In her 17th novel, House Rules – which hit bookstores last week – best-selling author Jodi Picoult tackles yet another hotly-debated topic: autism. (In real life, Picoult advocates vaccinations but not a “one-size-fits-all” philosophy.) When she’s not knee-deep into book research or typing furiously away on her laptop, she’s mom to three kids, Sammy, 14, Kyle, 16, and Jake, 18, who, yes, read and love her books. – Andrea Zimmerman
What’s your parenting philosophy?
Just do the best you can. If you’re trying your hardest, that’s good enough for me.
If you could teach your children one lesson, what would it be?
How do you manage a public tantrum?
When you’re a public speaker, there’s this double-edged thing going on because people are looking at you like, “Oh my god, Jodi Picoult’s child is having a meltdown!” What I usually do is grab the kid, put them in the car and start driving, and have the fight at home! But I’ve been guilty of screaming publicly.
What shocked you the most about parenting?
How incredibly different your children can be when they all come from the same gene pool.
What’s your kids’ favorite meal that you make for them?
Homemade chicken and dumplings.
What do you wish you had known as a first-time parent?
That there’s no right way to do it. Everyone wants a baby to come with a handbook so they can follow it, but they don’t. You will never feel that you’re 100 percent prepared, or that you have enough money to make it work or that you know what you’re doing. But somehow it will work out in the end.
If you could be any TV or movie parent, who would it be?
The mom from Gilmore Girls. She has a really open and honest relationship with her daughter, and I think that my kids have good, open relationships with me. That’s something I’m very proud of.
What’s been your biggest challenge as a parent?
I have three kids, and my middle son had tumors that were growing in his ears that took away some of his hearing that led to him having 13 surgeries in a 3-year period. [At the same time] my oldest son got strep throat and said, “Well now you can pay attention to me.” I was so mad at him. Because he was sick but he wasn’t sick enough. And that’s a horrible thing to feel as a mother. I wish I had known you’re going to say things you regret but ultimately your other children will have moments when they need you and you’re there for them.
What’s the last great book your kids read?
Can I say House Rules? That was the last book the boys read. They each have a favorite of mine: Kyle likes Salem Falls, Sammy likes Nineteen Minutes, and Jake likes Perfect Match and Second Glance.