With over 20 books (eight of them bestsellers) to her credit, author Jodi Picoult has had to do a lot of thorough research.
She’s gone to jail, milked cows on Amish dairy farm, hunted ghosts, observed katsina dances at a Hopi reservation and trekked the Alaskan tundra, just to name a few.
And she loves it.
“Well, certainly, it’s the fun part of the job,” Picoult said.
The bestselling writer, known for penning fiction books that deal with tough topics, such as genetic engineering (“My Sister’s Keeper”), school shootings (“Nineteen Minutes”) and the Holocaust (“The Storyteller”), will share the importance of legwork in the writing process when she discusses “The Fact Behind the Fiction” at the West Virginia Book Festival at 3 p.m. Saturday. Picoult will also sign two books per person after her presentation. Select titles will be available for purchase.
Picoult’s latest adult novel, “Leaving Time,” will be a main topic of conversation.
“Leaving Time” centers on 13-year-old Jenna Metcalf, who enlists the help of a private investigator and psychic to help in her search to find her mother, an elephant researcher.
Picoult visited The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee, and took a trip to Botswana to learn as much as she could about elephants and their current plight and observed psychic Chip Coffey.
“I think that, for me, it’s a way to try on somebody else’s life for a little while,” Picoult said.
“You get to the way that someone else does for a couple of days and that helps you build your character. It helps you figure out what they’re worried about, thinking about, and what they’d say and how they would say it.”
Picoult said that sometimes, in the midst of research, you come across new, necessary details.
“Also, sometimes, when you’re doing research, an incident happens that don’t even realize needs to be in your book until it happens,” she said.
Even at its most tedious, Picoult said she’d have a hard time delegating that particular part of the writing process, despite the constant requests she receives.
“I get so many people saying, ‘I’d love to be your research assistant,’ and all I think is why would I ever give that up? It’s really fun,” she said.
“So I can’t even imagine, I mean, I know that there are writers that have people that do research for them, but I feel like since I carry my office around in my brain it would be very hard for me to farm that out.”
Picoult said her upcoming novel “Living Color,” which she’s actively writing, will focus on race relations and should be out by fall 2016.
Then, it’s onto the next.
“Don’t worry. I do not have any shortage of ideas,” Picoult said.