“With six kids still in school, and the ambition of being a good mother, and a caring mother, or at least a present mother, I try to thoroughly read the things I sign.” – from JacquelynMitchard.com/blog
Jacquelyn Mitchard made literary history in 1996 when her book, The Deep End of the Ocean, was the first book Oprah Winfrey suggested for her TV book club group. The bestseller went on to become a movie, starring Michelle Pfeiffer. Overall, the award-winning author has completed a menagerie of works, including ten adult novels, seven for young adults, four for children, a memoir and a collection of essays. And the newly released, Two If By Sea.
The reason this story begins with the quote from her blog is because Mitchard is also the mother of nine children. The quote referred to the myriad of school papers a parent has to sign for six children who are still in school. While mothering and writing, Mitchard and her husband suffered a devastating financial loss through a Ponzi-schemer, and was, in the end, plain broke. The big house in Wisconsin was sold, and a three-bedroom summer home in Cape Cod became their primary residence.
Two If By Sea tells the story of Frank Mercy, whose life is transformed when he loses his wife in a Christmas Eve tsunami, and saves the life of a little boy. The journey to a new life for both survivors takes them on a remarkable journey. And with its release on March 15, 2016, Mitchard has surfaced, and in a big and positive way. Since there’s been enough in the news about the financial disaster (Mitchard speaks about the ordeal on her Simon and Schuster page, and she’s also talked about it on her website), we kept this Q & A about mothering and book writing.
WAT: Two If By Sea is coming out this month. Congratulations. With that said, how the heck did you get this remarkable book written with six kids still in school?
JM: Writing when you have kids at home (I have kids ages ten through 20 who are still at home) means you have to have lower standards for some things — not their education, not your writing, but things like .. dust moozies. I raise my kids epically instead of thoroughly, which they do not enjoy. A good example of this is that I’ve never taken my daughters to the mall, but I have taken them to Italy. I’ve never taken them to the mall in Italy, either. Kids from big families naturally are self-reliant and able to depend on each other. They’re very tolerant of me, and they support me doing this.
WAT: When you asked the universe for the characters, and the storyline and all that, how did it all come to you, and how did you know this was it when it came to you? A writer usually has a bazillion story lines spinning around in her head, so what made you stop on this one?
JM: When I ask the universe for characters, the universe says, “Whatever.” But I saw a photo a couple of years ago of a Christmas tree that was submerged by floodwater, but its lights were still on. I kept that picture, and gradually it came to me that this was the little boy Ian, shining despite all the odds against him.
WAT: How did you familiarize yourself with the continents described in the book?
JM: I’ve been to those places. I would find it really difficult to write about somewhere I haven’t been mostly because I wouldn’t know how it smelled or sounded.
JM: I wanted to find an event that was not just big but life-altering, an event that people would refer to by saying, that was before the storm, or that was afterward. I wanted to try to find an event that would mean that nothing would be the same.
WAT: If you could describe in one sentence the book’s overall message, what would it be?
JM: The overall message is that love is a huge risk and carries enormous responsibility, but that we cannot choose otherwise.
WAT: “Mitchard explores new territory in this unusual and suspenseful tale.” Says Booklist. Do you feel that is true? If so, how?
JM: Definitely it’s true that I’m exploring new territory with Two If By Sea. There’s a male protagonist, it’s an adventure as well as a story of family, and the plot turns on the child’s extraordinary ability, so it includes magical realism.
For more information, including Mitchard’s national book tour schedule, visit Simon and Schuster’s website.
Two If By Sea