As Jodi Picoult's kids got older, she realized that being a good parent sometimes means letting go. At the same time, her kids were finding out that their mom wasn't exactly a superhero.
For the author, this gradual process of discovery led to an idea for a novel.
"I started to wonder, what if a child had to grow up overnight because of a single act of violence? How would that affect the rest of the family?" Picoult said during a recent interview conducted via e-mail while the author was in England on a book tour.
Picoult's "The Tenth Circle" (Atria, $26) examines the changing relationship between a 14-year-old and her parents, Daniel and Laura.
In the novel, Daniel, a comic book artist, has always imagined himself as a superhero-like dad who could protect his daughter, Trixie, from anything. But when Trixie experiences a traumatic event, Daniel realizes he won't always be able to safeguard her.
In the book, Daniel is creating a graphic novel based on Dante's "Inferno." In his story, a father tries to save his daughter who has been kidnapped and taken to hell. "The Tenth Circle" includes pages of Daniel's comic book artwork.
"The reason I included this is because the book is about the stories we tell ourselves, but also the way we tell stories - and art is one of them," Picoult said.
Readers have responded well to the graphic novel within "The Tenth Circle," Picoult said.
"Readers have really been amazed, I think, at how organic the art feels - it's not tacked on, because it's so endemic to Daniel as a character - even the ones who've never read a graphic novel before have said they found themselves enjoying it," Picoult said.
She became interested in comic books for the first time while working on her novel.
"I'd never really read them, actually, until I began to think of them as a way to tell a story - and they're great for that, because they have a real social consciousness, characters that are all shades of gray, and a subversive humor laced through them," Picoult said. "I took a crash course from my middle son, a comic book aficionado."
In the novel, as Daniel draws his graphic novel based on Dante's work, his wife, Laura, teaches a college course about "The Inferno," which describes the punishments for sinners in the different levels of hell.
Though Dante wrote "Inferno" centuries ago, it is still relevant to modern life, Picoult said.
"There isn't that much Dante didn't cover; even 700 years after he wrote his poem, you can still classify most sins and crimes in his nine circles," she said. "It's the 10th, the betrayal of self, that I extrapolated as a modern sin, one we've created in this world where putting a spin on things (including our own lives) is necessary and somehow dishonest."
Join the Gwinnett Daily Post Book Club as we discuss "The Tenth Circle" by Jodi Picoult (Atria Books, $26). The novel examines the changes a couple experiences after their 14-year-old daughter survives a violent act.
If you go
•What: Gwinnett Daily Post Book Club discusses "The Tenth Circle" by Jodi Picoult
•When: 7 p.m. May 24
•Where: The meeting room at the Collins Hill Library, located at 455 Camp Perrin Road in Lawrenceville.
•Cost: The meeting is free. The book is available for $26.
•Info: Call Rachael Mason 770-963-9205, ext. 1324.