Tracy Chevalier was born in Washington, DC but has lived in England all her adult life. She now has dual citizenship. She has a BA in English from Oberlin College, Ohio and an MA in creative writing from the University of East Anglia, Norwich, England. She lives in London with her English husband and son. Before turning to writing full-time, she was a reference book editor for several years. She has written 7 novels. Her second novel, Girl with a Pearl Earring, won the Barnes and Noble Discover Award, sold 4 million copies worldwide, and was made into a film starring Colin Firth and Scarlett Johansson.
This biography was last updated on 01/15/2014.
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An interview with Tracy Chevalier
about Girl With A Pearl Earring
Everyday life in 17th century Delft is so vivid in Girl with a Pearl Earring. How did you conduct your research? Where?
Most of it, I confess, was done in my armchair. I read a lot (especially Simon Schama's The Embarrassment Of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in The Golden Age) and looked at a lot of paintings. Luckily 17th-century Dutch paintings are mainly scenes from everyday life and so it was easy to see what houses looked like inside and how they were run. I also went to Delft for four days and just wandered around, taking it in. Vermeer's house no longer exists, but there are plenty of 17th-century buildings still left, as well as the Market Square, the Meat Hall, the canals and bridges. It's not hard to get an idea of what it was like then.
Little is known of Vermeer's lifeat least compared with other Baroque painters like Rembrandt. Why did you choose Vermeer's work to write about?
I chose Vermeer's work because it is so beautiful and so mysterious. In his paintings, the solitary women going about their domestic taskspouring milk, reading letters, weighing gold, putting on a necklace...
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