New York Times-bestselling author Jodi Picoult is in the District this week, promoting her new novel, "Sing You Home." Picoult chats exclusively with Niteside about her journey as an author, her son coming out, and why the movie "My Sister's Keeper" was painful for her.
You are one of the world's best-selling authors. What was your journey like to becoming a writer? Did you always know it's what you wanted to do?
My mom told me that I started writing when I was five years old, but if you had told me I would make a living off of being a writer, I never would have believed you. I went to Princeton and did the Living and Breathing Writers program, and from there I just kept on writing.
"My Sister's Keeper" was a phenomenal book that was played out on the big screen. What was that process like for you?
It was actually a pretty painful process. When you give up the rights to your book for a film, it's like giving up a baby for adoption. You can't call to check on it every day. It was really important to me that the ending stay the same as the book, so when I interviewed the director Nick Cassavetes before he was hired, he promised me the ending would not change, and unfortunately he lied to my face.
However, a fan who worked at a casting agency actually got ahold of the final script and notified me that the ending had indeed changed. When I went to inquire about the change on set, Nick threw me off.
Until this day, I still don't know why he changed the ending. I do know that the movie was not as financially successful as they thought it would be, and I believe that's mostly because the demographic for the movie were people who read and loved the book.
You wrote your first book in 1992 -- how have you changed as a writer since then?
I can describe something with much cleaner language. It used to take me a paragraph to really describe a situation or something; now I can do it in five words or less. The story and character aspect of my writing haven't changed, but technically I've become a much better writer.
"Sing You Home" is your new novel. What message do you want people to take away with them when they read it?
Acceptance! The book is about gay rights and as someone who's traveled to a lot of first-world countries, it seems that America is one of the only places who still has issues with gay rights.
The book became personal to me when my son, who is now 19, came out to my husband and myself when I was writing the book. All of a sudden, it was not a philosophical journey that I happened to be writing -- it was personal. I would like the world to be a different place by the time my son is ready to get married and have kids. I also couldn't be happier with the stance that President Obama has taken with gay rights.
What do you want your legacy as a writer to be?
I would love to know that people are still reading my books when I'm long gone. I write commercial fiction -- we don't win national awards, Pulitzers, etc. When you think historically the... literary canons of our time were people like Shakespeare. I'd love to know that when I'm gone people are still reading great fiction, even if it's not mine.