Ten Terrifying Questions
1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
I was born in NY, in suburbia on Long Island. The houses all looked the same and were called the Storybook development. Self-fulfilling prophecy, perhaps? I went to public school and had some great English teachers who encouraged me to write – and to apply to Princeton University, which had one of the best undergraduate creative writing programs in the US. I got accepted and worked there with Mary Morris, primarily (an amazing writer!). I truly believe if not for Mary, I wouldn’t be a writer today.
A writer. For real. It was my dream, but I never imagined it would happen. At first I didn’t care if anyone ever read my stuff; I just wanted to see it in print. But even when I was thirty and published I dreamed of writing books that sold well enough to actually contribute to my family income (which took much longer than you’d imagine!)
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
That what matters the most for your future is finding a career that will help you support your family. I know now that you should follow what you love. The money somehow will come, if you have that passion for your work.
4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?
GONE WITH THE WIND, because when I read it at age 12 I thought that maybe I could do the same, and create a whole world out of words; THE GREAT GATSBY, because it was my first experience with an unreliable narrator and since then I’ve loved playing with the dichotomy between what the reader knows and what the narrator knows; THE SUN ALSO RISES, because of Hemingway’s parity of language and the way he constantly reminds us there are some topics and emotions that cannot be explained in mere words.
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
Because this story demanded it. I write original musicals, too, which are performed by a teen theater group to raise money for charity, but they are usually of a very different mood/tone. The nice thing about a novel is that it allows you to raise a topic many people don’t want to explore (really, do you want to pick up a nonfiction book about end-of-life care??) However, by living vicariously through the experiences of the characters, the reader can find him/herself learning something personally relevant.
6. Please tell us about your latest novel… Lone Wolf
Edward Warren, 23, has been living in Thailand for five years, a prodigal son who left his family after an irreparable fight with his father, Luke. But he gets a frantic phone call: His dad lies comatose in a NH hospital, gravely injured in the same accident that has also injured his younger sister Cara.
Cara, 17, still holds a grudge against her brother, since his departure led to her parents’ divorce. In the aftermath, she’s lived with her father – an animal conservationist who became famous after living with a wild wolf pack in the Canadian wild. It is impossible for her to reconcile the still, broken man in the hospital bed with her vibrant, dynamic father.
With Luke’s chances for recovery dwindling, Cara wants to wait for a miracle. But Edward wants to terminate life support and donate his father’s organs. Is he motivated by altruism, or revenge? And to what lengths will his sister go to stop him from making an irrevocable decision?
LONE WOLF looks at the intersection between medical science and moral choices. If we can keep people who have no hope for recovery alive artificially, should they also be allowed to die artificially? Does the potential to save someone else’s life with a donated organ balance the act of hastening another’s death? And finally, when a father’s life hangs in the balance, which sibling should get to decide his fate?
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?
9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
I’ve been so lucky in my career that I have achieved many of my personal goals for my writing. I would love to have a movie adapted WELL from one of my books (notice I don’t count My Sister’s Keeper as evidence of that). I’d like to be interviewed on a morning wakeup TV show in America (they don’t think fiction writers have anything to say.) And I’d like to see more women reviewed in general by literary outlets like the New York Times and National Public Radio – there is a gender disparity in my country.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Write, every day. Even if it’s just for 20 minutes. Don’t answer the phone, don’t talk to your mother, etc. Take a workshop writing course, so you learn to give and get criticism and be your own best editor. And when you reach the point where you think your story is truly the worst piece of garbage created and want to throw it out…don’t. What you’re REALLY afraid of is finishing and finding out you’re not as good as you assumed you are. Instead, you should finish that story and edit it until it is flawless, and something you’re satisfied with. Otherwise, you’ll never believe you can actually finish any piece of fiction. And read. A ton. It will inspire you to be just as clever, prolific, and eye-opening as the authors you admire.
Jodi, thank you for playing.
How cool is this!? Jodi Picoult also answered my very silly Five Facetious Questions…
About the Contributor
While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. Now, as the Director of Books at booktopia.com.au, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection.