WITH MAY AMELIA. It's the sequel to OUR ONLY MAY AMELIA. Ten years in the making! And we have a new installment of BABYMOUSE hitting the shelves this fall—A VERY BABYMOUSE CHRISTMAS.

Thank you for thinking of me.

You’re welcome, Jenni!


Brooke Rousseau said...

My cousin went to Dickinson! What a cool life she has led. Great interview!

Cynthia said...

Thanks, Brooke!

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