Sixteen-year-old Jessica Rainville’s dream of working with exotic animals is about to come true. She’s signed up to spend a summer learning to train and care for tigers, lions, leopards, bears, and elephants at an exotic animal ranch. She will pet tigers, feed grizzly bears, and ride bareback on elephants. But the experience will test her in ways that she never imagined. And just one mistake can mean the difference between life and death.
Today, I’m thrilled to have Jenny Lynne on my blog for an interview! She is going to talk a little about herself as well as her book, Wild Animal School.
1. What made you want to be a writer?
I’ve enjoyed writing ever since I first learned how to write. I love telling interesting stories.
2. What inspired you to write Wild Animal School?
Wild Animal School, about a 16-year-old girl who spends a dream-come-true summer working with exotic animals, was inspired by my love of animals. I was born into a home where animals were part of the family. We had a dog, cats, a hamster, a guinea pig, a rabbit, and fish. When I grew up, I had the opportunity to work with more exotic animals, like tigers, lions, leopards, grizzly bears, elephants, and monkeys. I wanted to share what it’s like to interact with these amazing animals with other animal lovers.
3. Do you have any pets now?
I have an adorable cat who I adopted from the pound. I named her Nala, after a character in Disney’s The Lion King.
4. How long did it take for you to finish writing Wild Animal School?
About six months, then I spent another few months rewriting and editing.
5. Is Wild Animal School a stand-alone novel or is it a part of a series?
Wild Animal School is a stand-alone novel, however readers who read my second novel, Kid Docs, will find a nod to Wild Animal School in it, kind of like an inside joke, but it’s deadly serious.
6. If you must summarize Wild Animal School in one sentence, what would you share with the audience?
Wild Animal School lets readers vicariously pet a tiger, get licked by a grizzly bear, ride bareback on an elephant, and so much more.
7. Which of the characters in Wild Animal School is your favorite? Why?
As I was writing Wild Animal School, I fell in love with Tim. Tim is one of the professional animal trainers who guides 16-year-old Jessica through her experience at the exotic animal ranch. I initially loosely based him on two wonderful exotic animal trainers that I know, but as his character developed, he became his own person. He is the kind of friend that I think we all need in our lives.
8. Tell us one thing about Wild Animal School that kind of surprised you as you were writing it.
The final chapter. I had a pretty good idea where Wild Animal School was headed, up until the climax. After that, I hadn’t made any firm plans. The final chapter is one of my favorites, and it definitely surprised me.
9. I read somewhere that you’ve always been fascinated by the world of medicine. Tell me about that.
As a toddler, I would trace people’s hands, draw in the “bones,” and hand them back their “x-rays.” Today, in addition to being a writer, I’m also a pediatrician. I believe that being a writer makes me a better doctor, and vice versa.
10. What are you working on now?
I am planning my next novel. I’m also always researching and writing about bucket-list-worthy things to do all over the world for my website, mydreamcametrue.com.
Jenny, thank you so much for stopping by. It’s great to have you here today!
· · ·
Wild Animal School
By Jenny Lynne
Lindi walked around, mouth open, taking in the scents. When she finally lay down on the sand, Tim told me to put on a belt.
“Call her to this mark,” Tim instructed.
I pressed a hunk of meat onto the tip of my stick.
“Lindi, on your mark,” I said confidently.
Lindi came to the small rock I’d tapped, touching it with her paws. Before I could reward her, she lunged toward my reward stick. She didn’t actually touch the meat, but, when she landed, her paws were no longer next to the rock.
“Get her back on the mark,” Tim told me.
“On you mark,” I said firmly.
Lindi grumbled and hissed, but she put her paws back in place, touching the rock.
I moved the reward stick toward her, but I didn’t move fast enough for Lindi. She hissed, leapt at the meat, and grabbed it with her teeth. I jumped back.
As Lindi swallowed the meat, Ryan led her away.
“I flinched,” I said to Tim, disappointed in myself.
“She was after the meat, not you,” Tim told me. “You did the right thing.”
He was right; she wasn’t challenging me, she just wanted her reward. But when a lion lunges, hissing, at a stick in your hand, it feels almost like she’s lunging at you. Almost, but not exactly. Still, almost feels close enough to exactly that I’m sure that I don’t want to know what exactly feels like.
“Why is she so angry?” I asked Tim.
“She’s not.” Tim explained how she’d been taught to act hissy and grumbly as part of a circus act before they got her. “They thought that the more scary and fearsome the animals look the better.”
I remembered the tiger trainer I’d seen at the circus when I was little. His tigers didn’t act angry. I liked watching the trainer and his animals because it looked like they understood each other. That trainer was communicating with his tigers, not dominating them. He and his tigers were dancing, not fighting.
“That’s stupid,” I said to Tim.
“I couldn’t agree more.” Tim smiled at me.
Suddenly, Lindi barreled toward me. I didn’t have time to move out of the way, and Lindi didn’t seem to care. She ran right between my legs. With Lindi underneath me, my feet couldn’t touch the ground. I quickly jumped to one leg and brought the other one over her.
Apparently, Lindi had seen something behind me and had bolted over to investigate.
“I’m sorry, Jess,” Ryan said, as he retrieved the leash.
I was just glad to still be on my feet.
“I finally got my lion ride!” I joked.
Tim put his arm around my back and hugged me. “I think I can stop worrying about you. It looks like you can handle just about anything.”
· · ·
About the Author
Jenny Lynne has been researching Wild Animal School her entire life. As a child, she was surrounded by not-so-exotic animals, like dogs, cats, and a guinea pig. When she grew older, she spent time, both in the United States and abroad, working with, studying, and training tigers, lions, leopards, grizzly bears, monkeys, elephants, sea lions, dolphins, and killer whales.
Jenny Lynne’s second novel, Kid Docs, tells the story of ten-year-old Doctor Connor Hansen, who is part of an experimental program that trains young children to be doctors.