Ann Patchett is the author of six novels, The Patron Saint of Liars, Taft, The Magician's Assistant, Bel Canto, Run, and State of Wonder. She was the editor of Best American Short Stories, 2006, and has written three books of nonfiction, Truth & Beauty, about her friendship with the writer, Lucy Grealy, What now? an expansion of her graduation address at Sarah Lawrence College, and, most recently, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, a collection of essays that examines the theme of commitment.
A graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and the Iowa Writer's Workshop, Patchett has been the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, including England's Orange Prize, PEN/Faulkner Award, the Harold D. Vursell Memorial Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Book Sense Book of the Year, a Guggenheim Fellowship, The Chicago Tribune's Heartland Prize, The Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts, the American Bookseller's Association's "Most Engaging Author Award", and the Women's National Book Association's Award. Her books have been both New York Times Notable Books and New York Times bestsellers. Her work has been translated into more than thirty languages.
In November, 2011, she opened Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee, with Karen Hayes. She has since gone on to be a spokesperson for independent booksellers, talking about books and bookstores on "The Colbert Report," NPR, "The Martha Stewart Show" and "The CBS Early Show." Along with James Patterson she was the honorary chair of World Book Night. In 2012 she was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World.
Ann Patchett lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband, Karl VanDevender, and their dog, Sparky.
Ann Patchett's website
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A Conversation with Ann Patchett, author of Bel Canto
What inspired you to write this novel?
Usually it's hard to pin down the exact point at which you come up with an idea for a novel but this one is easy: December 17th, 1996, the night that the terrorist organization Tupac Amaru took over the Japanese embassy in Lima, Peru. I'm sure I didn't know that day that this story would turn into Bel Canto, but I was completely focused on it from the start. It had so many elements that were compelling to me: confinement, survival, the construction of family. For a long time I'd wanted to find a way to experience the things I read about in the paper, to grieve for disasters that had no immediate affect on my life. Turning a tragedy I knew nothing about into this novel was part of that process.
Were you an opera aficionado prior to writing Bel Canto?
I wasn't. I knew as much about opera as I did about baseball, which is to say nothing. But once I came up with the character of Roxane Coss I threw myself into learning about it whole-heartedly. The best thing I did was to buy a book called Opera 101 by Fred Plotkin. It tells you how to listen and what to listen to. It takes you through everything you need ...
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