Thursday, 5 July 2012

Interview with Bestselling Author Jodi Picoult and Her Daughter Samantha Van Leer on Their New Novel Between the Lines

Jodi Picoult, for many years now, has been my favourite author of adult fiction so to say that I was excited to hear that she was coming out with a new book, this time co-written with her teenage daughter Samantha, for Young Adults (which just so happens to be my favourite genre) would be a huge understatement. I was fortunate enough to read and review a copy of Between the Lines early and really enjoyed it so I was thrilled to have the chance to interview both Sammy and Jodi about the book and have some of my questions answered. In case Between the Lines isn’t on your radar yet here’s a little bit about what it’s about...

Delilah knows it's weird, but she can't stop reading her favourite fairy tale. Other girls her age are dating and cheerleading. But then, other girls are popular.
She loves the comfort of the happy ending, and knowing there will be no surprises.
Until she gets the biggest surprise of all, when Prince Oliver looks out from the page and speaks to her.
Now Delilah must decide: will she do as Oliver asks, and help him to break out of the book? Or is this her chance to escape into happily ever after?
Read between the lines for total enchantment...

Interview with Sammy and Jodi 


First of all how did it feel to write with your mom a world-wide bestselling author? Was there any pressure to appeal to her fans?
To me, she’s not famous – she’s just my mom. So the challenge was really in staying focused, and doing the work. I wasn’t thinking about her fans, really; just THIS book. It was REALLY hard to sit for hours at a computer and just WRITE. I sometimes wanted to get up and burst through the window – and I’m sure there were times she wanted to kill me because I got distracted. But then there were times it was really amazing to work together. Sometimes we tripped over each other’s sentences just to get to the next line – it was sort of like we were having the same dream and seeing exactly the same images in our heads, so that when we were writing we were telepathic.

Between the Lines was originally your idea, how did you come up with the story?
I was daydreaming in French class (I know, I should have been focusing…) when I started to wonder what happens when a book is closed. What’s it like for the characters? Can they see us? What does it feel like for them, when we read? Through the rest of that period, I tossed around the idea of what would become our book. When I went home I called my mom, who was on book tour, and told her I had an idea for a story. She was intrigued and started adding her opinions – and suggested we write the book together.

How does it feel to be a published author so young? How did you find the time to write on top of school and everything else? 
We wrote during school vacations, on weekends, over the summer. It was really hard to find the time. But it turns out it’s even harder to find time to do the interviews leading up to the publication of the book, because I’m a junior now and taking lots of standardized tests to get into college, and also playing varsity softball. So the publisher has to set up phone calls with newspapers and magazines for me at 8PM! As for being a published author – it doesn’t feel “real” yet. I’m more worried about getting a good grade in Chemistry class!

Is writing full time a career path you want to go down? And can we expect any more books from you any time soon? 
I love to write, and I write poetry all the time, but I don’t know if I’ll be a full-time writer. I feel like I have a really good sense of how hard that career path is after writing this book, but there’s a lot more I want to explore too – like psychology. I’ll be pretty busy at college so I don’t know when I’ll have time to write another book! 

Lastly did your mom give you any good writing tips? Did you learn anything from her during this experience? 
I learned to respect my mom’s profession. It’s hard work! And I also learned how similar we can be, when we’re writing.


Between the Lines is very different to your other books, how did it feel to write a YA novel? 
It wasn’t that different to write, really. The characters still have to ring true – even if one of them is a fairytale prince. Plus, the themes in BTL – like to whom does a story really belong – are very adult concepts. Add to this the general unease Delilah and Oliver feel about not fitting in and frankly, it’s very similar to the things I address in my adult books. The difference was the humor. Although I write humor into my grownup novels, it isn’t as broad as some of the jokes in here, and I rarely have characters like Socks, whose job is purely to lighten the mood. 

How did you find co-writing with Sammy instead of alone? Was it a big adjustment? 
I have collaborated before – when I wrote Wonder Woman for DC Comics. But this was very different because there were times I felt like Sammy and I were two halves of the same brain. We’d be writing together and we’d finish each others sentences, as if we were both seeing the same image of what was supposed to be on the page. I’ve never had that sort of experience before –and it wasn’t an adjustment; it was really a pleasure! 

Between the Lines began as Sammy's idea, did anything significantly change or develop as you wrote the book together? 
Yes. We had a few arguments, some of which she won and some of which I won! She was insistent that the fairytale bits sound like a traditional gothic fairytale; I wanted it to be tongue-in-cheek. She fought me and she was ultimately right. I wanted Oliver to be dark-haired; she wanted him blond…I won that one. We also made some significant edits to the book in subsequent drafts. Delilah’s friend Jules didn’t exist in the first version; neither did Frump’s backstory. I think they’re both incredibly important additions to the story. One thing that DIDN’T change – the last line. Sammy came up with that very early in the writing process, and we put it at the bottom of the Word document, and just kept writing toward it

Is writing for Young Adults or any other genre for that matter something you might explore again in the future? 
I think a lot of my grownup novels are appealing to YA because I often include a narrator from that age group. I will probably continue to explore some major themes of growing up through those characters in my adult novels. Then again, it was great fun writing this book with my daughter and I’d love to do another one with her! 

What's been your favourite part of creating this book with your daughter? 
How many moms get to spend hours with a daughter, creating something that lets you feel incredibly proud of her intellect, her creativity, and her determination? I couldn’t be more proud of Sammy for tackling this and for putting her heart and soul into the writing of the story. And I am SO looking forward to touring with her in the US, UK and Australia. There will be some major shopping, I’m sure!

Between the Lines is published by Hodder & Stoughton and is released today! For more information on Between the Lines you can visit my review here, add this book to your goodreads wishlist, or buy the book from Amazon

Many thanks to Kerry at Hodder for arranging this interview and to Jodi and Sammy for taking the time out of their busy schedules to be on the blog today!


  1. This is such a fab interview Jess! I didn't realise that Jodi and her daughter had co-written this, but I think I may need to check it out!

    1. Glad you enjoyed it Jasprit! I hope you decide to check it out :)

  2. Great interview, Jess! I'm really excited to read this one as I'm a fan of Jodi's adult novels (The Pact and My Sister's Keeper are two of my all time fave books) so I'm very interested in seeing how she deals with YA. Loved reading about the mother/daughter writing process!

    1. Agreed The Pact and My Sister's Keeper are two of my all time favourite books too! I'm really glad you liked the interview :)

  3. Brilliant interview Jess. This book sounds so interesting - it's gone straight on my wish list! Thanks xx

    1. Yay! Glad it's on your wish list Amanda!


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