A Couple of weeks ago, Amanda and I went to hear Jodi Picoult talk about her books and writing at The Palace Theatre in Manchester. Ms. Picoult happens to be Amanda's favorite author and one of mine as well. Her books were the first adult fiction books I shared with Amanda, and now she can't get enough. We're looking forward to her next event already!
When Kate learned we were going to hear her talk, she said she would be hesitant to listen to her favorite writer actually speak, and I understood completely; the experience might take away a bit of the magic. However, I'm happy to say that Amanda and I were not disappointed. We expected her to be well-spoken and engaging, but we were pleasantly surprised at how funny she was. She is a born storyteller—on the page and in person.
The room was filled with women—mothers and daughters, friends, and we suspect lots of book club groups, but there were a few men in the audience as well. In fact, she says her male and female readers are almost equal. She spoke about her favorite books—Second Glance and Nineteen Minutes, and her current book, Leaving Time—and the stories behind those stories.
We learned a great deal about her writing process as well. She takes 9 months to write a book. She and her husband refer to them as babies and he gives her either a blue or pink balloon once it's finished. She's often writing more than one book at a time (researching another while editing the one she's currently writing), usually knows the ending before she begins, and she always starts with the question, "what if?". That's how she comes up with her ideas. Sounds simple, right? Well, if you've read any of her books, you know that they're filled with details. That "what if" question leads to lots of research, which she does first and before writing a word. She calls it finding the fact behind the fiction.
She explained how she researches a particular subject and talked openly about some of the people who have helped her with that research, including a certain New England paranormal team you may be familiar with, lots of law enforcement, and a host of specialists. She's spent time in jail and on movie sets, observed open heart surgery, traveled across many continents, and has seen the world in ways I can't even imagine. I'm sure there were many would-be writers mentally tossing out their manuscripts that night.
After the Q&A session, I asked Amanda what she would have asked given the chance. She replied, "If you could live the life of any character you have written, who would it be and why?" Excellent question, and one I would love to hear the answer to. So once we were in line to have our books signed, I told her she should ask it then. As we approached the table, Amanda froze. I cleared my throat and started to talk about the book she was signing for me. I wanted to draw out the conversation so Amanda would start to feel at ease and ask her question. She never did. Nor did she ever tell her that the book she was signing for her she had read six times and it was her favorite (Vanishing Acts). She was starting to make me nervous. It was all I could do to get her to pose for this picture. She was completely star-struck.
Her next book is the sequel to the YA novel, Between the Lines, she wrote with her daughter. If Amanda was willing to read adult fiction, it was time I returned the favor in kind. We've all talked about theming our summer reading this year—Kate is thinking of Jane Austen, Amanda is undecided at the moment, and I'm thinking I'll read all young adult novels. The sequel to Between the Lines is coming out in May so it'll be perfect.
What's next? Well, having just returned from Botswana, she was inspired and is currently writing about race relations in America.
Leave it to Jodi Picoult. I expect the book will be both informative and entertaining, as usual.