Author Spotlight–Jan Blazanin

August 11, 2010

What genre do you write in? What books have you written? What are they about?

I write contemporary young adult fiction. My first novel, Fairest of Them All, which was released in April 2009, is the story of Oribella Bettencourt, who’s a model, dancer, and star of the beauty pageant circuit. A Hollywood producer has come to Des Moines in search of a modern Rapunzel, and Ori lands the part. And why shouldn’t she? With her hardworking, self-sacrificing mother guiding her career, Ori is stunning, dedicated, poised and has lustrous blond hair that sets her apart from all the other girls at school. So what if she doesn’t have any friends her age, or anyone to talk to other than her mother? Ori is on the verge of having everything she’s ever dreamed of, until almost overnight she begins to lose her hair. With no career, no social life, and her mother barely speaking to her, Ori must find a way to rebuild her life.

In Summer 2011, Egmont Publishing will release A&L Do Summer, my latest Iowa-based young adult novel. Best friends Aspen Parks and Laurel Piedmont are determined to fill the summer before their senior year with parties and cute guys. But it isn’t easy in dinky Cottonwood Creek, Iowa, even for an inventive Chicago transplant like Laurel. Her first idea—stashing pigs in the high school—fizzles when she posts her plan on Facebook and bullies Buster, Ferret, and Kong carry it out. Knowing they’ll be blamed, the girls spend all night herding the pigs outdoors and cleaning up the mess. The only plus for Aspen is meeting Clay, her brother Manny’s friend who helps them by driving the pigs home. When Buster, Ferret, and Kong realize the girls have ruined their prank they promise revenge, and the girls find themselves in more trouble than they could have imagined.

Tell us about yourself.

I grew up in Kennedy Station, Iowa, in what was left of a thriving railroad community. When I was in my early 20s, I went through a traveling phase and lived in Washington, D.C., Texas, Arizona, and California. Although I especially loved Washington, I feel most comfortable in Iowa—except in the dead of winter. Then I’d rather be someplace a whole lot warmer!

I attended elementary and high school in Adel, Iowa, earned undergraduate degrees from Grand View University and Iowa State University, and received my Master’s Degree in teaching from Drake University in Des Moines. I studied writing at the Institute of Children’s Literature and the Iowa Summer Writing Festival, and I own dozens of books about writing I’ve actually read. I’m a member of SCBWI and a regular attendee at writing conferences.

Since I retired from full-time teaching in 2006, I’ve taught summer novel writing courses for fifth and sixth graders and creative writing classes for students 55 and older. I also present writing workshops for grades 4-12 throughout the school year.

I currently live on 11 wooded acres in Waukee, Iowa, with my life partner Mike, my dogs and cat, and a flock of guinea fowl. When I’m not writing, you’ll find me reading, running, working out, pulling weeds, walking the dogs, or chasing uninvited wildlife out of the house.

What are you working on?

My latest project is a young adult novel with paranormal elements. Amber Raymond is seventeen and a talented artist, but she doesn’t think she has much else going for her. She’s a little chubby and shy with boys, nothing like her beautiful older sister Brissa who travels the world with her antiquities dealer boyfriend. When Amber’s mother wins a trip to the Cayman Islands and her parents leave her alone on her birthday weekend, Amber reaches an all-time low. Then she eats the contents of a mysterious jar from Brissa and releases Amethyst, a teen ruler who’s been held in suspension for 3,000 years. Amethyst has five days to find The Heart of her people or doom them forever, and she needs Amber’s help to accomplish her mission. As if that weren’t difficult enough, evil sorceress Carnelia is determined to find The Heart and use it for her own purposes.

What are three random things others wouldn’t know or guess about you?

  1. When I was a kid, my brother Dan and I played on top of the boxcars left on the railroad siding near our house.
  2. Four years ago I rode on a zip-line in the Jamaican rain forest, and I wasn’t scared at all!
  3. I know how to drive a stick shift, and every car I’ve bought has had one.
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