High school senior Samantha van Leer blew everyone away with her New York Times bestselling novel Between the Lines, which she wrote with her mother, novelist Jodi Picoult. Samantha will be coming to Amherst to delve a little more deeply into how she came up with the idea for the book and how she and her mother worked together on writing the story, but we sat down with her to ask a little bit about the process.
GBSP: How did you come up with the idea for Between the Lines?
I was daydreaming in French class (I know, I should have been focusing…) when I started to wonder what happens when a book is closed. What’s it like for the characters? Can they see us? What does it feel like for them, when we read? Through the rest of that period, I tossed around the idea of what would become our book. When I went home I called my mom, who was on book tour, and told her I had an idea for a story. She was intrigued and started adding her opinions – and suggested we write the book together.
GBSP: You wrote Between the Lines with your mother. What was it like working creatively with your mother? What process did you use to create the story?
It was REALLY hard to sit for hours at a computer and just WRITE. I sometimes wanted to get up and burst through the window – and I’m sure there were times she wanted to kill me because I got distracted. But then there were times it was really amazing to work together. Sometimes we tripped over each other’s sentences just to get to the next line – it was sort of like we were having the same dream and seeing exactly the same images in our heads, so that when we were writing we were telepathic.We spent a lot of time asking, “How do they get food in the book, if it’s never written about in the fairytale?” Or “If the book corrects itself every time you open it, then if Oliver escapes, doesn’t he get sucked back into the book if it’s reopened?” There was a logic to the story we had to stick to.
GBSP: How has publishing the book changed your life?
I learned to respect my mom’s profession. It’s hard work! And I also learned how similar we can be, when we’re writing. And of course I was lucky to go on a three-continent tour. But I’m really just the same kid who was daydreaming in French.
GBSP: How have your classmates and friends responded to the book?
They were really supportive. It was kind of weird to have kids who’ve never talked to me say, “Hey, I read your book, it was really great.”
GBSP: Did you always want to be a writer or is this just a fun project on the road to something else?
I love to write but I don’t know if I’ll be a writer. I am going to Vassar next year, and plan to study psychology.
GBSP: What do you like to read?
My favorite author is Sarah Dessen!