Friday, March 23, 2007

Jackie Mitchard - New York Times Bestselling Author

Welcome to “Up Close & Personal.” For every interview I will be introducing a literary personality discussing her views and insights, as well as upcoming literary events around the world.

Today’s interview is with Jackie Mitchard, New York Times best-selling author, and Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club choice in 1998. She has been interviewed by Oprah, and Katie Couric. Also she was featured on Entertainment Tonight.

Her latest suspense novel, Still Summer, is a survival adventure story about four women castaways, who were lost at sea and endured a horrifying experience. Still Summer is due to be out in August, and will be available in all the major bookstores and online.

Her first YA novel, Now You See Her, is now on sale in stores and online. The protagonist, Hope Shay, is a fifteen year old actress who has a seemingly perfect life as a student attending an elite performing arts academy. But questions are raised when Hope vanishes, and it is later revealed that she faked her own abduction.

The concept and intricate plot of Ms. Mitchard’s newly released book is fascinating. Fans of her earlier work, who enjoyed her positive emotion, will not be disappointed, YA readers, who may be unfamiliar with her work, will delight in her fresh approach to the YA genre.

She is currently working on a second young adult book, All We Know of Heaven. This novel will be the first in a series of three teen mysteries about identical twin psychics, who were born one minute before, and one minute after midnight on New Year’s Eve. The lead novel is due for release in 2008.

Ms. Mitchard writes for “More” and “Parade” magazines, and is a contributing editor for the Disney parenting magazine, “Wondertime”, Her syndicated column in the Tribune Media group of publications appears in newspapers around the nation.

She lives in Wisconsin with her husband, three teenagers and the family dog, Hobbes. She loves time spent in the kitchen making homemade pasta and spaghetti sauce with her children. She loves her cappuccino, and wishes she could SCUBA dive every day. Right now she can’t decide which writing genre she loves the most... adult or teen fiction?

E. I. Good Morning. Thanks for stopping by, Ms. Mitchard. Help yourself with some fruits and cappuccino. In the mean time, Please tell us about your latest book “Still Summer” and what you fans can expect differently from your characters?

J. Mitchard: 'Still Summer' is a story of survival under circumstances as dire as they get -- four women trapped in paradise, when paradise, on a sailboat in the Caribbean, become as dangerous as Everest. While it's recognizably still about the emotional bonds that connect people and inspire them to courage or cowardice, the four high-school friends who reunite for this trip have more at stake than their physical survival. Under enormous pressure, lifelong secrets will threaten to destroy not only their friendship but what they believe about themselves and each other.

E. I. Did you have any childhood experiences/memories that have been the subjects of your writing?

J. Mitchard: Not yet. But in an upcoming novel, I'll write about the mystery of some ancient clothing and then bring forth some of those tales.

E. I. How do you go about your research? Do you do it in person, or on the internet?

J. Mitchard: The best research is in person, when I'm able to hear the tone of a person's voice, the vernacular and slang of the region or the job or the ethnic group. I find facts on the Internet and background; but I get information about what would happen in a given situation from interviews.

E. I. Are any of the characters in the story actually based on real people in your life? If this book pure fiction, where did you get the character ideas from?

J. Mitchard: In 'Still Summer,' Tracey is based on several people I love and know well, one of them a former PE teacher I love and know well, who never had a child but who would have been a mother like Tracey. Holly is named for and based on a fellow author who is a great friend of mine. Camille is a composite of every teenager I ever knew but physically based on a young woman I met in France some years ago. And Olivia is modeled after a woman who was the lover of a friend of mine long ago. Lenny is a real person, though his wife is named Michelle, a name I used for a man in the story. Lenny and Michelle Amato own the real sailing boat 'Opus." Michel, well, that's my secret... In many other books, such as 'The Deep End of the Ocean,' characters have been based entirely on friends who knew they were the subjects of my research. In 'A Theory of Relativity,' I knew several of the people involved in the true-life case that inspired the novel. Often, the experiences are based on real events, and the people more likely to be changed -- to protect the innocent and not flatter the guilty.

E. I. Do you write books with having them adapted to the movies in mind?

J. Mitchard: I only hope.

E. I. Your ‘The Deep End of the Ocean; which was endorsed by Oprah Winfrey was a success. In your own opinion what do you think is the biggest misconceptions of aspiring novelist have of the writer's life?

J. Mitchard: The biggest misconception is that every book will be as successful as the first or as the last one. Writers definitely have ups and downs in their lives. It would be nice to spend three weeks writing a book and know it would earn millions of dollars, as Danielle Steele does. But you wouldn't want to be the author of the books.

E. I. How do you choose a chapter or pages from your book when you do a book signing? Do you ever get nervous the first time you read in front of hundreds of people?

J. Mitchard: I often read the prologue or the first chapter. Most of my books have "twists and turns" in the plot; and I don't want to give those away, but also don't want to confuse the reader. I like to "set the stage" for the reader's actual entry into the book. I never get nervous in any public setting for any reason. I get nervous in PRIVATE settings.

E. I. The first time you saw your YA novel "Now You See Her" in a bookstore, what did you think?

J. Mitchard: I wasn't awed when I first saw my book in a store. I was awed when I first saw a box of my books in print delivered to my house.

E. I. Why suddenly you would want to write for teens? Is it because the industry for young adult is totally growing?

J. Mitchard: I love teenagers -- their passion, insight, and their lack of foresight. I have three of my own. They believe the world is all in a day. But it's wrong to write down to a young adult, to make a few references to Ashton Kucher or Jimmy Choo shoes and expect kids to embrace the book. So when I had the idea for 'Now You See Her," I decided that the key would be to be ABSOLUTELY HONEST and simply write the best novel I could, in telling the story of a young woman who fakes her own kidnapping, out of a teenage consciousness -- that of a young woman who sometimes does not know the difference between truth and lies as well. In a YA novel, a writer can take even more chances than in an adult novel. And so, based on the reception of 'Now You See Her,' I've written another YA novel -- about two best friends who are in a motor vehicle accident, though only one survives it, and because the damage is so great, one girl is believed to be dead when in fact her friend is -- and am beginning a series ('The Midnight Twins') about sisters born on either side of midnight on New Years' Eve.. They are psychic; and one can see only the future and one the past.. I hope to continue writing YA books

E. I. Your readers and other writers often like to get behind the author's writing routine. Would you like to share with your fans a typical writing day schedule?

J. Mitchard: I start doing my "due diligence" writing -- blogs, emails and editing early, about five a.m. Then I get the kids up and ready for school. I try to do exercise then. After that, I edit what I wrote the day before and try to make progress. I work until about five, have dinner and do bedtime things with my family, then sometimes work until midnight or just fall asleep. I have very few days off, almost none.

E. I. Would you like to close the interview with any of your writing tip to other young aspiring authors out there?

J. Mitchard: Don't write to "make it big." Write to satisfy yourself and tell a worthy story. Success sometimes will find you and sometimes not. Merit doesn't always guarantee a fair remuneration. But the combination of the right story and the right timing does. There is a huge amount of luck involved.

E. I. Ms. Mitchard, so great of you to do the interview. Thank you so much. It's been great. Good luck with your books!

J. Mitchard: I thank you very much.

To learn more about Jackie Mitchard, please visit her at:

Photo of Ms. Mitchard by Liane R. Gersich

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