What is it about me and Jodi Picoult?

I’m No Jodi Picoult and I’m OK with That

by: Thea Atkinson

I have a friend who keeps asking me to write a book for her. Let’s call her Alicia. Alicia keeps saying things to me like, “Write me a romance, Thea. Write a good relationship book with lots of romance. Write me a good love story.”

I keep having to answer her back in ways she doesn’t want to hear. I keep saying things like, “That’s not the style I write; I don’t have a romantic bone in my body. I don’t even remember my own wedding anniversary.”

She’s persistent. It’s one of the things I like about her. So a few years ago, while I was bemoaning the fact that my agent hadn’t found a publisher who wanted to take a chance on a new literary writer, she piped up again: “You need to write a romance. A good story like Jodi Picoult.”

I’m not sure what genre she thinks Jodi Picoult writes in; heck, I thought it was chicklit with a romantic slant myself. I wasn’t so sure I could pull a Jodi tale out of the li’l twisted muse who visits me off and on.

Still, I told her I would try a short story first, see if I could do it before investing the many months it took to write a novel. I was excited. Maybe if I tried hard enough, I could write something that people all over the world would want to read; no, would want to PAY for.

I settled down to write, then filled my mind with Alicia’s encouraging words: “You’re a good writer, Thea. Surely you can write a love story.”

I could. Of course, I could.

Imagine my discomfort a few days later when I had to admit to Alicia of the path that this little “romance” actually took. There I was, sipping tea, feeling sheepish as I confessed that the couple in the story were both octogenarians and that he accidentally broke a few of her bones while being romantic. Worse yet, that she ended up dying during the encounter of a heart attack. I titled it “Like Breaking Crystal.” I loved it. I was proud of it. It focused on all the psychological things I loved about fiction. I thought the characters were flawed, but human; sensitive, but also a little bit selfish. Ah. Just the ticket.

Alicia did not share my enthusiasm.

I think she might have blinked once or twice the way they do in cartoons when they’ve experienced a major shock. I think I might have shrugged comically, helplessly.

OK. I thought, so I’m no Jodi Picoult. I did try, after all. As much as I might like to believe that I could write a mass appeal novel and sell multiple copies, enough to buy me a new laptop, a brand-new thesaurus, and maybe a little trip to Petra, I have had to make my peace with the fact that I write dark literary fiction: a genre that by some descriptions is: that which does not sell.

Then imagine my surprise further when I, galled by my failure to find a market with my agent, started to research exactly what genre Ms. Picoult wrote in: Not chicklit romance, like I originally thought. (Sue me, I’ve not actually READ a Jodi Picoult novel….I thought it was chicklit, remember? And I like, well, edgier stuff than chicklit provides.)

Psychological thriller, it was labeled. I tasted the genre on my tongue. Sounded about right for me, too, I figured. I immediately put the novel she’d written (Sing Me Home) that most closely resembled my own, (Anomaly) onto my TBR to see if we do indeed write in the same vein. Until then, I’m content to call myself a psychological thriller author.

Purchase

Anomaly has 9 4& 5 star reviews on Amazon

Every now and then, Alicia still brings the subject up. She still persists, God bless her. She says I’m capable of writing the kind of story she loves to read and I feel so humbled every time she tries to support the writer in me by believing in me.

Now, I just remind her that the tale will end up in some very strange places. It will travel through some dark and brutal roads but end up with some wonderful sense of peace. It won’t have mass appeal, it won’t sell a million copies, but despite the fact that I can’t write romance, it will be an honest-to-goodness Thea made story.

And then I ask her if she’s ready to read that.

-30-

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There’s always a free sample of Anomaly posted on Goodreads for those who want to check it out without throwing away 3 bucks. AND: on Amazon, all you have to do is click LOOK INSIDE for the freebie sample.

 

Thea Atkinson is a writer of character driven fiction.

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Posted in Thea bits, Top Posts
18 comments on “What is it about me and Jodi Picoult?
  1. […] have a few friends who even prefer not to read me because they can’t reconcile the person they know with my penchant for floundering around in […]

  2. Diane Tibert says:

    From a writer’s perspective, it’s important to know what you enjoy writing naturally. When you force yourself into someone else’s mould, it’s never good. I like romance, but not the Harlequin kind.

    Great adivice for new writers who haven’t yet decided what their groove is.

  3. […] the friend of mine who begged me to write a romance novel for her and ended up with a story about […]

  4. Every time I try to write a romance–c’mon, everyone loves Harlequin’s (well, none of my friends)–I end up killing people off left and right! Or turning the romantic hero into the devious villain!

    I’d rather read twisted, too!

    • LOL. I tried once to write a Harlequin, way back when I was seeing my mom devour 5 a week. I ended up not being able to get past page 2. Couldn’t write to formula. I love that you swing away too

  5. […] if you love the likes of Jodi Picoult, Alice Munro, Barbara Kingsolver, Jane Urquhart, Joyce Carol Oates, Donna Morrissey, you might, […]

  6. Doug Fiedor says:

    Ha . . . I know the problem. I wrote editorials for over a decade and published three to five every week. There was quite a large following for that newsletter and I can still find my op-eds posted all over the net. Readers often had ideas of what and how I should write about. I seldom took their advice but noticed that they kept reading my stuff.

    So now it’s fiction I’m writing. Same thing. Lots of suggestions from those who have never written one word for publication.

    My point of view is slightly different. My first novel received some good reviews (three are on Amazon) and comments, along with some suggestions.

    To my aged and addled mind, however, the very finest compliments I have received come from those who have read the novel and are bugging me to get the next one published.

    They can suggest this and that about the storyline. I read what they say. But I usually disregard it. The fact that they want more — and want it NOW! — tells me that my writing may be on the right track for those readers and they will buy more of my novels.

    Maybe I’m still too much of a novice at this, but I can’t help thinking that when someone wants the next in the series, and recommends my novel to their friends, that’s the type compliment I should be looking for. Because, it’s those who do not comment in any way who may not buy the next book.

    Of course, that’s just my opinion.

  7. Tammy says:

    hahaha…I feel ya, Thea! My sister-in-law asked me to write a follow up novel to Grapes of Wrath so she knew how the story truly ended. First, I’m ashamed to admit I haven’t read Grapes of Wrath. Secondly, the idea doesn’t appeal to me in the least bit. While it’s great to have her support and belief that I could do justice to the classic, I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t care for my take on it!

    • Yes, it’s that exactly. how do you explain to someone that the idea just doesn’t tickle your fancy? I admit to not having read GOW either, so I don’t know if it needs a new ending, but that isn’t the point, the point is the muse wants what it wants, and mine is a grumpy ole bitch with hair on her lip. grin.

      Are you also one of those ‘darker’ writers?

  8. J H Sked says:

    I had to laugh & nod to myself when reading this; I get similar reactions from my mom. Bless her; she wants to support me by reading my stuff – but she really, really wishes I’d write something “nice”. Like romance, or chiclit, or ANYTHING that isn’t paranormal or fantasy. I tried, but it seems paranormal is just the way I’m wired..

    • YES! My mom won’t read me either because t she can’t separate her daughter from the writer who writes those dark edge stories. Love that you chimed in JH. Your post made ME smile. Aha! a comrade.

  9. Viv says:

    I’ve never read a Jodi Picoult novel either; none of the blurbs have remotely appealed to me. They actually put me off, along with the cover images.
    And I hate, loathe, despise and abhor romance. I could write a whole essay on why and how it’s undoing all the hard work the 60s and 70s feminists did.
    Thea, keep writing what YOU write. I’d love to read the breaking crystal story.
    I have no idea who I write like, and much of the time, I don’t really care. I’m not sure there is a formula for success, anywhere. It just happens or doesn’t.
    xx

    • indeed, Viv. I wish I could write to market, though. It would make life so much easier to be able to say, this book should rest…here. Mine never do. I really love crossovers and crossovers into multiple genres rather than just two.

  10. Deb says:

    My daughter loves Jodi Picoult. I wouldn’t say chick-lit at all; dark subjects, realistic fiction for YA and older.

    I am someone who writes realistic women’s fiction- happier than Picoult’s!- with romantic elements. If someone told me I wrote like Judith Krantz, I’d be very happy. I see all of these vampires, werewolves and wizards in the marketplace, and I couldn’t write that kind of story if I wanted to- and I don’t want to. I think it’s great that writers can write to our different passions and visions of the world.

  11. alberta ross says:

    must say I blinked when you mention Jodi and chick lit in the same sentence!!! – I’m still trying to work out what I write and who I most closly resemble – don’t think I do but I persist and my research is throwing up some interesting books and some great writers – we are us – rock on girl

    • yup. I hear ya! so many writers out there that we should explore as many genres as we can. As writers, i think we can learn from how successful authors market. Glad to see you drop in.

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