Well, Jodi Picoult is certainly very professional, but she was also terrific fun to talk with, not least because she was very happy indeed to offer forthright opinions on hot-button topics such as sex, politics and religion, and was also gloriously indiscreet about some of her fellow scribes.
The interview was published in the Evening Herald, and can be found here, but the version I sent in was cut off at the end, presumably for reasons of space. What follows is what Jodi said when I asked her (we’d been talking about her previous novel, SING ME HOME, and how gay characters are perceived in mainstream fiction) about how likely it was that she’d alienate some of her readers by insisting that her novels can’t just be entertainment, but need to deal with serious issues too. Quoth Jodi:
“I was on Twitter before you came in,” she says, “reading an interview in the Wall Street Journal with James Patterson, and thinking, ‘God, this guy’s killing me here.’ Basically, he wrote 13 books that are coming out next year.”
That’s ‘wrote’ in inverted commas, of course.
“Exactly. He gives an outline, and he gives a writer notes on it, and off it goes. And he says, look, this is commercial fiction, it’s not rocket science and I’m not a student of the craft. But I argue that you can be a writer of commercial fiction and a student of the craft. If I were to write a Patterson novel, I’d probably shoot myself in the head.
“There’s room for all of us on the bookshelves, even the purest of escapist fiction,” she continues. “But I do believe that if you are fortunate to have a podium, you really need to think about what you’re saying. And maybe for Mr Patterson it’s okay to simply entertain, but I would always want to do more than that.”