Jodi Picoult

Jodi PicoultJodi Picoult is the bestselling author of of twenty-three novels. Her last eight novels have debuted at number one on the New York Times bestseller list. Her books are translated into thirty four languages in thirty five countries and four of her books, ‘The Pact’, ‘Plain Truth’, ‘The Tenth Circle’, and ‘Salem Falls’ were made into television movies and ‘My Sister’s Keeper’ was adapted for the silver screen. She lives with her husband Tim and their three children in Hanover, New Hampshire. ‘Leaving Time’ is Jodi’s latest novel and I am excited to welcome her to Handwritten Girl.

  1. Can you tell us about your new book ‘Leaving Time?’
    Yes of course – it is about 13-year-old Jenna Metcalf, who is on a quest, searching for her mother, Alice, an elephant researcher, who disappeared 10 years earlier after a tragic accident at their sanctuary for former circus/zoo elephants in New England. The book explores the mother-daughter relationship, be it elephant or human, and the idea that those we can’t forget are never truly gone.
  2. You were a writer for DC Comics writing the Wonder Woman series. If you were to be a superhero, what would your superpower be?
    I would choose the ability to change people’s minds.
  3. Your stories are often of complex and sensitive issues such as the Nineteen Minutes with the school shooting and My Sister’s Keeper, a teenage girl battling for the ownership of her body. What has been the hardest book to write?
    My last book, ‘The Storyteller’, which was based around the Holocaust, is somewhere near the top of the list – the research was among some of the most emotionally grueling I’ve ever done. I met with several Holocaust survivors, who told me their stories. Some of those details went into the fictional history of my character, Minka. It was humbling and horrifying to realize that the stories they recounted were non-fiction. Some of the moments these brave men and women told me will stay with me forever.
  4. In relation to ‘My Sister’s Keeper’ how did you feel about the adaptation, were you happy about the changes?
    It’s hard for people to believe, but when Hollywood adapts a movie to the screen, the author is pretty much at the bottom of the totem pole. You sell the rights and it’s like giving a baby up for adoption – you aren’t allowed to call daily and ask what she’s been fed for breakfast. Of course, you hope that the family you’re trusting with your baby is a good one, and that she’ll turn out well in the long run…but there are no guarantees. There was a lot of wonderful stuff in the movie version – most notably the performances, which I really enjoyed and by which I was really moved. There were some scenes added that weren’t in the book which I loved (the beach scene, for example). But the ending IS different. Let’s leave it there!
  5. If you were starting your writing journey over again, would there be anything that you would do differently the second time around?
    I really don’t think so – I have worked hard and been lucky enough to be successful and I really can’t ask for more.
  6. You wrote a teenage fantasy book with your daughter, how did you find working on a new genre and with a partner particularly your daughter?
    I have always written adult fiction and I’ve always been delighted that so many young adults have found their way to my stories when they are emotionally ready to do so. After all, I used to joke, after you’ve read all the Harry Potter books, what’s next!? I have also gotten letters from parents asking me how old their child should be before reading one of my stories. To me, ‘Between the Lines’ is a great fit for preteens and younger teens who may not be quite ready to tackle moral and ethical dilemmas in fiction. There are characters their own age, feeling feelings they have probably felt. As in my other novels, the teens in the book seem very real – they talk and act like adolescents (I know this, because I had a bonafide one co-writing with me!). And working with Sammy was a blast! We had such fun and I realised totally what a smart kid she is. Look out for the follow-up novel, ‘Off the Page’, next summer in the UK.
  7. What authors do you admire?
    Alice Hoffman, F Scott Fitzgerald, Margaret Mitchell, Stephen King and Shakespeare of course. Then there is Alice Hoffman, Jo-Ann Mapson, Alice Hoffman, Anita Shreve, Ann Hood, Amy Tan, Diana Gabaldon, Alice Hoffman, Jacquelyn Mitchard, Emma Donoghue, Alice Hoffman, Jennifer Weiner, Susan Isaacs, Dan Chaon, Aimee Bender, Elinor Lipman, Chris Bohjalian, Ann Tyler, and Jane Hamilton. Oh, and did I mention Alice Hoffman?
  8. I remember reading ‘My Sister’s Keeper’ on the bus and quite openly crying at the end. Has there been a book that has affected you in an similar way?
    ‘My Sister’s Keeper’ came from our own experience of putting one child in front of another – because you have to – not because you love them more. So you could say that it affected me hugely because it was personal on many levels. At the age of 5, our son Jake came down with cholesteatoma, a benign tumor in his left ear. However, we were told it could get to the brain and kill him… so we had to get rid of it. We took an experimental approach that required multiple surgeries — 13 of them. Had we used a more traditional approach, Jake would have been profoundly deaf. There was so much going on with Jake at the time that the other kids had to wait until we got back to them, so to speak. They seem ok about it now, though!
  9. If you were to start your own book club, what authors would you ask to join?
    All those I admire!
  10. What career would you have chosen if you weren’t a writer?
    That’s easy – I would have been a baker!
  11. Can you describe your writing routine
    I don’t work on weekends, usually (although I have been known to sneak up to an office when I’m in the middle of a chapter – I hate leaving my characters hanging!) But other than that, I’m a workaholic. I will start a new book the day after finishing a previous one. What you need to remember, however, is that there’s nothing I’d rather be doing than writing. My kids know that I need it like some people need medication – as a preventative, because when I don’t write for a few days, I get predictably cranky. They’ve become used to sharing me with people who don’t really exist, but who are incredibly real to ME while I’m telling their stories. A book takes nine months to research and write …yes, it’s like having a baby! And I write every day in my office at home.
  12. And finally do you have any new exciting new projects on the horizon?
    My next book will be ‘Living Colour’ and it is about race in America, in the present day. It is a book that has pushed me the furthest into confronting my own unseen prejudices and privileges as a white woman in America. Too often, and too recently, we have seen acts of violence taking place that have a root of racism at their core… It is the one conversation America and many other countries doesn’t want to have. It’s too scary, it’s hard, and we fear saying the wrong thing even if we are well-intentioned. Which is exactly why I think we need to start talking. I hope my book prompts that.

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