An Interview with Jodi Picoult
by Angie Aspinall
Jodi Picoult, 44, is the bestselling author of 17 novels. She grew up in New York, studied creative writing at Princeton and gained a master’s degree in education from Harvard. She has worked as a technical writer for a Wall Street broker, a copywriter at an ad agency, an editor at a textbook publisher, an English teacher and – most recently – as the author of five issues of the ‘Wonder Woman’ comic book series.
Her novels are translated into forty languages in forty countries. Three have been made into television movies and My Sister’s Keeper was released as a major motion picture starring Cameron Diaz and Alec Baldwin in summer 2009. Jodi and her husband live in New Hampshire with their three children.
Your books always offer different perspectives on quite ‘difficult’ issues. Do you find it easy to see the other side of the argument in your everyday life?
Thankfully there is not a lot of conflict in my home life! One of the reasons I can write the sort of book that I write is because I have a wonderful husband and three brilliant kids. So generally my life away from the books is stress free.
“Bullying is such a big subject”
Where did the inspiration come from for your latest novel ‘Sing You Home’?
This is a much more personal book then before because half way through writing it, our elder son came out to us and I found myself wanting very much to make a difference to the world in which he would be growing up. To my mind, gay rights are one of the last constitutional rights we are not granted in the US. If this book can make his life easier in any way, then I will have done my job.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned when researching for a book?
The research into my subjects is crammed with fascination. I loved learning from kids who have Asperger’s syndrome for House Rules, and talking to survivors of Columbine for Nineteen Minutes was heartbreaking – and bullying is such a big subject. But I had the most fun in researching Second Glance – which was all about eugenics and ghosts – what a combination!
How much time do you spend with the people who offer you an insight into their lives?
I spend as much time as I can with people who help with research – in person, on the phone or on email. What often starts as a couple of email questions (as in Plain Truth) often develops into a week spent with a family – or multiple trips, as in my book centred on Death Row.
“I wasn’t going to accept Wonder Woman”
Motherhood is a key theme in your novels. Do you use any of your own experiences as a mother – or other personal life experiences in the books you write?
I try to leave me out of it – I have no intention to either influence you, the reader, or bring me or my family into the equation! Your novels centre on intense moral dilemmas.
Which, for you, was the most difficult one to write about?
Sing You Home was the hardest to write, primarily because of my son’s involvement.
Why Wonder Woman? How did that come about?
I wasn’t going to accept Wonder Woman, but my children helped me make up my mind! It was a fabulous project, but very complicated and something that I am immensely proud of! I am only the second women to write her since her creation!
Tell us about your book tour. This year’s tour for ‘Sing You Home’ is a multimedia experience!
The book includes a CD of original music by the main character, Zoe, who is a music therapist – and that makes the reading experience that much more personal and intense as you listen to the songs that correspond to each chapter. But of course, Zoe didn’t write that music. That was my friend Ellen Wilber, who wrote the music for my lyrics, and who sings on the CD as the voice of Zoe. When I go on book tour this year, Ellen will be coming along with her guitar, and in addition to hearing me do a reading and Q&A. You’ll get to listen to some live music!