Jodi Picoult's Song For You
BY Advocate Contributors
March 09 2011 5:20 PM ET
The buzz about Sing You Home hit the message boards on TrevorSpace months ago. And while your books are published as adult titles, you have a huge teen and young adult following — with high schools and colleges among your upcoming book tour destinations! Does awareness of your teen readers shape your writing?
I love my teen fans. First of all, they're not shy. They write me all the time and talk about how much they enjoy my books, and who wouldn't like that kind of feedback!? I've had teenage fans bake me cupcakes and bring them to events; I've had them make up Jodi Picoult Fan Club T-shirts — they make me feel like a rock star. I do actually think about them when I write my books, which is one reason I often have a teen narrator. I love teen narrators because they have a built-in BS meter. They won't let you get away with a lie; they always cut to the heart of the matter. When it comes to making decisions, they have great swinging passions and sometimes too little cerebral cortex, which also makes for a great character.
Music is so integral to the lives of teens and young adults, and also to your main character, Zoe. She’s a music therapist, and the CD that accompanies Sing You Home has 10 tracks, with lyrics by you and music written and performed by Ellen Wilber. You wrote in the book that the songs were to give Zoe a real voice — what was the process of creating those songs with Ellen?
People who oppose gay rights often don’t know someone gay very well. If you do, if you have a relative or teacher or butcher who’s gay, you know they’re just ordinary people. I wanted readers to get to “know” someone gay — and Zoe’s the one I picked. I wanted readers to really listen to her. I could have given her a first-person narrative — and did — but I wanted to go one step further. I wanted you to literally hear her voice, hear her pour her heart out to you in her songs ... and then see if they can still dismiss her dreams of marriage and a family. My friend Ellen and I have collaborated before on original children's musicals that are performed by a local theater troupe to raise money for charity every year. We've done over 100 songs together, with me writing lyrics and Ellen writing music. So I asked her if she might be interested in a different kind of project, and she was very excited to be part of it. I'd basically write a poem that encapsulated what Zoe was feeling in each chapter and give it to Ellen, and she'd come back with an amazing melody that brought it to life.
Kinsey came up with a scale of sexuality, saying that almost everyone fell somewhere between 0 and 6, with some people at 0 (completely heterosexual) and some at 6 (completely homosexual), and most people somewhere in the middle. One of the characters in Sing You Home was in a straight relationship and then fell for someone of the same gender. Do you think there’s an element of time that needs to be considered — that people’s attraction to others and/or identity shifts over time? Or is it that some people are bisexual and never realized it because they either fell for someone of the opposite gender first or because our culture reinforces straight relationships in a way it doesn’t support queer relationships?
My first crush was in second grade on a boy named Kal Rustiala. He had a jungle gym in his basement and an iguana. I never made the conscious decision to like him — it just happened. So I assume that it's exactly the same for someone who is gay.