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Bibliophile Alert: Prepare to fall in love with “Mad Honey”
A Note from Hope Katz Gibbs, publisher, Inkandescent Women magazine — “From Sally Rooney to Raven Leilani, female novelists have captured the literary zeitgeist, with more buzz, prizes, and bestsellers than men,” writes Johanna Thomas-Corr in The Guardian, asking, “Is this cultural shift something to celebrate or rectify?”
At Inkandescent Women, we are celebrating! The question, rather, is, what do we owe to this significant trend reversal?
According to Irish Times reporter Finn McRedmond, the answer lies in the fact that women make up about 80% of those novel buyers. “It follows, then, that it is perhaps likely that women like buying books written by women,” Finn muses, noting the increasing democratization of the publishing industry has also got something to do with it.
“Publishing is no longer run from the very top by a small group of men. It is abundantly obvious (and stop me if you’ve heard this one before) that an industry dominated solely by men is more likely to favor the work of men, seeing them preferred over their female counterparts. But that women writers are enjoying such sustained prominence in the fiction market at the same time that more women are entering the publishing industry is further proof of this.” Click here to read more from Finn.
So we dedicate this issue of Inkandescent Women to the female authors I’ve had the privilege of writing about for Costco’s magazine, The Connection.
Scroll down to read the most recent interview I did with bestselling authors Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan about their latest novel, “Mad Honey,” featured in the October 2022 issue of The Connection.
And be sure to click on the sidebar articles to meet additional award-winning women authors whose books are as remarkable as they are. Also, don’t miss this month’s Welcome article featuring writer and artist Stephanie Ponder, my long-time editor at Costco’s Connection.
Here’s to the next book you read — may it be filled with ideas that will transport you and birth fabulous new ideas. — Hope
About Mad Honey: A Novel, by Jodi Picoult and Jenifer Finney Boylan
Olivia McAfee knows what it feels like to start over. Her picture-perfect life—living in Boston, married to a brilliant cardiothoracic surgeon, raising a beautiful son, Asher—was upended when her husband revealed a darker side. She never imagined she would end up back in her sleepy New Hampshire hometown, living in the house she grew up in, and taking over her father’s beekeeping business.
Lily Campanello is familiar with do-overs, too. When she and her mom relocate to Adams, New Hampshire, for her final year of high school, they both hope it will be a fresh start.
And for just a short while, these new beginnings are exactly what Olivia and Lily need. Their paths cross when Asher falls for the new girl in school, and Lily can’t help but fall for him, too. With Ash, she feels happy for the first time. Yet at times, she wonders if she can she trust him completely . . .
Then one day, Olivia receives a phone call: Lily is dead, and Asher is being questioned by the police. Olivia is adamant that her son is innocent. But she would be lying if she didn’t acknowledge the flashes of his father’s temper in him, and as the case against him unfolds, she realizes he’s hidden more than he’s shared with her.
Mad Honey is a riveting novel of suspense, an unforgettable love story, and a moving and powerful exploration of the secrets we keep and the risks we take in order to become ourselves.
Read my interview with the authors in the October issue of the Costco Connection.
Q&A with “Mad Honey” authors: Jodi Picoult and Jenifer Finney Boylan
Jodi, what inspired this soul-stirring novel about what we choose to keep from our past and what to leave behind?
JP: I’ve wanted to write a story like this for a while, that questions how well we know the people we love the most, and whether there is a difference between what is secret and what is private. But the novel began with – of all things – Twitter! Jenny had a dream that we wrote a book together, and when I saw her tweet, I asked, “What was it about?” We messaged back and forth for a while, brainstorming, and decided to work together. I’ve been a fan of Jenny’s writing for a while, so this was a fantastic opportunity for me.
Jennifer, you are the author of 16 books and a contributing author for the op/ed page of the New York Times. Mad Honey was a collaborative effort. How did that process work?
JFB: The book began as a dream, and writing it was dreamlike, too. We hashed out the plot in wide strokes by phone and email, and then each of us figured out what each character was going to do— Jodi did the character of Olivia, the mom, and I did the character of Lily, the teenager. Jodi had the clever idea that my part would go backwards— and so after writing the outline I had to cut it all apart with scissors and put it in reverse order. Plus, each of my backwards-running chapters contained flashbacks to time before THAT. In the end I had to paste it all together on my office floor—before sending it to Jodi, who kept the master document. Because she’s a control freak. We also agreed that each of us would write one of the other’s chapters, which we did. It gives me great pleasure to imagine readers trying to figure out which of the Olivia chapters is mine, and which of the Lily chapters is Jodi’s!
Jodi, as a New York Times bestselling author, what made you want to write a collaborative book? Why was Jennifer the perfect pick for a co-author?
JP: I’ve written before with my daughter, but of course, when you write with your own kid you get to boss her around! I couldn’t do that with Jenny. Because she is such a good writer, it definitely made me stay on top of my game…I didn’t want to disappoint her or ruin the process by turning out chapters that were any less stellar than hers. (I MAY be a little competitive…!) Jenny was the perfect pick for this story because her lived experience as a woman is very different from my own, and I valued so deeply what she could bring to the table.
Jennifer, what did you enjoy most about the topic of the book and also about working with Jodi?
JFB: Well, Jodi was a dream— we edited each other’s chapters as we went along so it would all sound like a single voice. But she was generous and kind. I learned a lot about writing from working with her. As for the topics of the book—without giving anything away, I’d say that I do like thinking about the difference between what is private, and what is secret; how much our pasts matter to the ones we love; and to what extent it is possible to reinvent yourself. I think these are questions everyone asks themselves— or ought to.
Jodi, please describe the kind of fiction that you are drawn to write. What sparks your ideas?
JP: Moral and ethical fiction is my jam. I like creating characters who are a combination of bad and good, who make you wonder what you’d do in a similar situation. My ideas come from questions that I cannot answer, questions that keep me up at night. The older I get, the more generalized these questions are: Is the world a fair place? How do we make it more equitable? What’s the nature of good and what’s the nature of evil? What does it mean to be a woman?
Would you do another collaborative book? Would you recommend it?
JP: Absolutely, if the co-writer was someone I wanted to write with, and someone whose writing would elevate my own. But in a way, it’s harder than writing alone. It takes almost twice the work to make sure that the narrative thread feels continuous, rather than two pigs fighting under a blanket. I’m really proud of how seamless MAD HONEY feels and it’s because Jenny and I edited our way through each other’s chapters so thoroughly it’s sometimes hard to remember who wrote which phrase.
JFB: Oh, I would work with Jodi again in a heartbeat.
What’s next for you?
JP: I will be spending the early Fall in the UK launching a musical adaptation of THE BOOK THIEF — for which I was co-librettist. After Jenny and I tour for MAD HONEY in the US and UK, I’ll get cracking on my next novel — in which I intend to convince you all that Shakespeare didn’t actually write his plays.
JFB: I’m a Fellow at Harvard this coming year,—specifically, at the Radcliffe Center for Advanced Study, where I hope to do research on Amelia Earhart and other inspiring American women.
About Jodi Picoult: Jodi is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of 28 novels, including Wish You Were Here, The Book of Two Ways, A Spark of Light, Small Great Things, Leaving Time, The Storyteller, Lone Wolf, Sing You Home, House Rules, Handle with Care, Change of Heart, and My Sister’s Keeper, and, with daughter Samantha van Leer, two young adult novels, Between the Lines and Off the Page.
Her books have been translated into thirty-four languages in thirty-five countries. Four novels – The Pact, Plain Truth, The Tenth Circle, and Salem Falls – have been made into television movies. My Sister’s Keeper was a film released from New Line Cinema, with Nick Cassavetes directing and Cameron Diaz starring.
SMALL GREAT THINGS has been optioned for motion picture adaptation by Amblin Entertainment and is set to star Viola Davis and Julia Roberts. Jodi’s two Young Adult novels, Between The Lines and Off The Page, co-written with her daughter Samantha Van Leer, have been adapted and developed by the authors into a musical entitled Between The Lines, which had its world premiere in September 2017 at the Kansas City Repertory Theater and is expected to premiere Off-Broadway in Summer 2019.
Picoult is the recipient of many awards, including the New England Bookseller Award for Fiction, the Alex Award from the YALSA, a lifetime achievement award for mainstream fiction from the Romance Writers of America, the NH Literary Award for Outstanding Literary Merit, and the Sarah Josepha Hale Award. She holds honorary doctor of letters degrees from Dartmouth College and the University of New Haven.
Picoult is the recipient of many awards, including the New England Bookseller Award for Fiction, the Alex Awards from the YALSA, a lifetime achievement award for mainstream fiction from the Romance Writers of America, and the NH Literary Award for Outstanding Literary Merit. She holds honorary doctor of letters degrees from Dartmouth College and the University of New Haven. She is also a member of the advisory board for VIDA: Women in Literary Arts. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband. They have three children. Learn more: jodipicoult.com
About Jenifer Finney Boylan: Professor Jennifer Finney Boylan is the inaugural Anna Quindlen Writer in Residence at Barnard College of Columbia University. She serves on the Board of Trustees of PEN America, the nonprofit advocating for authors, readers, and freedom of expression. From 2011 to 2018, she served on the Board of Directors of GLAAD; she was co-chair of GLAAD’s board of directors from 2013-17. She also is a member of the faculty of the Breadloaf Writers’ Conference of Middlebury College and the Sirenland Writers’ Conference in Positano, Italy.
For many years she was a Contributing Opinion Writer for the opinion page of the New York Times; she has also been a member of the Board of Trustees of the Kinsey Institute for Research on Sex, Gender, and Reproduction.
Her most recent book is the memoir Good Boy: My Life in 7 Dogs, published by Celadon/Macmillan in April 2020. Her next book project is the novel Mad Honey, co-authored with Jodi Picoult, slate for publication in the autumn of 2022 by Ballantine/Random House.
Her 2003 memoir, She’s Not There: a Life in Two Genders (Broadway/Doubleday/Random House), was the first bestselling work by a transgender American. A novelist, memoirist, and short story writer, she is also a nationally known advocate for human rights. Jenny has appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show on four occasions, Live with Larry King twice; the Today Show, the Barbara Walters Special, NPR’s Marketplace, and Talk of the Nation; she has also been the subject of documentaries on CBS News’ 48 Hours and The History Channel. She served as an advisor to the television series Transparent.
She lives in New York City and in Belgrade Lakes, Maine, with her wife, Deedie. They have a son, Sean, and a daughter, Zai. Learn more: jenniferboylan.net