Wednesday, April 14, 2010

I met Jodi Picoult!!

She came to my university to do a book reading and a book signing and I have been anxiously awaiting this day for the past month or so. (I'm a huge book nerd and I happen to love her books). She did not disappoint. She's hilarious, down to earth and extremely personable. We had a Q & A after the reading and I'm going to try and recount her answers as best as I can because they were wonderful and hilarious.

So these are from my memory about an hour after the event not exact quotes and if I get something wrong and Jodi happens to read this (you know because I'm sure she'll find a random link to my blog) then I apologize Jodi.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about your research? 

She talked about the research she did on her latest book House Rules which deals with an autistic book who has a diagnosis of aspergers. She did expansive work observing and talking with teachers and students in schools in several areas. She also read had hundreds of children and their parents answer the questions. She got back hundreds of pages including 200 pages from one teenage girl with aspergers. That girl was such a phenomenal write that Jodi Picoult corresponded with her regularly to ensure that her character was authentic, and she also had this young woman read through the manuscript.

Additionally, she did a ton of research on the whole hype about autism and the link to vaccines. I won't get into everything she said but she was very through and well thought out on this and did an excellent job explaining both sides and then citing accurate research.

Q. Can you talk about your writing process (this was ask by me. I was hoping for some insight so I could write my own best selling novels, sell the rights for a screen play and live happily ever after). Unfortunately,  her system will not work for me. 

Each book starts with a question that she keeps thinking about and can't get out of her mind. If this question stays there for a couple of weeks that's usually a sign for her that it should be a book. Then the characters just show up in her head and start talking to her. (She described this as something like useful schizophrenia where she gets to make a living from her voices) and then once that becomes clear. She stops everything and starts her research. Once that's all taken care of she sits down and writes the entire thing out from start to finish in the order that we get to read the book. A novel usually takes her 9 months and her husband buys her a "congrats. on your new baby ballon" at the end of each nine months.

Q. How did you feel about the director changing the movie ending of My Sisters Keeper?
She was not happy. When she sold the rights to the movie the director told her he wouldn't change it unless it absolutely couldn't be helped and he would have a conversation with her about it. This did not happen and instead she found out about it  by email from a friend who got a copy of the manuscript. Jodi called the producer and he wouldn't talk to her. She went to the set to ask about what was going on and the director threw her off of it, and to this day she still doesn't know why.

She went on to say, that when a writer sells their book to a director it's sort of like an adoption. You don't get to call each night and ask if the babies been fed and taken care of. Later on you might find out that the baby went on to have a great family, good life, successful education, and sometimes you might find out you gave your baby to a crack whore (and that crack whore bit is a direct quote).

Q. Would you ever sell another one of your books to that director? 
"Hell no!" (direct quote). According to Jodi, when a book is as successful as My Sisters Keeper and sells as many copies as it did you probably shouldn't mess with a good thing.

Q. How do you balance work life with being a wife and mother? 
Her children are all in their teens now and mostly self sufficient, but she owes a lot of her success to the support of her husband who took on a lot of the day to day care. He's amazing with knowing she goes on tours, but she also has the ability and flexability to make sure she doesn't miss the concerts, plays and other big events in her children's life. Her children have always known that they come first.

Q. Did you always know you wanted to be a writer? 
She always knew she would write. She started writing at 5 and just kept on doing it. She would write even if nobody read, because she can't not write. In college she sent a short story to 17 magazine and received a call back that someone wanted to buy it. She was ecstatic and called her mom and said, "I'm going to be a writer" to which her mom responded, "Great who's going to support you?" So Jodi Picoult went to work on Wall Street (which she claims is a miracle because she's not good with numbers). She then states she was lucky enough to work there during the crash of 1987 and received a nigh severance package and she moved away from there. Then she taught 8th grade English, got married, had a baby in a span of two years. After that she knew she wasn't going back to teach 8th grade because of layoffs and the fact she just had a baby, so she pulled out a novel she had been working on at that time, finished it, sent it to an agent, who sold it in three months.

Q. How do you decide your titles? 
Sometimes they are there from the start. Plain Truth was always going to be called Plain Truth even before it was written. Sometimes she has no idea and sends them off without titles and hopes someone else can come up with something.

Q. Any advice for young writers?
Just write and write every single day. Also don't scrape something until it's totally finished even if you think it's the worst thing ever written in the entire world. When it's all finished re-evaluate and if it still sucks scrap it but it might surprise and it might be worth fixing. Also take a creative writing class to learn how to be your own best critic.

Q. What was your favorite moment doing writing?
Doing the research for Second Glance which included a lot of paranormal research. She told a really creepy story that happened while she worked with some guys who specialized in finding ghosts.

Q. What's next? (I can't wait for this book!!)
It's a book about gay rights and embryo adoption. To top it off the main character does music therapy so each chapter in the book is going to be a different tract, and Jodi Picoult wrote a song for each chapter and the book will include a recorded CD that goes along with each chapter. The topic sounds amazing and the music is an added bonus.

That's most of what I can remember. She was hilarious and I loved meeting her.  I'm sad because my picture turned out really blurry. Oh, well such is life.
Me & Jodi Picoult

Reading from her latest book House Rules. 

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