her debut novel, "The Deep End of the Ocean," was chosen by
Oprah Winfrey as the first choice for the talk show hostís book
club, people said she was lucky. Boosted by the exposure, Jacquelyn
Mitchardís book sold more than 3 million copies.
nothing about it that wasnít wonderful," Mitchard says, even
though some told her that the Winfrey endorsement could set her up for
unreasonable expectations in her career.
Milwaukee Journal columnist has had plenty of luck in her life, both
kinds. But Mitchard makes no apologies for being ambitious, especially
when sheís had to be. She lost her first husband to cancer early on.
Widowed with two children, she wrote "The Deep End of the
Ocean." She kept writing, penning 20 more books and articles for
A few years ago,
she and her husband, Chris, lost every cent they had to what sheís
described in a magazine article as "a con man posing as an
investment adviser." In a matter of days, she says, all of their
financial accounts were drained dry. The family lost their house, and
just about everything else, except each other.
So now, 20 years
after "The Deep End of the Ocean," she has written another
book "about somebody recovering from devastating loss," she
says, referring to her latest novel, "Two if by Sea."
"Iím not comparing losing money to losing family, but the rug
was pulled out from under us. It will take a long time to right this
Mitchard and her
husband have nine kids, some by birth and some by adoption, ranging in
age from 10 to 31. Even though their lives have been dramatically
altered by the financial disaster, she says, not once have the
children pointed a finger of blame at their
as a young adult book editor at Merit Press and teaches in the masterís
of fine arts program at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She earned
her own MFA in creative writing just a few years ago.
the only creative writing class Iíve ever taken," she says.
"If I know how to be a good writer itís because I went to the
ĎUniversity of Good Books.í When my older kids were younger, I
would read to them, but I would only read to them from books that I
like. I was reading from a very old book, ĎNational Velvet,í and
my son Dan said, ĎMom, this lady really copied your writing a lot.í"
tells her students not to worry about writing in the style of authors
they admire: "Itís not really plagiarism, itís your own
voice, because you are attracted to them for a reason. I believe you
find your own voice as a writer by emulating the people you admire,
and thatís very healthy."
still has her ambitions. "One is to have a bathtub, because our
house only has showers," she says. "The other is to have one
day in which Iím bored and think what shall I do, because Iíve
never, ever been bored ó there hasnít been one day that I can say
I wasnít doing something important." m
Thriller' sets scenes on a Wisconsin Farm
Mitchard describes her new novel, "Two if by Sea," as a
sounds kind of unusual, and I realize that, but itís a thriller
about morality," she says. "Thereís a great deal of mayhem
in this book."
The story is
about a retired American police officer, Frank Mercy, who loses his
wife and her family in the Christmas Eve tsunami in Brisbane,
Australia. In the same catastrophe, Mercy rescues a little boy named
Ian from a car that submerges. When Mercy brings the orphaned Ian back
with him to the Wisconsin horse farm where he grew up, he realizes
that the child has a strange power to make people do his will.
Ian wants, because heís not quite 4 years old, is for people to do
good," Mitchard says. But the bad guys in the story are
"very, very bad," she notes, and are controlling Ian so they
can use his power for their own gain. Mercy finds himself protecting
the boy and becoming his avenger.
against an international landscape and all of those places that Frank
has tried to find home," Mitchard says. "He comes to
understand what we all come to understand ó that home is other
"Two if by
Sea" by Jacquelyn Mitchard is published by Simon & Schuster.
ó Nan Bialek