Tag Archives: Jodi Picoult

What (not) to buy in 2018?

It was the Resident IT Consultant who mentioned it first. He noted that that David Walliams seemed to be everywhere in the top 100 books sold in 2017. I wasn’t surprised, but wish I had been. I’ve not counted the DW books on the list. Daughter did, but reckoned I probably didn’t want to hear how many.

I am pleased that a children’s book came second on that list. (Also pleased that it was – considerably – outsold by Jamie Oliver.) But I really would have wanted it to be a different book. I know; it’s good that children read. Or at least that someone is buying the books, whether or not they get read.

If it was any other book, I’d also be happy for the author who was financially rewarded, along with his or her publisher.

To return to my previously mentioned lesson learned from Random House, we should be grateful these books make money, because they help publish other books that simply don’t sell in great numbers. Well, all I can say is that on the strength of the DW sales, HarperCollins should be able to support an awful lot of ‘smaller’ books. Children’s books at that.

I don’t know this, but how much of such revenue goes to happy shareholders? Instead of being re-invested in more book products. I’m aware that DW has a past of doing charitable things, even if that was a stunt requiring other people to cough up the cash. Does he support any worthy causes with the income from his books?

In the same Guardian there was an article about a businessman who has received rather a large bonus, an amount of money that it was suggested could do a lot of good if used to solve the sad state of the homeless. My guess is he won’t do this. (Although, think of how he’d be remembered for all time – in a positive way – if he did!)

So, DW and publisher: Is there any likelihood of you doing this kind of good deed? We only require so much money for our own needs.

But back to the list. I’ve not read much on it. This is usually the case, as most of the big sellers are generally adult novels I don’t have time for, or recipe books and biographies of or by people I’ve barely heard of.

This year Philip Pullman is in tenth place and I’ve read his book. Of older books there’s obviously Harry Potter, and I have at some point looked at a Where’s Wally and the Wimpy Kids books.

The usual suspects such as Lee Child, Jodi Picoult, John Grisham, Dan Brown, are there; but interspersed with countless DW titles. Jacqueline Wilson and Julia Donaldson, often the biggest contributors to children’s books on the list of bestsellers, are at the bottom end. There is Wonder, which presumably has reappeared because of the recent film.

While horrified in general, I am hoping that this willingness to buy lots of children’s books will continue. And I’m hoping for more diverse purchases, which will be made possible only when publishers don’t only push celebrity titles. I’d like for there to be more excellent children’s titles, but the truth is that there are countless terrific books already in existence. They ‘merely’ need to be sold to the buyers of books. Use some of that money on telling the world about your other writers.

I’d like to mention a few recent HarperCollins books here as examples, but I’ve not been told about many. The new Oliver Jeffers book was ‘sold’ to me. I asked about the Skulduggery Pleasant book myself when I discovered its existence. I was offered an adult crime novel on the suggestion by the author. And someone emailed me to say she was leaving the company. This is not to say there weren’t heaps and heaps of great books. Just that there was no publicity coming my way, and possibly not going to others either.

Happy New Reading in 2018!!!

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2016 Book Week Scotland launch

Remember the smell?

I must clarify that that is not a severed head you can see on top of the contraption of unidentifiable stuff [not whisky, either, as I thought]. Launching Book Week Scotland is not that gruesome. It’s much more at the civilised end, which is how I came to eat gluten free grey cake and drink iced coffee from a jam jar.

(The severed head, or not, was part of a smelling toy, where you would go round and sniff the various smells bottled in the contraption.)

FREE TO USE - BOOK WEEK SCOTLAND PROGRAMME LAUNCH

Earlier yesterday morning Scottish Book Trust had driven ten authors somewhere out towards the back of Arthur’s Seat in a double decker bus, and photographers were invited to traipse round for fun photographs. It all seemed too complicated of a morning for me, which is why I am using the official pictures. You can tell they had fun.

Pamela Butchart

After that I failed to take a single usable photo of all the speakers who had interesting things to say about reading and books and Book Week Scotland. But Pamela Butchart’s dress is so fantastic that here she is anyway, only slightly blurred. Her challenge to us – I think – was to read a picture book a day. And, it’s actually something that is fully doable, and I will consider it.

Book Week Scotland 2016 launch

Graeme Macrae Burnet does not recommend giving people a copy of the biography of Dostoyevsky (1000p+) which he was given last year. Instead he read us three – extremely short – novels. He wants us to go up to perfect strangers and read them something we like. As if!

And Caro Ramsay is thoroughly into The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which I can’t disapprove of in the slightest. Let’s not panic.

The cakes

Marc Lambert of Scottish Book Trust spoke and so did Culture Minister Fiona Hyslop. It’s good when Governments support books and reading, and as in previous years (I think they said this is the fifth) there is a lot of programme waiting for Book Week Scotland to break out, which it will do on November 21st. For a week, obviously.

Really famous people like Jodi Picoult, Alexander McCall Smith  and Alan Cumming will be taking part, as will countless others, some not yet household names. But you never know…

Key to Book Week Scotland beer

My party bag contained a book beer, and a chocolate key, so not even the Resident IT Consultant will have to go without.

FREE TO USE - BOOK WEEK SCOTLAND PROGRAMME LAUNCH

… and rock ‘n’ roll

This week we’ve mentioned the sex, and the alcohol. That leaves the rock ‘n’ roll. Wine, women and song. All bad stuff.

There’s so much music in novels these days. Perhaps there always was, and I’ve been deaf and blind. Adrian McKinty (yes, him again) puts lots of music in his books. Sergeant Duffy listens to a wide repertoire. He’s a bit of a show-off, that Duffy.

In Adrian’s YA novel The Lighthouse Keepers, which I’ve read but not yet reviewed, the young main character raves about music. Not so sure he’s not too precocious in his musical taste, but never mind.

Might be an Irish thing? When I first ran into John Connolly – outside the Ladies, before an event, and before he knew who I was – he pressed a CD into my hands. I gather he listens to a selection of music each time he writes a book, and those tracks end up belonging to that particular novel.

I added John’s favourites to my iTunes, and every time a track I can’t identify pops up on shuffle, I can be certain it’s one of his. I only added the CD because it contained a Lee Hazlewood track. I used to be a great fan.

A Jodi Picoult novel from a couple of years ago also included a CD. I passed the book and CD on to someone else, while making sure I put the tracks into iTunes first. I like them a lot.

It can be inspiring having an author’s choice of music for when you read. But what if you don’t like the music that helped them write? If every time the characters play their favourite tracks, you just can’t stand the music? Would you rather do without it?

Rather like when you find out which actor inspired someone’s character. If it’s the ‘wrong’ actor, you’ll have to quickly re-imagine them as someone you’d prefer. (Nobody tell me their heroine was inspired by that Keira woman! I’d have to burn your book.)

Music is an age thing, too. Adrian – again – is the wrong age for me. He doesn’t pick the music I listen to, nor the stuff forced on me – I mean, made available to me – by Offspring. I have a whole decade, that’s been almost completely blacked out. (When Son did a GCSE project on a decade in pop music, he was given the 1980s. Naturally. And we could offer no help.)

It’s not only the music behind a book, or the albums enjoyed by a fictional character. The whole book can be based on music. Obviously. Recently Son translated extracts from a couple of music based novels written by a Norwegian author. That was 20,000 words featuring an opera and all the backstage stuff. Luckily it was a made-up opera, so it ended up being less of a fact checking nightmare.

And we get YA books about pop groups, and wannabes. With the current talent programme epidemic on television we will probably end up with many more of them. It beats vampires, though.

Although having said that, I seem to recall that one of Anne Rooney’s vampires played in a band.

And Elvis lives.

Losing yourself in a book

Reviewing Between the Lines a while ago, I was thinking some more about this fantasy idea of getting lost inside a good book. Or a bad book, for that matter.

I mean, I obviously don’t know whether it is really possible. Maybe Jodi Picoult and Samantha van Leer made it up? But if it is possible, it’s interesting. And what difference would you experience if it’s War and Peace in paperback, totally un-illustrated and just hundreds and hundreds of tightly packed pages of small printed words?

Or even worse, what might happen if you only had an ebook to hand? You go and lose yourself in a story inside an electronic book. There might be pictures, and there will be words. Many or few; it all depends on what the story is.

The thing about ebooks, though, is that they usually contain lots of books. So, maybe you lose your grip on a particularly slippery word, and before you know it, you are somewhere else. Start off inside Five on a Treasure Island (do you get eBlytons?) and you’re having a jolly old time with those gold ingots. But as you descend once more into the cave, you suddenly end up in Kidnapped. Or one of the complete works of Trollope. (Someone close to me went crazy and bought the affordable, complete works of several old literary heavyweights, so it could easily happen.)

I expect untold amounts of damage could be done if you ‘read between the lines’ in an ebook. And I can’t work out if it’d be harder or easier to fall out of one of those stories. An ebook seems more sealed up, doesn’t it? With pages made of paper you stand more chance of dropping out.

And what if the internet book giant recalls you?

Samantha van Leer and Jodi Picoult spill the beans

You’ll be surprised to find that the Jodi Picoult and Samantha van Leer interview is here already. (I do have a bad track record…) There are some really nice photos of the two ladies, and they admit to not always having seen eye to eye. Jodi might have started out thinking she’d be boss, but reality proved different.

Samantha van Leer

Sammy’s fondness for Liz Kessler’s books gets a mention, and Mr van Leer got a brief grilling, to see if there was anything he could add to the writing partnership between the ladies of the house. He could.

I thought that Sammy might have expected only bad things about writing, with a mother who goes off to type all day long, but apparently the only thing she was aware of was how glamourous it all was. Until she tried it herself.

And if you want to read Between the Lines (and why wouldn’t you?), go carefully. There are vague spoilers in the interview. So perhaps half close your eyes?

Mothers and daughters, and it’s goodbye from mcbf 2012

Samantha van Leer and Jodi Picoult

The double mother and daughter thing was too good an opportunity to miss. And a first time is always special, and no matter how many more times you do something, the first one is the only first one you get. So when Jodi Picoult returned to Manchester on Sunday, to sign new book Between the Lines, co-written with her daughter Samantha van Leer, I knew I wanted to be there, and I knew I wanted a chat with the two of them, and I knew I wanted my trusted photographer to make a better job of taking pictures than I have managed in the last two meetings with Jodi.

Samantha van Leer

It all came true, including my weird dream from a few weeks back. (So don’t tell me I’m not a witch.) Basically there were no people waiting at the Arndale. In my dream it had to do with being Good Friday, but in real life the queue had to stand inside WHS, instead of outside. So the fans were all there. Phew. (And I know it’s not Easter.)

Jodi Picoult

Glad to see the fans were as keen as ever, and happy to lay their hands on this great new fairytale-meets-real-life novel. Mum Jodi might have helped write it, but the idea was all Sammy’s. We watched as each fan (and there were a good number of men) sat down next to Jodi and Sammy for a photo and brief chat. Couldn’t help noticing Sammy is lefthanded like her mum, and no doubt she will soon be the second fastest signer in the west.

There was a cute baby, as always.

Jodi Picoult and baby

And then it was my turn. Jodi almost lied, saying it was nice to see me again. (It was obviously nice. It’s the again I don’t believe she remembers.) And at least I got my interview in before the BBC this time. If you’re up early, try Monday’s breakfast show for their version.

Sammy and Jodi had a tea engagement with another mother and daughter team, who had won a meeting with the two writers in a competition. (See, it is a marvellous idea.)

Carol Ann Duffy and John Sampson at the Royal Exchange

Our own luck held, and we finished in good time for the mcbf finale, which didn’t come a moment too soon. Any later and James would have expired. As it was, all major players were still upright when Carol Ann Duffy and her best friend John Sampson told the sad tale of The Princess’ Blankets. It was my third time, but it’s still good. And this time I was sitting in a great seat upstairs at the Royal Exchange, while my photographer had the time of her life, clambering all over the central space capsule.

John Sampson

Carol Ann issued orders not to tell her how the tennis was going. John played his unusual instruments and pretended to be Mozart again. We in the audience got to do our shouting, and this time I was Picasso. After the poor Princess had warmed up, Carol Ann read us a new book called The Gift.

Carol Ann Duffy

And finally, James and Kaye could stand in the limelight and declare the last eleven days over, and John provided a classy trumpet solo to mark the moment. It has been really good. Rest a while now, and then get on with planning 2014! You know you want to.

Kaye Tew and James Draper

We’ll be back.

Between the Lines

How about a fantastic new fairy tale written by bestselling adult author with her teenage daughter? If you have an open mind you will think this is great and a wonderful achievement, and you’ll want to read it, and when you do, you’ll find a lovely multi-dimensional fairy tale about a handsome prince and an ‘ordinary’ girl, where neither the route taken nor the goal reached at the end is what you thought it would be.

We are talking about Jodi Picoult, who writes a novel every year, and does a lot of research for every one. She also has several children, and I think a husband who folds the laundry, or some such thing. That must be why she felt she could squeeze in writing a book with her daughter Samantha ‘while she had nothing better to do.’ The idea for the plot was Samantha’s, and it took them a couple of years to write Between the Lines.

Basically we have a (wise but cowardly) prince in a fairy tale, and as you know, when a book isn’t being read, the characters in it have their own lives and can do what they like, rallying to their positions when a reader opens the book. And this prince (Oliver) wants to get out of his book, and when he finally discovers he can talk to (and be heard by) a teenage girl (Delilah), they fall in love and then they try to come up with a way for Oliver to get out.

Told on three levels, the fairy tale, Oliver’s ordinary life and Delilah’s life, we meet the characters from the fairy tale both as the characters they are supposed to be, as well as who they are in their spare time.

And I just love Socks, the prince’s faithful horse!

Jodi Picoult & Samantha Van Leer, Between the Lines

At one point I did wonder if I should side with Delilah’s mother who thinks her daughter has become unhinged, talking to a children’s book. No one else seems to hear Oliver, although it doesn’t help that he clams up when others are near.

You wonder how on earth this can be resolved, and I very much doubt that anyone can guess correctly. It’s different, and it’s a great deal of fun.

Jodi Picoult & Samantha Van Leer, Between the Lines

Illustrated throughout with lovely pictures by Yvonne Gilbert and Scott M Fischer. Just think, if the pictures weren’t there, Oliver and Delilah wouldn’t be able to meet, or fall in love.