Say you write a novel. Then Oprah Winfrey tells everyone to go buy it, and it sells more than 4 million copies. You sit down to write again. Pressure, much? Just ask Jacquelyn Mitchard, whose first novel, The Deep End of the Ocean, was the inaugural selection for Oprah's Book Club. "It made me mental. I kept thinking that all [my books] had to sell as many copies," Mitchard says. "I just said to myself, You started doing this for fun. You need to do that again."
The result? Her eighth novel, Still Summer, a gripping adventure about four women stranded on the high seas.
MC: This story is such a departure for you. Why adventure?
MITCHARD: I wanted to write about women using their wits, strength, and strategic skills to save their own lives.
MC: Did you tough it out on a yacht for research?
MITCHARD: We went around the Caribbean, from St. John to Tortola, and I asked the captain every possible thing that could go wrong. It's pretty harrowing!
MC: Also harrowing-raising seven kids.
MITCHARD: Honestly, I don't remember what it's like to have a small family. I feel like I've been married since before I was born-to my first husband, who died of cancer when I was in my 30s, and now to Chris.
MC: How did your husband's death shape your writing?
MITCHARD: It made me as a writer. I didn't want to make my life a shrine to grief, so I decided to do something impossible-write a novel.
MC: And then Oprah called . . .
MITCHARD: [laughs] Actually, the first few times she called, I didn't think it was Oprah Winfrey, so I erased the messages. The third time she called, she was angry. She said, "At least you could do me the courtesy of returning my call." We both thought it was really funny afterward.
MC: You're lost at sea, and you can only have three books . . .
MITCHARD: The complete works of Shakespeare, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and William Butler Yeats's poetry because it sounds like music-and you won't let me take my John Mayer CD.
Click here to purchase Still Summer by Jacquelyn Mitchard.