History contains a heaping amount of secrets and adventures. Author Jennifer Holm has taken it upon herself to be the detective who exposes them. Through research including interviews with experts and extended family members, Holm has created her next historical fiction novel, Penny from Heaven (due out July 2006 from Random House); a novel brimming with her own unique vision of life in New Jersey in the 1950s, and the characters and contrasting families that existed at that time.
"I think the biggest moments in my life [that affected my writing] were me not understanding why adults didn't explain things," this 37-year-old author says.
"There were always secrets that adults kept," Holm continues. "I was always trying to figure out what was going on, [all] the unspoken things. I like the strange things about history, but more the weird things between families."
Her sleuthing skills have developed since her childhood, and certainly paid off. Holm's first Young Adult novel, Our Only May Amelia (Harper Trophy, 1999), stars an adventuresome young "miracle" girl from 1899. The idea for the book was sparked when Holm read her great-aunt Alice's diary from 1899. Soon after being published, Our Only May Amelia won the 2000 Newbery Honor.
"What's so great about [Amelia] is that I wrote it purely for pleasure," Holm says. "I was writing for fun, so there was no rush."
Since then, she's cranked out a variety of other books, including; another historical fiction series, Boston Jane (HarperCollins, 2002-04); a mystery book entitled The Creek (HarperCollins, 2003); and several shorter mystery books entitled The Stink Files (HarperTrophy, 2005), which she and her husband, Jonathan Hamel, collaborated on.
"I really like doing the novels," Holm says. "You can tackle the tougher subjects. It's more like therapy; you work out all your demons."
To further thwart those demons, Holm has also created a cartoon character, Babymouse, a little girl mouse with a big imagination. Her brother, Matthew, is the vibrant illustrator of the series. The Babymouse series began in 2005, and is still going strong. The newest addition to the team was released this past May; Babymouse Beach Babe (Random House, 2006). Holm aims to keep putting out new books every four months or so.
"Babymouse is so fun [to write about]," Holm says. "She's such an upbeat character. And it's nice to live in a world where the biggest worries are your homework, being late to school, [and] forgetting your gym shorts. I loved elementary school."
This prolific writer hasn't always been a full-time author. In fact, her first three books were written while Holm still was working full time in New York City as a broadcast producer of television commercials and music videos for such big clients as MTV and Nickelodeon.
"I'd always dreamed of being a writer," Holm admits. "Producing wasn't creatively satisfying."