The topic of this book was a heavy one. I know that you research your books heavily and also drew in your own circumstances about your son Jake . Was it emotionally hard to write? Did you cry a lot?
This was a tough one to research, yes. I spent a lot of time with pedi oncology patients - they were to a fault the most uplifting, happy, wisecracking lot you'll ever meet...but their parents are all smiling so hard and underneath waiting for the other shoe to drop. It's grueling, being with them day after day...and comparing it to my experience with Jake (the answer is, it NEVER compares - thankfully, Jake was never in a lifethreatening situation.) I think, ultimately, that my connection as a parent who had an ill child is what helped me to write Sara as a sympathetic character - you might WANT to hate her, but you can't, because of what she's endured.
All your characters -- Jesse, Kate, Anna, Sara and Brian -- are very real, almost people whom we have known...are they? Or are you just an amazing writer?
I'm an amazing writer. Period. No, just joking. I don't know how they get so real - they're that way when they start talking to me, so I just hold onto the reins and let them speak. They aren't anyone I know, personally. I never create a character based on someone I know because my characters really already have personalities, and that would be superfluous.
Your next book is Vanishing Acts. Is this also a very intense interaction between people, like all your books are?
Yup. It's the story of a 30-year-old woman who has it all - she's been happily raised by a single dad after her mom's death as an infant; she has a 4 y.o. daughter and is on the verge of marrying the dad, an on/off boyfriend; she has a search and rescue dog service...and as she's planning her wedding she starts recalling bits of a life she can't remember living. With a little help from a friend, she does some research...and learns she was abducted by her dad during a custody visit when she was four; that he moved her across country and changed her ID, and that her mom is alive and well in Arizona. The book takes place in AZ, as her dad goes back to stand trial for kidnapping. The woman, of course, has to wonder whether she can now believe her father when he says he HAD to steal her away for her own safety...or if that, like the rest of her life, is a lie. The novel, in my mind, is about who we trust to tell us the story of our lives before we can remember to tell it to ourselves.
Who are your favorite authors? What do you love about being a writer?
Alice Hoffman, hands down. Elizabeth Berg. Chris Bohjalian. JoAnn Mapson. Sue Miller. Anne Tyler. What I love most about being a writer is meeting my fans and hearing how much my books touch them - who wouldn't like that?? - and getting to learn all sorts of cool things when I do my research.
Apart from creating these incredible stories, what other gifts do you receive from being a writer? And what advice would you give to aspiring writers?
The gifts hit you broadside. Like when a depressed teenager tells you that she's not going to commit suicide, because she doesn't want to end up like Emily in The Pact. Or when a woman whose husband died of cancer last year writes after reading My Sister's Keeper and says that I completely nailed grief in those paragraphs, and that it took her away from her own problems. The biggest gift of all is being able to go to work every day and love what I do...not many folks can say that.
The advice I give aspiring writers is to JUST DO IT. Sit down. It's not inspiration, it's hard work - and it's not always easy. There are days you won't want to write; there are days you won't write well -- well, too bad - you just do it and edit the next day. You need self-motivation to succeed in this business, and you also need a thick skin, because you WILL get rejected. But selling a book is like selling a house - you don't need the whole world to love it, just one person...and then he/she does the legwork. If you continue to believe you can make it as a writer, eventually someone will look twice at you and wonder why you believe that so strongly. And sometimes, that second glance is all you need for a starting break.
Contributing reviewer Sonia Chopra conducted her interview with
Jodi Picoult via email for curledup.com.
Click here to read her review of My Sister's Keeper.