{FTF Interview} Jodi Picoult & Samantha van Leer, BETWEEN THE LINES

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As longtime readers of A Backwards Story know, Jodi Picoult is my favorite author.  I even buy her "non-novel" releases such as when she wrote five chapters of the WONDER WOMAN comic and the book for a musical she co-wrote called OVER THE MOON even though I can't "read" music.  I was ecstatic when I heard that she'd be releasing two novels in 2012, even more so when I discovered that the second novel, BETWEEN THE LINES, was Jodi's debut YA novel.  Even better, it was a fantasy.  And a fairy tale!  I love that the idea was her daughter's (Samantha van Leer) and that they spent "two years of weekends, school vacations, and evenings" co-writing (A Note From Jodi Picoult, pg. x, ARC).  The result is a modern-day fantasy that's easy to get swept away in.  I would love to see this mother-daughter team produce more novels for us to love in the future!

I'm honored to share an interview with both authors with you today for Fairy Tale Fortnight.

BETWEEN THE LINES launches June 26, 2012.

Jodi Picoult is the best-selling author of several novels.  BETWEEN THE LINES marks her debut into both YA and fantasy.

Samantha van Leer is still in high school, but has had a flair for writing her entire life.  BETWEEN THE LINES is her brainchild.

An interview with 
Jodi Picoult & Samantha van Leer


The fantastic elements of BETWEEN THE LINES break from the straight-forward elements of your adult novels, yet also makes sense when considering your off-the-beaten-track releases for WONDER WOMAN and OVER THE MOON, not to mention the comic-book elements in THE TENTH CIRCLE. How difficult was it transitioning into such a mythical world? Will you write more titles in this vein?

JP: The main reason I went down the path of a young adult novel was because I have a very creative young adult in my household who conceived the idea - my daughter. This is a very different genre than what I do for adult fiction, but that's okay - there are a lot of young readers not quite ready for the emotional content of my usual novels. This one really speaks to teens - what it's like to not fit into your world; what it's like to fall for someone you think you'll never have a chance with, etc. What made the transitioning hard was that I was simultaneously writing this book with Sammy AND writing my own 2013 novel about the Holocaust. Believe me, it was tough to go from 1941 Poland to the world of BETWEEN THE LINES. As for writing more YA novels -- who knows! If my daughter wanted to, I'd be thrilled to have that experience with her again.

How hard has it been to collaborate and co-write a novel, having published nineteen novels on your own? Do you think you'll co-write again in the future?

JP: It was an experience I've never had -- not even when I was working on Wonder Woman and collaborating with a penciller and an inker and an editor. Sometimes when Sammy and I were writing it was as if we were asleep and having the same dream -- we would literally be saying the same sentence out loud. I felt like she could see what was in my head, and that we were both scrambling to be the first to say it. I don't know if it's because our minds create similarly, or because she's part of my genetic makeup -- but it was a remarkable and exhilarating experience. Sammy has an innate sense of conflict and character that makes her a blast to work with. I may collaborate in the future but I doubt it will be as seamless as it was with my own child.

What is/are your favorite fairy tale(s)? What draws you to them?

JP: I am a big fan of The Little Mermaid. But I like the Disney version, because in the Hans Christian Andersen one she dies. I'm a big fan of star-crossed love as a book plot, and you can't get any more star-crossed than a relationship between a hot prince and a glorified fish.


You came up with the initial idea of BETWEEN THE LINES. I adore the idea of the characters in my books having their own lives behind the scenes and really connected with the book. What was your inspiration?

SVL: I was daydreaming in French class, actually, and the idea just sort of popped into my head: what if the characters in books are like actors in a play, and what if they get to be "themselves" whenever they're not performing for a reader? Add to that the fact that everyone has had a crush on a character in a book at some point in her life, and from there, things began to snowball. I told my mom my idea and to my surprise, she really liked it and suggested we write it together.

How did you and your mother come up with the way book characters interacted with one another when there was no reader around? How did you go about modifying their personalities and adding that extra dimension that made reading BETWEEN THE LINES so fascinating?

SVL: We wanted to make the characters "real" lives different from the roles they played in the fairytale. So Rapscullio, the villain, had to be a nice guy. The mermaids, who are creepy and boy-crazy, had to be feminists full of Girl Power. I think my favorite was Socks, though -- who's a little too self-conscious for his own good. Some of the personalities developed during editing, too. For example, Frump wasn't a human under a spell, when we first wrote him. But by giving him that back story, his pining away for Seraphima made a lot more sense.

If you were a character in a fairy tale novel, who would you be and why?

SVL: I've actually played an OCD version of Cinderella in a musical…but if I had to choose, I'd pick the princess from the Princess and the Pea. I like the way she can't be judged by her appearance, when she first shows up drenched from the rainstorm. There's more to her than meets the eye!

Jodi and Samantha, thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions. I'm looking forward to purchasing a finished copy of BETWEEN THE LINES to add to my collection!

Bookworms, don't forget to check out today's review of BETWEEN THE LINE and add it to your summer reading list!


  1. I'm so jealous that you got to interview Jodi and her daughter! I love her writing and I so can't wait to get my hands on a copy of Between The Lines!

    ~Paige @ Comfort Books

  2. What a lovely interview! I'm even more excited about this book.


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