Jodi Picoult, 46, is the bestselling author of 21 novels. She has received numerous awards, including Waterstones Author of the Year. Her books have been translated into 34 languages, and ‘My Sister’s Keeper’ was made into a 2009 feature film starring Cameron Diaz. She lives with her husband and three children in Hanover, New Hampshire.
What was your earliest ambition?
To be a writer. I wrote my first book when I was five. It’s what I always wanted to be when I grew up.
Public school or state school? State school.
I had excellent grades and got into Princeton University, which is where I went to college. I then went on to get a master’s degree in education at Harvard.
Who is your mentor?
Mary Morris. She is a wonderful writer who taught me everything I know while I was at Princeton.
How physically fit are you?
I’m not competing in a triathlon anytime soon, but I’m doing quite well. I lost a lot of weight a few years ago, and feel great. I run every day.
Ambition or talent: which matters more to success?
Ambition, apparently. All you have to do is take a look at the New York Times bestseller list to see that talent does not always go hand in hand with sales.
Have you ever taken an IQ test?
Yes! My parents had me take one when I was really little. I am pretty sure my score was 158. That technically makes me a genius, and yet I still can’t remember what sorts of plastics go into our recycle bin.
How politically committed are you?
Very. I am a Democrat and I am very passionate about certain issues, such as gay rights and education.
Do you consider your carbon footprint?
Not as much as I should.
Do you have more than one home?
We have a beautiful house in New Hampshire, and are renovating a home on a quiet lake in Vermont.
What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?
A pool, which would be ridiculous since we only have two months of summer per year in New England.
What’s your biggest extravagance?
I have a dog addiction. Well, that, and business-class seats when I am flying internationally.
In what place are you happiest?
Turks and Caicos, and Plum Island, Massachusetts – our two family vacation spots.
What ambitions do you still have?
I have been on TV shows in every country where I’ve toured … except America, where we are told, “You write fiction. There’s nothing to talk about.” Drives me nuts.
What drives you on?
Not having the answers to “big questions”. My books are my way of thrashing through those.
What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?
Creating three smart, sensitive, socially engaged children.
What has been your greatest disappointment?
Losing faith in publishing, when I became a pawn in a battle of wills.
If your 20-year-old self could see you now, what would she think?
That I should have let my hair grow out back then.
If you lost everything tomorrow, what would you do?
Do you believe in assisted suicide?
Yes. In Oregon, when it was legalised, 100 people who were terminally ill asked to have prescriptions to end their lives. Of those, only two were actually filled. That tells me that what people truly want is to have control over an uncontrollable piece of their lives.
Do you believe in an afterlife?
Yes, but I am agnostic, so it’s not religiously based.
If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would you score?
‘The Storyteller’, by Jodi Picoult, is published in hardback by Hodder & Stoughton (£18.99)