Today we are chatting with Jen Ferguson, author of THE SUMMER OF BITTER AND SWEET
Read on for more about her, the book, and a giveaway!
Meet Jen Ferguson
Jen Ferguson is Michif/Métis and white, an activist, an intersectional feminist, an auntie, and an accomplice armed with a PhD in English and creative writing. Her favorite ice-cream flavor is mint chocolate chip. Visit her online at www.jenfergusonwrites.com.
About the Book: The Summer of Bitter and Sweet
In this complex and emotionally resonant novel about a Métis girl living on the Canadian prairies, debut author Jen Ferguson serves up a powerful story about rage, secrets, and all the spectrums that make up a person—and the sweetness that can still live alongside the bitterest truth.
Lou has enough confusion in front of her this summer. She’ll be working in her family’s ice-cream shack with her newly ex-boyfriend—whose kisses never made her feel desire, only discomfort—and her former best friend, King, who is back in their Canadian prairie town after disappearing three years ago without a word.
But when she gets a letter from her biological father—a man she hoped would stay behind bars for the rest of his life—Lou immediately knows that she cannot meet him, no matter how much he insists.
While King’s friendship makes Lou feel safer and warmer than she would have thought possible, when her family’s business comes under threat, she soon realizes that she can’t ignore her father forever.
YABC: What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
The answer is not what, but who: Jamie Pacton, friend and author of The Life and (Medieval) Times of Kit Sweetly, Lucky Girl and the forthcoming YA fantasy, The Vermillion Emporium.
We were chatting one day, and I was sad about yet another novel being rejected by agents. I was struggling to decide if I wanted to keep writing and if so, what I would write next.
I was also coming out as demisexual and thinking through a lot of colonial trauma around being of Métis and white ancestry. I was struggling to understand who I was and how to cobble together a whole self from the pieces of me.
Jamie said something like: why don’t you write about that.
The rest, they say, is written in the stars with a scoop of ice cream.
YABC: Who is your favorite character in the book?
I always feel bad answering this question because we’re not supposed to have favourites, right? Like parents don’t. But I do and it’s hands-down King Nathan.
He’s my favourite for a lot of reasons. King is genuinely a kind person. His heart is really big. He’s so careful with Lou and with others around him. Like, he’s a genuinely good friend. But he’s fully human too. Like everyone else, King has his issues—yet, he’s more emotionally literate than some of the other teens. And he adores books and words and stories. How could I not love him most?
Plus, I got to put a lot of my Toronto homesickness into King. It was cathartic to have him repping We the North and mentioning poutine, which is delicious by the by.
YABC: Which came first, the title or the novel?
The novel, certainly. My placeholder title was “The Michif Creamery” in honour of Lou’s family’s ice cream business, or, simply “The Ice Cream Book.” This is the first novel I’ve written where the title has been a struggle. I still had no idea what to call it when I was querying. My agent, Patricia Nelson, suggested The Summer of Bitter and Sweet and it stuck.
YABC: What do you like most about the cover of the book?
Too many things. Lou’s ice cream earrings! The hand-beaded title! Lou’s vulnerable body language! The crop top cause fashion! The blue motif in the background! I could go on…
YABC: Is there an organization or cause that is close to your heart?
Yes, I’m so happy you asked. The Summer of Bitter and Sweet tells a story about ice cream and figuring out who you are, yes, but it’s also about the many kinds of violence that are perpetrated against Indigenous girls and women, from #MMIWG2S to other kinds of colonial and state violence.
I’m partnering with Indigenous Vision, a nonprofit that works through education to empower Indigenous communities and Indigenous youth.
My goals is to raise $1,000 in support of their Girls Empowerment and #MMIWG Warriors program.
You can help! And yes, I have some cool raffle prizes in place too.
Donate 20$, which is about the cost of one book by an Indigenous author plus shipping to Indigenous Vision and send your receipt to this form and you’ll be entered into the raffle. Please write a short note with your donation: “for Girls Empowerment.”
I will happily match the first 1,000$ donated.
YABC: What advice do you have for new writers?
Take care of yourself so that you’re able to take care of others. Strengthen and protect your heart, your body, your mind, every part of you because the business of writing is full of rejection. I mean it will come at you from all directions. Even after you get yesses, there will be more noes ahead of you. In taking care of yourself, you’re taking care of your writing and the communities you belong to as well.
YABC: What’s up next for you?
I’m revising my second YA novel with Heartdrum, tentatively titled Pink Mountain Pizza. Also yes, my curse of being unable to title my own novels continues! Let’s hope Patricia or my editors Rosemary and Cynthia prove to be title magic once again. Because I need them. Desperately!
The book stars Berlin, a depressed perfectionist bisexual Métis teen; Cameron, a Cree teen who laughs at everything, even the things that hurt; and Jessie, a white settler who is both utterly boy-and-girl crazy. Together they’re going to take down capitalism. Or at least save Pink Mountain Pizza, an independent shop where the ragtag band of teenaged employees are largely left to their own devices to serve up weirdly delicious flavors like peanut butter and jelly pizza, each slice garnished with sharp cheddar. As they try to organize the community, they start to piece together rumors and gossip hinting at a much bigger story: the disappearance of a local Cree teen girl, who Berlin thinks she may have seen, late one night, closing the store, the day before the franchising news was revealed.
YABC: What would you say is your superpower?
Radical kindness and the ability to offer myself and others grace. It’s the only superpower I have. But I let you in on a secret: this superpower, it’s one you can develop.
Book’s Title: THE SUMMER OF BITTER AND SWEET
Author: Jen Ferguson
Release Date: 5/10/22
Genre: Contemporary teen/social themes
Age Range: 13 up
Five winners will receive a hardback copy of THE SUMMER OF BITTER AND SWEET (Jen Ferguson) ~US ONLY
*Click the Rafflecopter link below to enter the giveaway*