Thursday, September 22, 2011

Author Interview with my Guest Jacquelyn Mitchard

Jacquelyn Mitchard, a fantastic writer, one of the nicest people, and my friend, just released her latest novel, Second Nature: A Love Story

You may remember Jacquelyn from the novel The Deep End of the Ocean, which was also an Oprah's Book Club pick back in the day.  I believe the reason her novels have such an impact is that Jackie knows how to pull the reader into the story.  The emotions her characters evoke transfers from the page to the reader and draws you into their world.

Here's what Second Nature is all about:

From the author of The Deep End of the Ocean and No Time to Wave Goodbye, comes the fierce and moving tale of one woman’s fight for her identity and her life when fate holds out a second chance.Sicily Coyne was just thirteen when her father was killed in a school fire that left her face disfigured. Twelve years later, a young surgeon, Eliza Cappadora, offers hope in the form of a revolutionary new surgery that may give Sicily back the grace and function she lost. Raised by a dynamic, tenacious aunt who taught her to lead a normal life, and engaged to a wonderful man who knew her long before the accident, Sicily rejects the offer: She knows who she is, and so do the people who love her. But when a secret surfaces that shatters Sicily’s carefully constructed world, she calls off the wedding and agrees to the radical procedure in order to begin a new life.Her beauty restored virtually overnight, Sicily rushes toward life with open arms, seeking new experiences, adventures, and, most of all, love. But she soon discovers that her new face carries with it risks that no one could have imagined. Confronting a moral and medical crisis that quickly becomes a matter of life and death, Sicily is surrounded by experts and loving family, but the choice that will transform her future, for better or worse, is one she must make alone.An intense and moving story of courage, consequence, and possibility, Second Nature showcases the acclaimed storyteller at her very best.

Author Interview

Stories are how we understand ourselves, and our history, our culture and traditions, and our beliefs. When something happens, you call someone and say, "I have to tell you a story you will not believe!" For people who tell them, stories are confer power. So say you're a bookish girl, skinny in all the wrong places, plump-y in all the wrong places, bookish and bespectacled, but you can make people stop in their tracks when you tell about the time the people opened the refrigerator at the divey little family motel in Fort Lauderdale and found what looked like a leftover fish sticked wrapped in aluminum foil, except it wasn't a fish stick. It was a severed human finger. It helps to have come from a family like mine, who put the dark tones in "color," because, most of the time, it was all true...

Tell me about Second Nature--what inspired it?

More than fifty years ago, on the west side of Chicago, where I was a little child, there was a fire at a school called Our Lady of Angels. Three teaching sisters and ninety-two children died. No one, not anyone, who lived on the west side, or in Chicago, was untouched by that fire. There was this strong sense for the survivors of having lived through something so transformative, it was not as though they have lived through it, but as though the fire somehow still burned. Like so many people my age and older, I was obsessed by the OLA fire, and thought of about twenty ways to write about it. Because medicine and science was my first love, the subject of transformation, especially for burn victims, which was the original goal of face-transplant surgery, was especially beguiling to me. In ten, fifteen years, when this story is set, face transplants will be more common, more aesthetically excellent and functional. And the same issues, of survivor guilt, pertain -- for survivors of tragedy and of transformation.  Of course, eternally, I ask myself, what would you give to have your dreams come true? Would you pay the price? What if you knew that the price would be high, going in, and then the ante was upped by fate?

How did you choose the title of your novel?

There was a quote from Shakespeare about God giving you one face, and your making yourself another. I thought, it isn't just your appearance, it's your nature. Your second nature.

What made you choose your particular genre?

I wish I could write mysteries with a continuing character, like Tess Gerrittsen or Karin Slaughter or Dennis LeHane, but I don't have the mathematical turn of mind that takes, or deeply literary plot-ful fiction, like Ann Patchett, but I am not smart enough, or a truly scary ghost story, like Sarah Waters, so I write about ordinary people whose lives are transfigured by larger-than-life circumstances, because I am one. It's really difficult to balance ordinariness and extraordinariness, but that's what I keep trying to do.

What's the next project for you? 

It's a genre-buster. It's about a man who finds a little child who has survived the Brisband tsunami, and the child has well, he has the most extraordinary of all powers. He's not a deity or a superhero, but there is a huge danger that he could be forced to become one...

What character from your books are you most like and why?

Vincent Cappadora, from The Deep End of the Ocean (and also, in s secondary role, in Second Nature). I run into the breach with all good intentions blazing, and I mess it up, and I keep trying, and it gets worse.  I think the song My Stupid Mouth was written about me.

What are your hobbies--things you can't live without are non-book related?  What do you do when you are not writing?  If you could live anywhere in the world, where would that be?

Water. I can't live without it, and I feel panicky in landlocked places (such as where I live, Wisconsin, although not for long). It really is better down where it's wetter. I would dive or snorkel or swim every day for the rest of my life if I could. At the university where I am studying for my MFA, Southern New Hampshire University, the summer retreat is held on Star Island, thirty miles off the coast of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. It is one of the Isles of Shoals, that literally is an uninhabitable piece of rock, that was settled only because of the deep waters teeming with fish. Smutty Nose Island, and a particularly grim multiple murder that happened there in the Civil War time, was part of the book The Weight of Water by Anita Shreve. On Star Island, there's an old hotel where we stayed, and classrooms that formerly were turn-of-the-century homes, where we taught. In some of the rooms, not even a sink. The charming staff of college kids leaves you a jug of hot water to wash with in the morning, and you can only shower on a rota. After nearly two weeks, some of the faculty and the students were about to go nutty. I would have stayed forever and ever and ever.

If a reader asked you to recommend the BEST books to read aside from your own, what would they be?

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith.
The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson 
Charlotte's Web, E. B. White
Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte 
From Here to Eternity, James Jones
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry
Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro
Out of Africa, Isak Dinesen 
Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
State of Wonder, Ann Patchett
Master of the Delta, Thomas H. Cook
Still Alice, Lisa Genova 
And then there are all the other books by Jane Austen and Fyodor Dostoyevsky and even Jonathan Franzen, and so forth, which I know are rather great, but for which I have no patience.

If you could have dinner with one author, who would it be?

Bill Bryson. I would have to wear a grownup diaper though, because I have frightened people on airplanes snorting ginger ale from my nose while reading his books. 

Where can you be found on the internet?





I am very co-dependent on social media. I don't find it burdensome or intrusive. My oldest son quotes Lorrie Moore and says, I am the "duh" in fin de siecle. Speaking of a great writer, and a great dinner companion...

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