Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer

Could you co-write a novel with your teenage daughter? That’s what Jodi Picoult did when her daughter Samantha pitched an Jodi Picoultidea to her for a young adult novel.

The result is Between the Lines. It is based on the idea that the characters in a book can live their own lives when the book is closed. When the book is opened they must jump back into their pre-ordained story roles, like actors who appear in the same production night after night.  But what happens when a teenage girl falls in love with the illustrations of Prince Oliver in a fairytale book  and the prince wants to live a life outside of the story pages?

Jodi and Samantha came to Birmingham Library theatre last week to talk about the novel and I went along to hear them. Samantha is 16 now and suggested the idea to her mum 3 years ago. They spent 1 school summer holiday talking about the concept, the following summer writing it, the next summer editing and this summer they are promoting the finished book.

Jodi was the disciplinarian, setting the number of hours per day they would work or the number of pages that must be completed. She also did the typing, just because she’s got quicker fingers. The two of them sat side by side in Jodi’s office and literally spoke the story aloud to each other, often coming out with exactly the same words and ideas – I’m sure this is only possible if you have an extremely good relationship with your teenager!

Despite being only 16, Samantha was a very confident young woman and gave a reading from the novel as if she were a born actress.

The audience at the Birmingham talk included several school parties who asked Samantha for advice on becoming a writer. She urged them to write to a set schedule in order to get it done. Jodi added that taking some sort of writing course was also extremely useful.

Finally, Jodi says there are 2 skills which are essential to any writer:

  • Be able to write on demand
  • Be able to self-edit

So, it shouldn’t be too difficult to produce that bestseller if those are the only 2 things we need to master!

Don’t forget you have until midnight tomorrow (Monday 16/07/2012) to enter the draw for a copy of Writing the Paranormal Novel by Steven Harper. Click here for details.


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  1. #1 by susanjanejones on July 15, 2012 - 3:42 pm

    I think they’re a rare pair Sally, not many women or teenagers I know would write together. My daughter asks me what I’m writing, when I mention romance, she groans, ‘oh no, why can’t you write some horror or blood and guts stuff.’ Yet she is quite romantic at heart, so if ever I did she’d probably be shocked….

    • #2 by Sally Jenkins on July 15, 2012 - 3:56 pm

      I think they’re a rare pair too, Susan. My elder daughter will read my stuff and tell me whether it makes sense or not but that’s as far as it goes.

  2. #3 by Vikki (The View Outside) on July 16, 2012 - 12:36 pm

    Me and my daughter would kill each other! Blood WOULD be shed lol


    • #4 by Sally Jenkins on July 16, 2012 - 7:11 pm

      I know the feeling – mother & daughter in an enclosed together space for a long period of time can be dangerous…

  3. #5 by Tracy Fells on July 16, 2012 - 4:13 pm

    Hi Sally, at least we won books on the Emerald competition! Nice to see Susan win. Also fyi I have nominated you for a Sunshine Award on my blog:

    • #6 by Sally Jenkins on July 16, 2012 - 7:25 pm

      Tracy, yes, Susan did really well didn’t she? But we didn’t do too badly getting into the final 6. Many thanks for the award – how lovely to get a ray of sunshine in the middle of all this rain!

  4. #7 by Damsel in Distress on July 25, 2012 - 1:07 pm

    I think this is a new level of dedication – writing a book with your daughter! However, I greatly admire them – I struggle to do anything even on my own…

    PS. Sally, I am back at blogging – it’s been awhile!! (Started with your blog first and also posted a new poem)

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