A turtle and a rhino, a dog and a goose, a donkey and a goat--the world is full of unlikely friendships and Jennifer S. Holland has made it her mission to track down these delightfully unusual stories and share them with the public. To date, she has published four main books in her “Unlikely Friendships” series all of which garnered critical acclaim a huge fan following. Jennifer is no stranger to animals, nature or investigative reporting--she earned a degree in Conservation Biology and has worked as a journalist for National Geographic for years and has even contributed to the New York Times.

Recently, she discussed her experiences working as a writer and her hopes for the future.


Blasting News (BN): How did you decide to become a writer?

Jennifer S. Holland (JSH): I've always written. My grandmother was very encouraging; she saved a lot of my work. When I was nine she said she thought I’d end up writing for a great publication like National Geographic!

BN: How did you secure a job with National Geographic?

JSH: After graduate school I went for an "informational Interview" with the head of the television research department at NG and convinced him to give me a shot, unpaid. After a month of researching natural history programs, he started to pay me and then hired me as staff.

When I heard a writing job opened at the magazine, I decided to take the extensive writing test and it led to a job!

BN: When and why were you inspired to start the “Unlikely Friendships” series?

JSH: I was fortunate that the publisher, Workman, contacted me after following my work in Nat Geo magazine. The editors liked my style and wanted to know if I'd thought about writing a book about Animals.

Usually, it's hard to get a book contract so I felt extremely lucky to have this opportunity. The idea of animals befriending other animals was becoming popular but no one had made a book about such stories. My initial book was the first of its kind. There are now four main books, plus a series of three little kids' books, so seven in total!

BN: Out of all the stories, which ones have you found to be the most touching and/or memorable?

JSH: Naki'o the dog that has the prosthetic legs has been such an inspiration to so many people, especially soldiers and kids who have had to learn to use arms or legs not their own. I also love the story of Chancer and Iyal, a case in which a dog became a great solace and friend to a boy with special needs. And of course, there are several stories of dogs that have actually saved another animal or a person...it's hard not to be touched by those!

BN: What is the most rewarding part of being an author?

JSH: When I hear from a reader that my work touched them, made them laugh or helped them through a difficult time in their lives it feels really great.

Also, I get to talk to a lot of kids during my book tours and they are so receptive to new ideas. They also get very excited about animals so I get a very warm welcome and a lot of enthusiasm at my talks.


BN: Where do you hope to be in ten years?

JSH: I love writing about evolutionary biology--how animals have become the way they are, what neat adaptations have helped them to thrive, what interesting relationships exist between, say, parasites and their hosts, etc., and I’d love to explore that in a book.

BN: What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?

JSH: Read and write as much as possible. Branch out from what you're most interested in and read/write about subjects that challenge you, maybe even that bore you.

If you can find a way to make them interesting, you have a great talent!

BN: Are there any upcoming projects you want to mention?

JSH: I am working on a project for The Nature Conservancy about hawksbill turtles and an article for National Geographic about macaques in Sulawesi, Indonesia, which will be out sometime in 2017.