Jodi Picoult

Bestselling author Jodi Picoult, whose novels include My Sister's Keeper, The Pact and Change of Heart talks to about her books and writing tips

Early life
I had a ridiculously happy childhood growing up in the suburbs of New York City. I think I’m drawn to writing about dark subjects because I have this wonderful safety net in my home life and family – I don’t live these things, so I’m willing to walk on the wild side. I also think that superstitiously, if I attack a subject fictionally, maybe I’m immune to it personally!

I’ve always wanted to be a writer. My parents loved the fact that I liked to write, but didn’t think I could earn a living from it. Instead, I started working as a financial analyst. I hated it. When the stock market crashed, they gave me a severance package. I used the money to get a Master’s degree in education then I taught for a few years. I met my husband Tim on the rowing team at Princeton University.

Writing tips
I don’t think I ever switch off. The thing about being a writer is that you carry your office between your ears. In the middle of the night I might come up with an idea so I get out of bed, write on a piece of paper and stick it on the stairs to my office, where I literally fall over it the next day.

I steal conversations that I’ve had or experiences that I’ve lived through or seen in other people and give them to my characters. I hear that reading one of my books if you know me is disconcerting. My characters come into my mind fully formed, with voices, attitudes and personalities.

My novel, Change of Heart, is about an inmate on Death Row who wants to donate his heart to the sister of his victim. When he starts performing miracles, the press call him “Messiah”. I wanted to write about why we believe what we believe. What if you found out that what you believe might not be true? I was inspired by the state of America today because I’m appalled at the direction my country has gone in and how it has alienated the rest of the world.

I want to be able to keep making people open their eyes. I think we all want to change the world, and I can’t do it with a magic spell but I do think I can do it one line at a time.

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