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updated 06/15/1998 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/15/1998 AT 01:00 AM EDT

>Judy Blume

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Judy Blume began writing Summer Sisters (Delacorte) much as she did her 1970 classic, Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret—as a story for young people. "I thought of two girls from very different family backgrounds coming to spend a series of summers together," says Blume, 60, of the book that evolved into her first adult novel in 14 years. By the end, Vix and Caitlin are 30. "I never dreamed that they would get so old," Blume says, smiling.

Not that her readers are likely to mind: Blume's books have sold 65 million copies, largely, she believes, because she writes about widely shared "inner feelings about growing up." Still, summoning those feelings can tax Blume, who lives on Martha's Vineyard and Key West with her third husband, writer George Cooper, 61. Her latest work endured a "difficult pregnancy of 20 drafts." When her son Larry, 34, read the manuscript, he wept, she says, and she hopes the novel's more adult themes will appeal to the under-20s as well. After all, says Blume, "a teenager is not going to buy a book in the children's department."

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