'Click:' One Book, 10 Authors When book editor Arthur Levine invited author Ruth Ozeki to team up with nine other writers to create a new novel, she thought he was nuts. The literary tag team came up with Click, the story of a globe-trotting photojournalist as viewed from a variety of perspectives.
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'Click:' One Book, 10 Authors

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'Click:' One Book, 10 Authors

'Click:' One Book, 10 Authors

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Author Ruth Ozeki had an understandable reaction when book editor Arthur Levine invited her to team up with nine other writers to create a new novel for young readers.

Ms. RUTH OZEKI (Author): I thought you were nuts when you first proposed this, Arthur, I have to say.

Mr. ARTHUR LEVINE (Book Editor): Did you really?

Ms. OZEKI: Yeah. Oh, did I?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. OZEKI: I kept thinking train wreck, train wreck, train wreck.

Mr. LEVINE: Right.

Ms. LINDA SUE PARK (Author): Yeah, me, too. Me, too.

AMOS: That me too is author Linda Sue Park, who also had a hand in the project. The result is "Click," a novel in 10 chapters, each by a different writer.

Linda Sue Park wrote the first chapter and sets out the major characters: a girl named Maggie, Maggie's grandfather - a globetrotting photojournalist known as Gee - and the unusual inheritance Gee leaves his granddaughter.

Ms. PARK: (Reading) "A wooden box - simple, but not plain. The edge all around was beveled, blond wood with a dark grain of fine lines and whirls. She ran her finger around the beveled edge's smoothness. There's something inside, I know there is. He left more than just a pretty box."

AMOS: More, indeed. Inside the box, Maggie finds seven seashells, each from a different continent. And this unusual gift sets off a story that winds around the world and across generations. Linda Sue Park explains.

Ms. PARK: I decided that because I wanted as much scope as possible for the other authors to travel back and forth in time, that the way to do that would be to have one older character and one younger one so that the live action could be extended for as many years as possible.

AMOS: So you really had to think about the architecture of a novel. You had to give enough scope for everybody else.

Ms. PARK: Yeah, I have to confess, I wasn't thinking about, you know, how this would go because I didn't know what the other writers would do. But I had sort of two main ideas in mind: that time scope, to give it as wide a range as possible, and then making him a globetrotting photojournalist. And I did choose photography deliberately. I wanted to create the possibility of as universal medium as possible, so pictures rather than words.

AMOS: Now, you wrote the first chapter. We go through twists and turns. I want to get to the eighth chapter, and that's the one that's written by Ruth Ozeki. Would you read us a little bit of that chapter? And it is called "Jiro."

Ms. PARK: That's right. "Jiro."

(Reading) "When my older brother came home from the war, he had no legs. He lost them in a place called Luzon, in the Philippines, where our Japanese soldiers were fighting the Americans. My brother, Taro, was advancing with his platoon through the jungle toward the enemy position when the grenades started falling from the trees like big, fat fruit."

AMOS: How do you make that link? You had a character fully formed, Linda Sue gives you a character, and you come up with "Jiro." How did you do that?

Ms. OZEKI: Well, the detail that really popped out for me was on Linda's first page. She mentioned that Gee, the grandfather, had photographed war. My grandfather, my Japanese grandfather was also a photographer, so I knew what it was like to grow up with, you know, boxes of photographs, each one with a history that you might not understand. And I thought it would be interesting to have, you know, to actually imagine what Gee's early experiences might have been, you know, to see somebody a character like Gee from, you know, the vantage point of a young Japanese boy.

AMOS: And in your capable hands, Gee's heart is exposed somehow - the bigness of it, in this particular chapter, it seems to me.

Ms. OZEKI: Well, I think that Gee, you know, the character that Linda Sue gave us was such a resonant character, and so he had to become that somehow. And so I think one of the things that I wanted to do - and I think some of the other authors did this as well - was to create episodes in his past that would explain why he was so important to Maggie, why he was such a good compassionate listener and…

AMOS: His granddaughter.

Ms. OZEKI: His granddaughter, yeah, sorry - and why he became the man he did.

AMOS: Arthur Levine, you're the editor of this collection, and you were the maestro in some ways.

(Soundbite of laughter)

AMOS: Did anything land on your desk, and you said, oh, my. I don't know where this fits. Did you have any moment like that?

Mr. LEVINE: Not really. You know, Linda Sue and I, you know, probably had the most conversations, because it was like right at the very beginning.

Ms. PARK: And I did write a first draft, which was completely different. And Arthur's response was this is wonderful. This is terrific. This is amazing. This is not what I want at all.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. PARK: So I had to start over, but that was - it was very helpful. We had to figure, you know, we were both figuring out together.

Mr. LEVINE: Everybody was open to different changes like that, and things would happen in the end, you know, latter chapter, where it would - somebody would say, it would be - I really wanted to do this. Could you go back to Ruth and say, you know, hey, would it be possible for this to happen?

AMOS: So there were changes even as…

Ms. OZEKI: Yes.

AMOS: …the forward writers were completing the narrative.

Mr. LEVINE: Oh, sure.

Ms. PARK: I remember one very simple example. I had the box originally made of olive wood, and Deborah Ellis decided she was going to write a story about the box itself, but she set her story in Russia, where there are not a lot of olive trees. So…

AMOS: So you changed it?

Mr. LEVINE: Right.

Ms. PARK: Yes. Arthur came back to me and said, would you mind making that box out of, you know…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. PARK: …and we chose birch.

Mr. LEVINE: Right.

Ms. PARK: So that's one simple example.

Mr. LEVINE: That's, like, not a typical detail that I would ever comment on to an author. Hey, I like your box, but could it be a different piece of wood, you know?

AMOS: It's lumpy…

Mr. LEVINE: Yup.

AMOS: …as you would imagine, with these many authors…

Mr. LEVINE: Sure.

AMOS: …in one book. And there's something charming about the lumps.

Mr. LEVINE: Yeah. Well, life is lumpy. And, you know, in many ways, this book is a construction of a life. It's, you know, a life seen from many different angles and with many different people's perspectives, and that's just how anyone's life is.

AMOS: Linda Sue, you start off the first chapter. Were you happy with how the story ended?

Ms. PARK: Oh, I think the ending is brilliant. Gregory Maguire does the ending chapter. And he had, I think, a much more difficult job than I did, because mine was wide open. I could do whatever I wanted. And yet, he needed to write something that would actually pull all these other nine jazz musicians together. And his chapter is what makes the book work as a novel…

Mr. LEVINE: Yeah.

Ms. PARK: …as opposed to just a collection of stories.

(Soundbite of music)

AMOS: The book is called "Click." It was written in part by Linda Sue Park and Ruth Ozeki. Editor Arthur Levine also joined our conversation. You can read excerpts from the book at npr.org.

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Deborah Amos.

INSKEEP: And I'm Steve Inskeep.

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