Since the middle of October, New York Times best-selling author Jodi Picoult has been touring the USA, Canada and the UK with her latest novel, Leaving Time. The first stop of Jodi’s tour was an event at St James’s Church, near Piccadilly, and when Waterstones asked me if I wanted to come along, I knew I had to say yes.
Although some of them have been on my to-be-read list for a long time and my friends keep recommending them to me constantly, I haven’t got round to reading Jodi’s books yet. (I will guys, I promise.) But I was interested to hear more about her new novel and see why people fall in love with her stories on the very first page. And, after hearing her talk about the research, the preparation that came before the book, and stories I have to say I get it.
Even within a 90-minute talk, you could hear she’s an amazing storyteller. I don’t know if it’s possible to fall in love with an author’s books before you’ve actually read them but if it is, I’m pretty sure I just did.
And since I know a lot of you live too far away from London and couldn’t make it to the event, I wanted to write a short recap and tell you how the evening went. I don’t want to go into details about the plot and what happens in the book for obvious reasons, but Jodi’s speech about its background was so fascinating that I wanted to share it with you.
The book’s original title was Elephant Graveyard but, as Jodi said, her publisher wasn’t too happy about the word elephant… or graveyard, so they changed it to Leaving Time. Since the book is very scientific and elephants feature heavily in the story, Jodi talked a lot about her research on elephants’ behaviour, which I found fascinating.
One of the things I found the most interesting was how elephants deal with death and mourning. According to Jodi, elephants remember and mourn their loved ones even many years after their death. When an elephant walks past a place where another elephant died, he or she will stop and become quiet for a while. They remember this spot and return to it even years after the other elephant’s death. Interestingly, they don’t do any of these with any other animals, only elephants.
Another thing I didn’t know was the fact that elephants raise their babies together. When a calf is born, it’s not raised solely by its mother – sisters, cousins and aunts all help the mother care for the baby. Also, unlike (most) human relationships, elephant relationships last a lifetime.
In other news, Jodi also revealed that her next book is going to be a sequel to Between the Lines, a Young Adult book written by Jodi and her daughter Samantha van Leer back in 2012.
When asked about which of her books she found the hardest to write, she said My Sister’s Keeper was probably the toughest one because of its subject matter. Although she doesn’t know anyone with leukaemia, one of her family members went through a serious illness a while ago and, understandably, it affected her whole family quite badly.
Someone also asked her where she likes to brainstorm new ideas or what the best time is for her to think, to which she said ‘in the car’. Apparently, her best ideas are born while she’s driving because this is the only time when she can properly ‘zone out’. Fun fact: she always has a pen nearby and whenever she thinks of something, she writes it on her arm.
Leaving Time sounds like an absolute gem and I can’t wait to finally pick it up. I’m really looking forward to seeing how she incorporated all this into the story and, for those of you who’ve read it already, I hope you enjoyed hearing a little bit about the book’s background!
About the book
Jenna Metcalf was with her mother the night she disappeared in tragic and mysterious circumstances, but she remembers nothing.
Over ten years have passed, and still Jenna reads and rereads her mother’s journals, hoping to find some clue hidden there, in the meticulous recording of her scientific research with elephants.
Desperate for answers, Jenna uses all her savings to recruit the aid of a private detective – and a psychic.
Jenna knows her mother loved her. She knows she would not leave her. And she will not rest until she finds out what happened that night. In her most gripping mystery since House Rules, Jodi Picoult brings us a powerful story of a young girl’s determination to uncover the truth, however shocking and life-changing it might be.