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Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer: Between the Lines

Posted By on June 30, 2012

Blue Willow Bookshop hosted a really special event this week—New York Times best-selling rockstar Jodi Picoult and her teenage daughter Samantha Van Leer with their new co-written middle grade/young adult book. Jodi Picoult says Samantha (Sam) pitched the idea for the book to her while she was on tour in L.A. and Jodi knew at once that out of Samantha’s many story ideas, this one was a winner.

Here’s the pitch from Jodi Picoult’s website:

Between the LinesBETWEEN THE LINES is about what happens when happily ever after…isn’t. Delilah, a loner hates school as much as she loves books—one book in particular. In fact if anyone knew how many times she has read and reread the sweet little fairy tale she found in the library, especially her cooler than cool classmates, she’d be sent to social Siberia . . . forever.To Delilah, though, this fairy tale is more than just words on the page. Sure, there’s a handsome (well, okay, incredibly handsome) prince, and a castle, and an evil villain, but it feels as if there’s something deeper going on. And one day, Delilah finds out there is. Turns out, this Prince Charming is not just a one-dimensional character in a book. He’s real, and a certain fifteen-year-old loner has caught his eye. But they’re from two different worlds, and how can it ever possibly work?

Jodi PiccoultSam Van LeerJodi and Samantha took turns reading excerpts from the two main characters points of view. Both gave excellent readings, then the event was opened up to questions. Since Jodi Picoult is such a big name, many questions were about her novels for adults, but I’m going to focus on the questions about Samantha and BETWEEN THE LINES.

As usual, I wrote as fast as I could, but I’ve ended up paraphrasing both questions and answers. None of these are verbatim, but I’m trying to be as accurate as I can. So here goes:

Question: Jodi, some of your books have controversial topics. Sam, do you read them? Jodi, are you comfortable with that?

Sam: Yes, I’ve read four of them.

Jodi: We have a very open household. I don’t think there’s any topic off limits. The more controversial my books are and the more upset people get about them, the more I am convinced I am doing the right thing.

Question: Are the two of you planning to write any more books for teens?

Sam: The first thing we are going to write is my college applications! But we do have an idea for a sequel to BETWEEN THE LINES.

Jodi: When Sam was in second grade, her teacher called and asked if she could send home Sam’s story to typed. When I said yes, the teacher said she needed to warn me—it was forty pages!

Question: Did you both discuss how this book would be written?

Sam: The summer I came up with this idea, Mom and I spent the whole summer planning it out. When I decided how I wanted it to end, we sat down side by side, one speaking out the story, the other typing it out—it was fifty-fifty. Sometimes we started talking over each other, saying the same thing!

Jodi: I went into this thinking I would be the mentor, and I did do some mentor things like setting goals, but I realized pretty quickly that her instincts were good. We argued over the fairy tale sections. I thought it should be tongue-in-cheek, like Shrek, but Sam wanted it very dark like the Grimm tales because it made the Happily Ever After ending so much better. She was right.

Question: What was it like to write with Mom? Was it fun? Was there a lot of eye-rolling going on?

Sam: No, it was really fun to write with my mom. She’s the cool mom. Of course, she’s still the boss of me, so there’s that.

Jodi: I am incredibly proud of Sam, not just because she created this great book, but because she has the poise to be up here in front of you all and do so well.

Question: Sam, did you always want to be a writer like your mother?

Sam: No, I’ll always want to write—every day I get more and more like my mom, maybe because I’m with her all the time now. But I’m really interested in studying psychology in college.

Question: Did you have a set routine, like writing for x hours a day?

Sam: We didn’t focus on hours as much as pages. We’d work for three to eight hours until we finished what we wanted to get done. Mom let me go to the bathroom, but that was it.

Jodi: Oh she goofed around a lot, too. She’s still a kid! One day I turned around to find her wearing a feather boa. Where did she find a feather boa in my office? But we did focus. It’s the only way to get through writer’s block. Writer’s block is simply not forcing yourself to get it done. Whatever you are stuck on, force yourself to work through it. Afterward, you can fix it or throw it away, but first you’ve got to get through it.

A big thank you to Jodi Picoult, Samantha Van Leer, Blue Willow Bookshop and Living Word Lutheran Church for this excellent event!

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