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Picoult, daughter work ‘Between the Lines’

Jane Henderson St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Jodi Picoult says her teenage co-writer won’t be fazed by an international book tour.

“That’s the easy part compared to a summer writing the book,” Picoult says confidently from her home in New Hampshire.

“It will be fun for me to have someone to travel with. I think we’re going to have a really good time.”

Picoult (pronounced pee-koe) and her daughter, Samantha van Leer, stopped in St. Louis recently as part of a tour that includes Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand to promote a novel for young adults, “Between the Lines,” published by Simon & Schuster (352 pages, $19.99; ages 12 and up).

The story is a fantasy tale for young teens who aren’t ready for the heart-wrenching family issues that Picoult has parlayed into multiple best-sellers.

Picoult’s dramas usually feature extreme ethical decisions based on real life:

• A family has another baby so it may become a compatible donor for a sick sister (the classic “My Sister’s Keeper”).

• Children of a wolf researcher disagree on whether to pull the plug when a car accident leaves him brain dead (this year’s “Lone Wolf”).

• A neighbor ponders helping a guilt-ridden former Nazi kill himself (next year’s “The Storyteller”).

Parents have asked the author to provide “watered-down” versions for their kids, Picoult says.

“I would never do that.”

But when her daughter, Sammy, told her she thought she had a good idea for a novel, Picoult liked the premise for a sweet love story involving a fictional Prince Charming and a 15-year-old girl reader who wishes he were real.

It’s not uncommon for authors to mention that they’ve gotten ideas from inquisitive offspring (Justin Cronin and “The Passage,” Ridley Pearson and “Peter and the Starcatchers”).

But Picoult may be one of the few who sat the kid down over summer break and taught her how to write the book.

“We literally sat side by side at the computer. We would start talking. … One would start the sentence and one would finish.”

The book actually took longer than a summer, but that was the main period of writing because Sammy was out of school. Picoult says her daughter likes to write, but doesn’t plan on it for a career. Sammy will be a high school senior this fall and plans to study psychology and early childhood development.

“I keep telling her that’s a good background for a writer,” her proud mother says.

Picoult says they’ve talked about a sequel to “Between the Lines.”

“But first Sammy has to write her college applications.”

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