From The Telegraph:
Before meeting Jodi Picoult, I had it in my mind that she wrote big, sweeping romance novels, guilty pleasures for hot beach holidays, and so set about my research with barely concealed glee.
This glee did not last long. The backdrop to Picture Perfect may be Hollywood, but only as the setting for a tale of horrific domestic violence. The Pact is billed as a teenage love story – only it is one that ends with a bullet in the girl’s head. My Sister’s Keeper, turned into a Cameron Diaz movie, is about childhood leukaemia and stem-cell research. Second Glance: eugenics. The Storyteller: the Holocaust. Nineteen Minutes: a high-school shooting. Lone Wolf: assisted dying. I felt quite bleak by the time I got round to reading her latest, Leaving Time, whose ending I have been banned from revealing, but suffice to say, it didn’t leave me feeling particularly cheery.
. . . .
Yet despite this success – 23 novels in 22 years, eight of which have been number one on the New York Times bestseller list – she struggles to be taken seriously. “I write women’s fiction,” she says, an ‘apparently’ hanging in the air. “And women’s fiction doesn’t mean that’s your audience. Unfortunately, it means you have lady parts.”
The 48-year-old orders a pot of tea and says goodbye to her husband, who is accompanying her on this leg of her three-month book tour. Picoult does this every year with every new novel – she has a rock-star schedule matched only by her following, nicknamed the #jodiverse on Twitter.
Struggling writers might think that this commercial success should negate any need for literary fanfare, but it sticks in her craw. “If a woman had written One Day [by David Nicholls], it would have been airport fiction. Look at The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides. If I had written that, it would have had a pink, fluffy cover on it. If Jenny Eugenides had written it, it would have had a pink fluffy cover on it. What is it about? It’s about a woman choosing between two men. What is The Corrections about, by Jonathan Franzen? It’s about a family, right? And I’m attacking gun control and teen suicide and end-of-life care and the Holocaust, and I’m writing women’s fiction? I mean, I can’t tell you. When people call The Storyteller chick-lit, I actually break up laughing. Because that is the worst, most depressing chick-lit ever.”
Has she ever thought of writing under a pen name?
“I did once,” she says. “So let me tell you what happened. I wrote a book under a man’s name. It was years ago, my kids were really tiny. It was when The Bridges of Madison County [by Robert James Waller] had been published. Nicholas Sparks was becoming big [as a romantic novelist]. Please don’t get me started on Nicholas Sparks,” she says, rolling her eyes. “I haven’t had enough caffeine yet.” But anyway.
“I was so angry about these men who had co-opted a genre that women had been slaving over for years. There are some really phenomenal romance writers who get no credit, who couldn’t even get a hardback deal. And these men waltzed in and said, ‘Look what we can do. We can write about love. And we are so special.’ And that just made me crazy.” Her agent tried to sell her pseudonymous book, but was told it was too well written for the male romance genre. “So there you go,” she says, angry, and yet ever-so-slightly pleased.
Link to the rest at The Telegraph and thanks to Meryl for the tip.