Jodi Picoult first burst to prominence in 1992 with her debut novel, "The Song of the Humpback Whale," and hasn't looked back since. Five have been adapted to film or television.
She was awarded the New England Bookseller Award for fiction in 2003. Some 14 million copies of her books are in print worldwide.
Picoult will be the next writer to take part in the Northshire Bookstore's "Off the Shelf: Authors in Conversation" series of in-depth live interviews conducted by WAMC/Northeast Public Radio announcer Joe Donahue. Earlier interviews in the
Among Picoult's prolific output have included several works that made it onto the New York Times best-seller list. Two of them - "Nineteen Minutes," a novel about a school shooting in a small town, and "Change of Heart," a complex tale involving a heart transplant and murder, made their debuts on the prestigious list at No. 1.
In the roughly 20 year span of Picoult's career as a professional writer - which also included a stint at DC comics for their third volume of the "Wonder Woman" series - her novels have ranged over a wide variety of moral conflicts and ethical dilemmas. "The Pact,"
Each of her books are all quite different, Picoult said in an e-mail while on tour this week as part of an effort to promote her latest book, "The Storyteller."
"They usually address a very different moral conundrum," she stated. "If there is anything I am really trying to promote globally, it's that we don't know the people we love as well as we think we do; and that we have more in common than we have differences."
Her most recent book, "The Storyteller," and likely to be a main focus of next week's talk with Donahue, explores the degrees that people will go in order to protect their families. The boundaries of punishment, justice, mercy and forgiveness are explored in the tale.
The idea for the book was prompted by an earlier work by Simon Wiesenthal, a Holocaust survivor who went on the pursue and bring to justice Nazi war criminals. In that book, "The Sunflower," Wiesenthal recounts a time when he was still in a concentration camp and a dying Nazi soldier asks for his forgiveness. But Wiesenthal chose to withhold the dying man's request, unable to forgive after witnessing so much cruelty and horror. Was that the right response? The book generated considerable controversy over whether, despite the crimes of which the soldier may have taken part in, the ultimate moral triumph would have been to forgive him anyway. But the only ones who could forgive the soldier were already dead, Wiesenthal believed.
"There have been countless philosophical responses to Wiesenthal's piece by religious officials of all denominations, analyzing his response and whether it is right or wrong," Picoult said in her e-mail. "It fascinated me to think about what would happen if the same request was modernized in some way, so that a former Nazi asked the descendant of a Holocaust survivor for forgiveness. Is she morally obligated to say yes, or was Wiesenthal right - and does she not have the right to do that? If she craves revenge, does that make her sink to his level? Those were the questions I wanted to explore."
Originally from Long Island, N.Y., Picoult moved with her family to New Hampshire when she was 13. She studied writing at Princeton University, where she graduated from in 1987, then attended Harvard, where she earned masters degree in education.
According to Wikipedia, she wrote her first story when she was five years-old. But all of her success, and all of her remarkable output, didn't come about as part of some sort of master plan, she said.
"I never expected to have a successful career as a writer - I just loved to write," she said. "The fact that my first book got published was a miracle; it was an even bigger miracle when people READ it. Frankly, I still am not always confident that success is lasting. In this industry you are only as good as your last book."
That, as well as an examination of "The Storyteller," should make the discussion intriguing one for her readers and fans of fiction in general.
The doors at Maple Street School will open at 5 p.m. for her talk with Donahue on March 21. For more information, call the bookstore at 802-362-2200.