Jacquelyn Mitchard came to the , the first stop on the book tour for her newest novel, Second Nature, due out in September. She is “beguiled by science,” she said, and this book centers around a procedure just past experimental and much in the news when it happens, a full-face transplant.
Mitchard told about one-hundred-plus readers in attendance that most of us likely knew someone who had been seriously disfigured by fire or acid.
She said her stories aim to draw in the reader, making her/him part of the family. She apparently did that also with her audience Wednesday night, talking about her nine children, the last two an “accidental adoption” of sisters Merit and Marta, from Ethiopia; the oldest, Danny, 26 and a chef.
The genesis of her novel, Second Nature, was an incident from her childhood in Chicago, where a horrible school fire in her neighborhood killed many students and teachers. “I’d been obsessed with that fire since I was five years old.”
Several of her books feature 12-13-year-old heroines: Sicily in this newest one, Ronnie in Cage of Stars; Arley, The Most Wanted. “I guess I’m attracted to adolescents, girls on the brink of adulthood, their impulsiveness, their emotional geography.”
This book in particular required a great deal of research, according to Mitchard. She spent two weeks with a Madison fire company; she studied medical and surgical techniques and ethics; she talked with a woman having a transplant.
Sicily is a student caught in the fire; her father a fire fighter. The author read aloud the truly harrowing description of that event in the book.
Mitchard is a serious fan of libraries. She was delighted to find herself, at the opening Friends of the Library reception, in a small room created by shelves of books. Later, asked what an aspiring writer should read, she said, “Everything!” She waved a hand around the frieze of famous writers on the library’s walls; “ALL of these.”
Now the author of 21 books in 15 years is studying for her MFA in creative writing, and teaching. “I love teaching writing.”
Her not-secret-any-more ambition?
“I want to write a ghost story!” Mitchard announced.