It's no secret that one of my all-time favourite authors is Jodi Picoult - and last night I actually got to meet her - here's proof!
I love the way Jodi takes a controversial issue and writes about all sides of it, often with multiple narrators taking opposing views. I often pick up one of her books thinking "well, I know what my opinion on this subject is", but as I keep reading I find myself sympathizing with all the many and varied characters and viewpoints, and end up being able to see all the shades of grey of an issue that I had thought was black and white - and her novels always leaves me with food for thought long after I finish reading.
This was a trait I greatly admired, and one I really wanted to emulate in my first novel, "Someone Else's Life", and it's no exaggeration to say that without Jodi, I probably would not have written that book at all - and consequently I may not have ever become a published author - which is why I am over the moon when some critics have called it "Jodi Picoult for teens".
For me, there can be no greater praise.
And no greater thrill than meeting her in person last night.
Jodi spoke eloquently about the inspiration for her latest novel, "Leaving Time", which centres on a woman who studies elephants who goes suddenly missing, and her daughter who, ten years later, is trying to find her. Jodi explained how she had researched the subject matter, especially elephants. I am overwhelmed by how much research Jodi does for each of her (very varied) novels, from going to a haunted house with ghost-hunters, to interviewing Holocaust survivors in Poland, to staying in an igloo, to tracking elephants in Botswana. And still somehow she manages to produce a book a year! I am in awe.
And even more awe-inspiring is the way Jodi is now using her latest novel to promote awareness of the ongoing ivory trade and its threat to elephants in the wild. Shockingly, it is estimated that in ten years' time there will be no wild elephants left in Africa, especially as the value of an ounce of ivory has sky-rocketed from $150 to $1300.Jodi is quick to point out that this is not just an issue for elephant-lovers, as every month 1-3 tons of ivory is poached by members of Al-Shabab, a terrorist group in Somalia with clear links to Al-Qaida, in order to fund terrorism.
So how can we help? Support accredited anti-poaching organisations such as TUSK, write to your local MP, blog, tweet, whatever you can to raise awareness of this issue. With over 14 million readers worldwide, hopefully Jodi and her novel, and everyone who reads this will help to spread the word and make a difference - before it's too late.
Jodi's interview on the subject for PETA http://www.peta.org/blog/jodi-picoult-zoos-drive-elephants-crazy/