Last week, my son and I went to hear Jodi Picoult talk about her latest novel, Leaving Time, at the St. Lawrence Centre in Toronto.
It was a delightful evening – quality mother-son time, fun with family friends who also attended, and a talk that resonated for me as a writer. Not to mention that admission to the Canadian Living “VIP” event included a signed copy of Jodi’s book, a lovely dessert spread, and a giveaway bag.
As a writer and freelance journalist, I left feeling inspired. A few months ago, I tried my hand at writing a short children’s story, and the experience made me think that maybe I do have the imagination to attempt fiction – even adult fiction! I certainly enjoy reading it.
I loved hearing how Jodi came up with the idea for Leaving Time, the story of a 13-year-old girl who enlists the help of a psychic and a detective to find her mother, an elephant researcher who disappeared years before.
It started with an article she read about elephant mothers and daughters who stay together their entire lives. The article piqued her curiosity at a time when she was dealing with her own feelings about her daughter leaving the nest for college.
The back story captured my imagination. To research something purely out of interest, and spin it into a novel – an entire fictional world – is an enticing idea.
Research for a novel would draw on my journalistic skills, and now that I’ve had a taste of using real life as a starting point for fiction in my children’s story, I see new possibilities.
Not that I’m unhappy writing non-fiction. On the contrary, it makes me very happy. And I do want to finish my memoir on the year I lost my dad, which I’m about half-way through.
Jodi Picoult has written 22 books, approximately one a year (the same number of years that I worked as a full-time reporter!). On working days, she said, she edits what she’s written, then continues writing, fuelled by coffee until she stops in the late afternoon. Repeat often enough… and you have a book!
I told my son, who is one of Jodi’s biggest fans, that – with luck and longevity – I can write 22 books too. Maybe I should start drinking more coffee.