Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Q&A with Jacquelyn Mitchard

From my Q&A with Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of The Good Son: A Novel:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

It should do a great deal of work but I don’t think that the title does that work, in this case, with The Good Son. That title is controversial, both for me and others, because it’s been “inhabited,” as they say, so many times, most famously for a movie with Macaulay Culkin as a child. It’s meant to be ironic or at least ambivalent for my book, but it was not the title I would have chosen as I tend to want more lyrical titles. Indeed, if the title of my first and best-known novel, The Deep End of the Ocean, had been as literal as this one is, it would have been something like Yikes, My Son was Kidnapped and Now Here He is! Or You Can’t Go Home Again, They Moved. In any case, I didn’t think the world needed another book called The Good Son (or The Good Daughter).

What's in a name?

I’m very, very picky about character names, and while I’m not like Dickens with Mrs. Gradgrind or Martin Chuzzlewit, I do want the name to comprise some essence of the character. In this story, the main character, Thea, even discusses with her best friend what her name means (it means “gift of God” in Greek). The name of the son is Stefan, which means “victorious,” or, in Greek, “garland,” and in the second meaning, referred to his love for plants and botany and also his eventual triumph. The name also has to “sound” like the character: For example, Stefan’s father is a football coach, and though his real name is John Paul, he’s called “Jep,” which I think of as...[read on]
Visit Jacquelyn Mitchard's website.

My Book, the Movie: Two If by Sea.

Writers Read: Jacquelyn Mitchard (March 2016).

The Page 69 Test: Two If by Sea.

The Page 69 Test: The Good Son.

Q&A with Jacquelyn Mitchard.

--Marshal Zeringue