Oprah: How do you feel when you finally finish the last page of a book and you release it to the world?
Janet: There's a gap there. I finish, and then the release to the world comes some time later. I didn't think I'd ever finish this book. I felt like I was in Groundhog Day, in a circular reality. In between White Oleander and Paint It Black, I worked on another book that never gelled. And since we last talked, I've gone through a divorce. That was quite a ride.
Oprah: Well, divorce can either help or hinder your writing.
Janet: Or both. [Laughs] I use my fiction to explore my own unconscious issues. I usually don't even know what's going on with me until I'm writing. That doesn't mean my books are autobiographical. After people read White Oleander, they often ask me if I was ever a foster child.
Oprah: You write so vividly that one would think your work is autobiographical.
Janet: Writing mirrors the interior self. You know, any book is like the perfect blueprint of the psyche of the author. When I start writing, my unconscious, my conflicts, my thoughts all start to come up. So for me, writing is an exploration. I never know how my stories will end. I just kept working on Paint It Black until the ending felt right.
Oprah: What does a writer as gifted as you are read?
Janet: I'm incredibly restless. I read a lot of poetry. I also find myself reading the first 20 pages of everything, looking for something. And you know what? I'm usually looking for the book I'm writing. And it's not out there!
Oprah: That's interesting. When you read poetry, do you memorize it?
Janet: I've tried, but I don't have the best memory in the world.
Oprah: When I read poetry, I read it aloud. It's so much better that way.
Janet: It trains my ear. If I read poetry aloud, and then I read what I've been writing, I can hear, "Clunk, clunk, clunk."
Oprah: Who are your favorite poets?
Janet: I love the Russian poet Joseph Brodsky. I also like Anne Sexton and Dylan Thomas. Anne Carson has a book called The Beauty of the Husband that's unbelievable.