I know Lorie through her magazine,Kings River Life, which regularly publishes reviews and short fiction. I was thrilled therefore to hear that she had a new novel out – her sixth – One of Us, the first in a new series, and even more overjoyed that she wanted to share her love for a kind of pet that many of us – especially us cat people – might not expect. Take it away, Lorie!

Animals have always been a great love of mine—I feel like I was born with a connection to them. I got my first dog, Max, not long after I learned how to walk, and he was my constant companion. I have been told that I also had a pet rooster that I would carry around the yard. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have at least one pet, if not more—usually dogs. 

However, when my oldest son Jay was in fourth grade I was introduced to a type of pet I never would have expected to have—a pet rat. Jay fell in love with the classroom pet rat and begged to have one of his own. I was terrified of wild mice and rats (those people you see on TV who jump on the table when they see one, that was me), but I finally gave in, with the condition that I would never have to take care of it. My husband went to the pet store and brought home a pair of rats—one tan and one black and white—they were named Buffy and Dotty. Right away, Buffy became very sick, and I was the one who had to step in and care for her. Very quickly I fell in love with these wonderful pets. Pet rats are nothing like wild ones. For one, they are smaller. They also clean themselves like cats, and can be trained to do tricks and come when they are called like dogs. They are also very affectionate. Rats come in a multitude of colors—there are even Siamese ones. There are also hairless rats, rex rats, and dumbo rats (my personal favorite).

In my new mystery novel, One of Us, my main character Roxi Carlucci has a pet rat named Merlin. He is a dumbo rat. Dumbo rats have big round ears set more off to the side, and a smaller, rounder face (think Dumbo the elephant). My hope is that through getting to know Merlin more people will get to see how wonderful pet rats can be. Amazing how one encounter can change your life forever—I will always be grateful for that classroom pet who opened the door for pet rats to become a part of my life. 

(You can learn more about pet rats by visiting the website of pet rat rescue Rattie Ratz. They also have a monthly column in my online magazine Kings River Life.

Other pets in One of Us include a black cat named Dan, and a pit bull named Watson. Black cats and pit bulls also suffer from unwarranted stigma—my hope is that my books will help others realize how wonderful all of these animals are.)

One of Us is available on Amazon, on the Nook at Barnes and Noble and print, and Kobo

Lorie Lewis Ham lives in Reedley, California, and has been writing ever since she was a child. Her first song and poem were published when she was 13, and she has gone on to publish many articles, short stories, and poems throughout the years, as well as write for a local newspaper, and write six mysteries. For the past 11 years, Lorie has been the editor-in-chief and publisher of Kings River Life Magazine, and she produces Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast where you can now hear an excerpt of her new book One of Us. You can learn more about Lorie and the new book on her website mysteryrat.comand find her on Twitter @mysteryrat and Facebook. Another way to keep up with Lorie’s writing is to subscribe to her newsletter, which you can do on her website.  

Lorie has been married to Larry for 30 years and they have two grown children—Jayce and Joseph Ham. She currently has five cats (Merlin, Sam, Dean, Sidney, and Willow), four dogs (Lestat, Huey, Xander, and Phoebe), and a pet dwarf rabbit (Sherlock). For many years, she worked in pet rat rescue, and has had many pet rats of her own over the years.