06 June 2006

Author Answers with Jacquelyn Mitchard

This week's author is one of Wisconsin's own, Jacquelyn Mitchard.

Mitchard has a new book out, Cage of Stars, but is well-known for her first novel, The Deep End of the Ocean. That book was an Oprah book club book and was later adapted into a movie.

As a bonus to the blog-readers who live here in Oshkosh or this general area, Mitchard will be at the Oshkosh Public Library for a book signing at 7 p.m. on June 14 in the lower level meeting room at the library, 106 Washington Ave., Oshkosh.

Place you do most of your writing:
1. I write in my bed on an 18th century lap desk or at my kitchen breakfast bar. If I'm beginning or ending a novel, I sometimes go to The Ragdale Foundation, a writer's residence in northern Illinois and write for 15 hours a day, for a period of five days.

While you write, do you do anything else (munch on carrots or drink tea or listen to heavy metal, for example?)
2. Every book has a "soundtrack." For example, when I was writing 'Cage of Stars,' I listened to Aaron Copeland and 'Clair de Lune' by Debussey. When I was writing 'The Most Wanted,' I listened to Emmylou Harris. When I was writing 'The Deep End of the Ocean,' I listened to Madama Butterfly. Years and years ago, I replaced smoking cigarettes with drinking water. I drink GALLONS of water and green tea while I'm writing -- feeling virtuous.

Why did you decide to be a writer?

3. I didn't decide. Just as with reading, it became a compulsion with me as soon as I could do it. I wrote terrible poems about dead dogs and virgins throwing themselves into volcanoes. I majored in biology, hoping to be a pathologist, but was defeated by math, and switched to American literature.

What author(s) inspire you?
4.Oh my goodness! Everyone from my writing icons -- such as Truman Capote and Wallace Stegner -- to Andrea Barrett, Peter Carey, Ruth Rendall, Scott Turow, Jane Hamilton, Alice Elliott Dark, Charlotte and Emily, so, so many...

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve received? What made it so helpful?
5. Years ago, my agent said, "You don't have to tell everything you know. But keep your outtakes." That meant I didn't have to "kitchen-sink" every book -- in other words throwing in every subplot and good line I could muster. There would be world enough, and time.

Deep End of the Ocean” got a lot of notice since it was an Oprah Book Club selection and then a movie. How do you think that success has impacted you as a writer?
6. It was a double edge. It gave me the privilege of writing stories for a living. It set an extremely high gate, and for a while, it crippled me into thinking that EVERY book had to sell millions of copies. Every book cannot. But though two others have been optioned for movies and some have received more critical acclaim, no one knows any of them better than my first. And of course, it is incredibly dear to me. It saved me, emotionally, from the desperate pain of widowhood, and from financial straits that were alarming.

How did you feel when you first saw your name on the cover of a book?
7. It was very nice. But when I first got a phone call saying my book had made the bestseller list, I almost jumped out of the car!

If you had to actually live the life of one of the characters in your book(s) who would you want to be and why?
8.I would be True Dickinson, in 'Twelve Times Blessed." It was probably my least well-written book; but she had a really cute husband who could do the two-step and the nicest house in Chatham, Massachusetts. I also really like her name. If my baby son had been a girl, I'd have called him True. Since he was a boy, and our last, we called him Atticus -- after an old friend.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Related to the answer "Every book has a "soundtrack." I would like to add that this is a true experience that I also have had. The soundtrack of the book "La nuit des temps" (The Ice People) of René Barjavel French writer is the Genesis album "Wind and Wuthering".

At the first time, I put this album on the turntable (this happened in 70’s) and I listened the same songs many times while reading the book because this is a story you deep inside and forget everything around.

It happens that, every time I listen to the songs, I remember the parts of the story. The story and the songs become associated if they would be done one to each other.

The curious is that it has a particular song for each part of the story. There are Elea’s song, the battle theme song and so on.

Some friends of mine have tried this experience and they have had the same feeling.


Fred Guizini