Author Picoult, daughter fantasy tale
Jodi Picoult. Picture: Gasper Tringale.

Jodi Picoult says her teenage co-writer won't be fazed by an international book tour.

"That's the easy part compared to a summer writing the book," Picoult says confidently from her home in New Hampshire, about the tour which takes in Australia in July.

"It will be fun for me to have someone to travel with. I think we're going to have a really good time."

Picoult and her daughter, Samantha van Leer, are on a worldwide tour that includes Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand to promote a novel for young adults, Between the Lines.

The story is a fantasy tale for young teens who aren't ready for the heart-wrenching family issues that Picoult has parlayed into multiple bestsellers.

Picoult's dramas usually feature extreme ethical decisions based on real life:

- A family has another baby so it may become a compatible donor for a sick sister (the classic My Sister's Keeper).

- Children of a wolf researcher disagree on whether to pull the plug when a car accident leaves him brain dead (this year's Lone Wolf).

- A neighbour ponders helping a guilt-ridden former Nazi kill himself (next year's The Storyteller).

Parents who love these novels have asked the author to provide "watered-down" versions for their kids, Picoult says.

"I would never do that."

But when her daughter, Sammy, told her she thought she had a good idea for a novel, Picoult liked the premise for a sweet love story involving a fictional Prince Charming and a 15-year-old girl reader who wishes he were real.

It's not uncommon for authors to mention that they've gotten ideas from inquisitive offspring (Justin Cronin and The Passage, Ridley Pearson and Peter and the Starcatchers).

But Picoult may be one of the few who sat the kid down over the summer break and taught her how to write the book.

"We literally sat side by side at the computer. We would start talking. ... One would start the sentence and one would finish."

Sammy's ideas sometimes won out, such as in the fairytale sections (the book also includes illustrations). Her mum thought those parts should be jokey, but her daughter wanted a little darkness, like the scene in which mermaids guard a cave of dead suitors.

The book actually took longer than a summer, but that was the main period of writing because Sammy was out of school. Picoult's busy life also includes a stay-at-home husband, two sons and a menagerie of farm animals. Her website provides the not-surprising revelation that the author of 21 books virtually never stops writing, but editing is something else (van Leer is sometimes spelled "Van Leer" and sometimes not).

Photos show the 46-year-old in a bikini, sewing school costumes, and hanging with Elton John and various actors. Picoult, a Phi Beta Kappa at Princeton University, reflects on how she knows she won't win a Pulitzer but vents that male authors get more attention in the New York Times than women writers receive ("This is suspicious since the majority of book buyers are women").

She says her daughter likes to write, but doesn't plan on it for a career. Sammy will be a high school senior this year and plans to study psychology and early childhood development.

"I keep telling her that's a good background for a writer," her proud mother says.

Picoult says they've talked about a sequel to Between the Lines.

"But first Sammy has to write her college applications."

The West Australian

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