FAQs about Jude
How did you get the idea to write JUDE?
I’ve gotten this question often, and I always wish I had a better answer. With all my other books, I could say exactly how I first came up with the idea. For almost all of them, it was either something I read, or something someone else said which made me ask myself a question—and the book was the answer to that question (or not exactly the answer, but the exploration of that question). But JUDE is the only book that this didn’t happen with. In fact, when I first started writing it, it was a different book altogether. And for the life of me, I can’t remember how or when or why it morphed into this story. It started out as a story about a private investigator-- but how it became a story about a teenage boy who was kidnapped by his father, I have no memory. It happened while I was writing and rewriting and rewriting some more. One of these days I would like to try to unearth my old computer and look up the old versions to see if I could maybe trace back how it happened, like geology, but instead of digging through layers of rock, I’d be digging through layers of rewrites.
Is JUDE based on something that really happened?
No, I didn't base the book on a true story. But what's really funny/strange is that after I wrote it, I discovered that something similar actually did happen to someone I know. Her father kidnapped her brother, and she didn't seem him again for ten years. She and her mother had no idea where her brother was. They had no luck tracking him down. She met him again when they were both in their late teens. I didn't even know about him. I thought she was an only child.
And then, I also got a letter from a reader who said Jude's story was very much like his brother's. Their father is a DA, and his brother got arrested and sent to jail on a drug charge.
You know how they say 'truth is stranger than fiction.' I guess in this case it's that truth is exactly as strange as fiction.
How long did it take you to write JUDE?
Jude took about three years to write all together. About eight months to write the first draft, then the rest of the time rewriting and more rewriting and yet more rewriting. Jude was a bit of a problem book, and it needed a lot of revisions.
I'm writing a paper on JUDE and I was wondering if you had any ideas for themes in the book?
A big theme-- probably the biggest-- in the book is about how Jude's perception of his mother changes from someone to look up to and to impress, to someone who is just human and fallible and in fact may be even more lost than he is in some ways. I think Jude's journey of perception is one that every person needs to make, and it happens at different times for different people. When you're very young you see your parents almost like gods. And then as you grow up, you start to see them for what they are-- just people. That often happens when you're a teenager, but sometimes it's later.
Another angle on the parent theme is Jude's relationship/thoughts toward his father. He was so concerned about was not being like his father. And yet, as much as he tried to deny it, there was something of his father in him. It didn't come out until he was put in an extreme situation, but it was there. So there's the idea of inheritance. Not just blue eyes or blond hair, but personality, morals, etc. What do you think about the old adage, "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree?" Do you think you're like your parents? Do you want to be? In Jude's case, his father was abusive. I think it's fascinating (and disturbing) that abuse is something that seems to get handed down so that the person who is abused as a child sometimes grows up to be an abuser.
What symbolism did you use in JUDE?
I think a lot of the symbolism in literature happens at the subconscious level. (I always find it a bit heavy handed when writers put in elements that seem to scream, "This is symbolic.") So the fact that much of the symbolism in JUDE wasn't planned means tanyone would be able to find as much of it as I can. But just off the top of my head, I think that Jude's fighting was symbolic. He fights in a literal sense, but he's also fighting on a lot of other levels. He's fighting against his situation, his feelings, the society that has labeled and condemned him, against being like his father (though ironically, the literal fighting actually makes him more like his father). I think in the end, the real transformation for Jude is that he stops fighting. Not just the literal fighting, but he stops fighting against the way things are. Instead he learns to accept everything-- even the hard stuff. He has to accept that he has been labeled by the world, that he is in some ways like his father,that his mother is never going to be the person he wants her to be, etc.
What research did you do to write JUDE?
On a real-world level, when I was researching the book I got really interested in the prison system in this country. I didn't even realize that other countries have very different philosophical underpinnings for their penal systems. They try to rehabilitate, while our system is pretty much geared around punishment. And while that might seem appropriate, it can really cause problems when the people who were in prison re-enter society. There's also such a prejudice around ex-cons-- like the struggle Jude experienced when he got out. I found this prejudice extended even to my book; I got feedback before the book was published from different editors that no one wanted to read about prisons. And they didn’t want to publish the book because of it. To a certain extent it's true, there are some people who don't like that section in the book, but I've heard from many, many more who say that is their favorite part.
In addition to the prison research, I did a lot of research on the drug sentencing laws. Before writing the book, I didn't know anything about the sentencing guidelines for drug possession that some cases give first time drug offenders more jail time than rapists and murderers.
Questions/ Discussion topics by category for JUDE:
When did you realize that your parents were just people with as many flaws as anyone else? How did that make you feel? Disappointed? Relieved? Was it a gradual realization, or can you pinpoint the time? If you can pinpoint the change, was it connected to an event? If so, what happened?
What do you think about the old adage “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree?” In looking around at the people you know, how true do you think it is? How many people do you know who are exactly like their parents? Do they realize it? How much are you like your parents? Who do you know has chosen a completely different path?
When it comes to the drug world, how do you see drug dealers? If you could equate it with some other crime, what would it be? How much personal responsibility do you put on the people who buy the drugs? What role do you think the government should have in regulating it? Could you think of anything that might actually improve the situation?
How much do you know about the prison system in this country? What do you think about the idea of punishment vs. rehabilitation? What would you feel if someone you knew told you they had been in prison?
What was the last thing that you really wanted? Did you get it? When you got it, how did you feel? (right afterward, then a month later, then a year later). Was it as good as you thought it would be? Did it give you what you thought it would? Was there anything you wanted but eventually realized that getting it wasn’t actually important? Did you actually need to attain it in order to come to that realization?
How much responsibility do you think Jude had for his friend RJ's involvement with drugs?
How much would you sacrifice for someone you loved?
Would you plead guilty to a crime you didn’t commit in order to protect someone else?
What did you think of Anna’s ideas about justice?
What do you think about what Davis did? Should he have kept his word to Jude? Or did he have a responsibility as a reporter to publish the truth?