Author in lockdown: we chat to Jodi Picoult

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Jodi Picoult admits that lockdown life has been a real struggle. Picture: Nina Subin
Jodi Picoult admits that lockdown life has been a real struggle. Picture: Nina Subin

The bestselling writer is usually so upbeat but when we chatted to her, she didn't mince her words: life is tough at the moment. And she blames a lot of her woes on Donald Trump and people who refuse to wear face masks.

How have you been staying sane during lockdown? 

Well, it's been really difficult. It's not fun to be living in the United States right now. I am woefully ashamed of my country and I detest our president. Unfortunately the country has so effectively been led into believing that science doesn't matter, that we have people selfish enough to not wear masks that stop the spread of a virus.

I have asthma, so I have not left my house really since March. I don't go anywhere. I don't go food shopping. I don't see friends. I don't see family. I’m in a very restricted state because of my lungs and it’s quite upsetting actually. This is not the world I want to be in.

I don't want to be in a world where I  can't travel to do a book tour and meet my readers. I don't want to be in a country where there are protests in cities because the police are killing black men without reason. I don't want to be in a country where half of the nation has politicized wearing a mask. I think it's really dangerous. It's so selfish to me, you know, to not take that one small step to protect someone else. I just think it's incredibly rude, honestly crazy. 

What have you been doing to keep busy?

Well, I've been working. One of the things I've been able to do is get a head-start on my 2022 book. I was not planning to start it yet, obviously. I've been writing it with a co writer whose name is Jenny Boylan. She is a famous literary writer in her own right in America and is a trans woman.

We began to do research and we began to rough out a plot and to start writing it. And it took me a while to be able to do that. Creativity is very hard right now. 

'We're all really feeling the same thing. We're just disconnected'

The only other thing that I'm doing is I've been writing librettos for musicals. And so I've been working with my writing partner to create a piece that is really about the pandemic and how it affects five different, uh, relationships in the course of several months, which is interesting. Because I realised pretty early on that we need to memorialize this in real time, but fiction and novels are not the medium in which to do it yet. 

It [the pandemic] a little like 9/11 in that sense. I think we need perspective from a fiction sense, but theatre is a very different experience because you are in a room usually and you are experiencing emotions with a group of other people. And there's something so strange about this pandemic, where everyone is isolated, feeling as if they are the only one in the world feeling the things they're feeling when in reality, we're all really feeling the same thing. We're just disconnected. 

So we've been working on that too, and it's, you know, certainly keeping me busy. Wow. And have you developed any weird habits over the last few months? If you can't hook up with your friends and go walking, like you like to, well, I still do.

Have you developed any guilty pleasures during lockdown?  

Oh, so interestingly, when this began, I couldn't read. Every time I picked up a book, I put it down. I couldn't focus. I couldn't keep my head in it because I was so upset and distracted all the time. And the way I got back into reading was by picking up romance novels. Oh, it's because I needed a happy ending, you know. So that was definitely my guilty pleasure during lockdown.

Rapid fire with Jodi Picoult

What makes you laugh? 

My kids. They're good at making me laugh  - usually by making fun of me. 

What makes your blood boil? 

Donald Trump!

And your biggest regret?  

I think my biggest regret actually turned out to be a positive. My biggest regret is going to work for a company on Wall Street. When I left college, it was not what I wanted to do. It was not what I should have done. I followed the money instead of the passion, but the stock market crashed and I wound up moving to Massachusetts and marrying the guy I married. So it all worked out in the end.

What’s your favourite song?

Betty on Taylor Swift's Folklore album. Yes, I am a Swifty. The storytelling is so good on that album.

The book that you can read over and over and over again.

I would say Turtle Moon by Alice Hoffman. I love her writing. She makes it look so easy and it's never easy.

The one thing you can't live without?

My phone.

Jodi's new novel, The Book of Two Ways, recently h
Jodi's new novel, The Book of Two Ways, recently hit the shelves.

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