Jodi Picoult, Samantha van Leer
Between the lines
Who will always be
the hero in my story.
A Note from Jodi Picoult
I was on a book tour in Los Angeles when my telephone rang. “Mom,” my daughter, Sammy, said. “I think I have a pretty good idea for a book.”
This was not extraordinary. Of my three children, Sammy has always been the one with an imagination that is unparalleled. When other kids were playing “stuffed animals,” Sammy would scatter her toys around the house and create elaborate scenarios-this teddy bear is wounded and stuck on top of Mt. Everest and needs a rescue dog to climb to the top and save him. In second grade, her teacher called me to ask if I’d type up Sammy’s short story. Apparently, it was forty pages long. He sent it home with my daughter, and I fully expected a rambling stream of words-instead, I wound up reading a very cohesive story about a duck and a fish that meet on a pond and become best friends. The duck invites the fish to dinner and the fish says he’d love to come. But then the fish has second thoughts:
That, ladies and gentlemen, is called CONFLICT, and it’s the one thing you can’t teach. You are either born a storyteller or not, and my daughter-at age seven-seemed to have an intrinsic sense of how to craft literary tension. Sammy’s creativity continued to blossom as she grew up. Her nightmares are so vivid they’d give Stephen King a run for his money. As a teenager, she has written poetry that made me hunt down my own poetry journals from way back when-only to realize she is a much better writer than I ever was at that age.
So… when Sammy told me she had an interesting idea for a YA book, I listened carefully.
And you know what? She was right.
What if the characters in a book had lives of their own after the cover was closed? What if the act of reading was just these characters performing a play, over and over… but those characters still had dreams, hopes, wishes, and aspirations beyond the roles they acted out on a daily basis for the reader? And what if one of those characters desperately wanted get out of his book?
Better yet, what if one of his readers fell in love with him and decided to help?
“Mom,” Sammy said as I languished in Los Angeles traffic. “What if we wrote the book together?”
“Okay,” I told her, “but that means
What ensued were two years of weekends, school vacations, and evenings spent side by side at my computer, diligently crafting a story together. I think Sammy was surprised by how much hard work it is to sit and imagine for hours at a time; for my part, I learned that if you think it’s hard to get your daughter to clean her room, it’s even harder to get her to stay focused on finishing a chapter when it’s nice outside. We took turns typing, and literally spoke every sentence out loud. I would say one line, then Sammy would jump in with the next. The coolest moments were when we tripped over each other’s sentences and discovered we were thinking the same thing-it was sort of like we were having the same dream, so that in the act of writing, we were telepathic.
Sometimes when I’m reading a great book, I think, “Wow, I wish I’d been the one to think up that story line.” It has been an honor to have that same reaction when the story line was conceived by my own daughter. When Sammy first called me with her idea, I thought it was a great one. I hope, as you read
Once upon a time in a land far, far away there lived a brave king and a beautiful queen, who were so much in love that wherever they went, people stopped what they were doing just to watch them pass. Peasant wives who were fighting with their husbands suddenly forgot the reason for the argument; little boys who had been putting spiders in the braids of little girls tried to steal a kiss instead; artists wept because nothing they could create on canvas came close to approximating the purity of the love between King Maurice and Queen Maureen. On the day they learned that they were going to have a child, it is said that a rainbow brighter and grander than anything ever seen before arched across the kingdom, as if the sky itself was waving a banner of joy.
But not everyone was happy for the king and queen. In a cave at the far edge of the kingdom lived a man who had sworn off love. When you have been burned by fire once, you don’t leap into the flames again. Once upon a time, Rapscullio had expected to be living his own fairy tale, with his own happy ending, with a girl who had looked past his scarred face and gnarled limbs and had shown kindness to him when the rest of the world didn’t. In his mind, he replayed the day he had been shoved roughly into the mud by schoolmates-only to find the most slender white hand reaching out to help him up. How he had grabbed on to her, this angel, imagining her as his lifeline! He’d spent days composing poetry in her honor and painting portraits that never did her beauty justice, waiting for just the right moment to confess his love-only to find her in the arms of a man he could never be: someone tall, strong, and destined for greatness. Rapscullio had then grown darker and more twisted by his own hate every day. His portraits of his beloved had given way to intricate plans for revenge against the man who had single-handedly ruined his life: King Maurice.
One night, a roar rose from outside the gates of the kingdom, unlike any other sound heard before. The ground shook and a streak of fire shot through the sky, burning the thatched roofs of the village. King Maurice and Queen Maureen ran out of the castle to see a monstrous black beast with scaled wings the size of a ship’s sails, its eyes as red as embers. It stormed through the night sky, hissing sulfurous breath and spitting flames. Rapscullio had