I’ve often wondered how fiction writer Jodi Picoult continues to produce such a huge body of work.
Now I’ve seen her chat to a packed Kings Hall, three weeks after the official close of the Ilkley Literature Festival, I know why; she is so enthusiastic about the subjects of her stories that words spill from her mouth like rain from a thundercloud.
She was here to talk about her latest book, Leaving Time, which she said was inspired by her youngest daughter leaving for university and, therefore, the bond between mothers and daughters.
Then she came across an article about elephants which said mother and daughter elephants will never leave each other until one of them dies. And so the story of a girl whose mother studied elephant grief but one night disappears was born.
Picoult read us a couple of extracts and it sounds like another cracker. The usual vivid characters, quick pace and layered plots. Picoult said her characters come to her fully formed, waving at her, talking to her.
“I sometimes feel I’m paid to be schizophrenic,” she said, explaining that the fictional voices are so clear in her head. When those characters stories don’t feel finished, she’ll bring them back in a later novel.
Despite this, Picoult described research as “the best bit”, and those who have read some of her books will be well aware of how in depth her knowledge of her subjects truly is.
To prove this point, and to help persuade the audience to be more active in their elephant conservation, she spent a slightly bizarre 15 minutes describing some of the nature of the creatures and tales she’d heard during her rigourous research process.
Don’t get me wrong, it was fascinating (did you know, for example, that elephants are the only creatures aside from humans to empathize with other species), I just didn’t expect it!
She said that each story she writes is a “what if” question the she can’t answer and so debates through her books, and hopes she brings the readers through the same learning process that she goes through.
And she revealed how readers could track the big struggles in her life through her books – through relationship troubles, terrible dilemmas or incidents involving children and then as her own kids grew up, she’s been able to open up her subjects further.
This extraordinary woman took the audience’s questions with relish and still her answers poured out full steam ahead.
She sent her first book off to 100 agents before being accepted and it is that tenacity mixed with her total vivacious personality that had the huge audience eating out of this bouncy-haired powerhouse’s hands.
It’s a phrase used too often, but Jodi Picoult is a real inspiration.
More Ilkley News
I really enjoyed Nicola Griffith’s talk at Ilkley Literature Festival, so I couldn’t wait to start reading Hild, the first book in a projected series about the girl who would one day become St Hilda of Whitby. The book itself is gorgeous to look at and 500+ pages, a real epic.
I got into it straight away. As I said in my review of the talk, Griffith spent 30 years researching this, and the book transports you straight into 7th century Britain, with every detail of sight, sound, taste and smell. In some ways it reminded me of Juliet Marillier, who also writes in the so-called Dark Ages. [Read More...]
Reviewer JY Saville, http://thousandmonkeys.wordpress.com on David Almond.
David Almond – former teacher, current children’s author – was here to talk about The Tightrope Walkers, a novel for adults, but there was a lot of discussion about formative experiences, childhood, and the importance of early encouragement.
We learnt that David had an uncle who was a writer (never published, though it sounded as though he was prolific), and he taught the young David to write for enjoyment rather than to get acclaim from the world. This uncle, together with the branch library at the end of the street which provided him with much early reading material, encouraged him down a literary path. He mentioned the importance of libraries and at the book-signing table afterwards (where he kindly signed my ticket, since I’d borrowed The Tightrope Walkers from the library) we talked about the potential lack of future working class writers if all the local libraries are taken away – we have to keep fighting for them, he said. [Read More...]
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