Jodi Picoult was our first guest of 2013. She is the best-selling author of 18 novels, including My Sister’s Keeper and Sing Me Home. Her last five novels have debuted at number one on the New York Times best-seller list.
Jodi was in South Africa to promote Lone Wolf, the novel that explores the thin line between medical science and moral choices.
I think most aspiring novelists will be happy to find out that it wasn’t easy to get there. Jodi first studied creative writing and had two short stories published while still a student. She worked as a technical writer, as a copywriter, as a textbook editor, and as an 8th grade English teacher, before achieving success as a novelist.
How she started
She says she owes her success to determination and a wonderful husband who has supported her writing career. ‘I always say the miracle of my early writing career with three children under five years old, and writing a book a year, is that my husband didn’t divorce me.’
What is the best book she’s written?
Jodi says that Second Glance is her favourite book. She says she found it the most challenging to write.
‘Some novels are difficult to write on an emotional level, others on a technical level. I found that writing novels with children who were the same age as my children, were difficult to write. I had to be careful not to include things my children did or said in these cases.’
About Lone Wolf
Jodi first got the idea for Lone Wolf speaking with a doctor on a plane more than 10 years ago. She asked him not to forget her because she wanted to write about brain injuries one day. When she called him, he mentioned that she’d done quite well for herself in the intervening years.
Jodi starts her working day at 07:30.
‘I go up to my office. It’s just two floors up in my house. I first deal with all my emails. I get about 200 emails every day and I answer all my fan mail myself. I don’t have an assistant. After that I work. I write until 15:30, and then I magically become a mom again.’
She writes five days a week, and takes weekends and school holidays off. Her mother and her agent are her first readers.
Hollywood and Books
She mentions how hard she fought for the ending of My Sister’s Keeper to be the one she wrote when it was adapted for film.
‘The adaptation of that book was the worst experience of my writing career,’ she says. ‘I met with the film’s director, Nick Cassevetes, and he gave me his word. Then I got a phone call from someone in the industry who told me they had changed the ending. The director would not take my calls. I decided to visit the set. Needless to say, I was thrown off the set, and they filmed it with an ending I hadn’t written.’
Alice Hoffman is her favourite author because ‘she manages to write about love so beautifully’.
Jodi Picoult’s Top Three Writing Tips
- Read a ton. Reading will inspire you. It will also help you find out where you belong as a writer.
- Write every day. Treat writing as a job. There is no such thing as waiting for the muse. If you want to to be taken seriously as a writer, take writing seriously.
- Do not stop in the middle of your first book. Finish it. No matter what. All writers go through this. It’s more of a fear of not being good enough that makes you stop. You think, ‘What if I’m not as good as I thought I was?’ Do not allow it to stop you. If you don’t finish that first book you’re making life difficult for yourself.
Jodi Picoult is grounded, articulate, and determined. She has achieved success because she has worked hard.
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Interviewer: Amanda Patterson