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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 12 June, 2002, 12:30 GMT 13:30 UK
Orange winner 'flattered' by prize
Ann Patchett
Patchett has already begun her next novel

Orange Prize winner Ann Patchett is no stranger to awards.

Her first novel, The Patron Saint of Liars, was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and her next won the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize.

She won a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1994 and she is also a recipient of the Nashville Banner Tennessee Writer of the Year Award.


I spend an awfully long time putting a book together before I sit down to write it

Ann Patchett
Awards, she told BBC News Online, are "useful".

"They're incredibly flattering, they're incredibly affirming, but most importantly they mean you have a better chance of getting your books read."

"I don't think they really help when you sit down to write another book - but the money's nice."

Patchett, who is already at work on her next novel - "It's about politics, and it's set in Boston" - has a well-established approach to her craft.

"I do most of my revision up front.

"I wrote the first 50 pages of this book probably 20 times, and kept throwing it out.

Bel Canto cover
The novel was inpired by real events in Peru
"Once I get the beginning of a book then I'm pretty much on the right track, and I clean it up as I go along - I'm not the kind of a writer who writes six drafts of a novel, all significantly different from one another."

Research has clearly paid off with the award for Orange Prize-winning Bel Canto, about a group of people held hostage in an unnamed South American country.

"The way I work I spend an awfully long time, a year, a year and a half, putting a book together before I sit down to write it.

Thoroughness

"I think that if I started to read a novel in which I felt like the author didn't have any authority I just wouldn't finish it."

Her thoroughness meant learning all about opera for a character in Bel Canto.

"The more I got into it the more I loved it.

"For my last book it was about magic, but what I discovered was that I really hated magic - the more research I did, the stupider it all seemed.

"So it was really nice to take on opera this time."

Pratchett, who lives on her own in Nashville, Tennessee, thinks that the lack of distractions is an important spur to creativity.

"It's just me and the dog - I always wonder about women who have small children who manage to write novels.

"I have a long-term feller, but he lives about three blocks away - I see him every day but I have my own house, and I don't have a television."

'Smarter'

Though the novelist does not set herself a target of words per day - "Absolutely not" - she does favour working in the mornings.

"I'm certainly smarter in the morning than I am at other times of day, and I usually work then, but I'm not rigid.

"If something comes up on Tuesday and I was planning to work, I just don't work.

"I think that's the nice thing about being self-employed."

Patchett may appreciate her privileges as a writer, but she feels readers are often undervalued for their part in the "literary chemistry" between writer and reader.

"I've always thought there was a ridiculous attention put onto leadership.

"Not everybody can be at the front of the pack, and there are so many different relationships to have - you can be the artist, you can be the audience, you can be the Indian, you can be the chief."

"Even if people don't want to be creative artists they tend to feel bad because they don't want to be artists - they think they're something wrong with them for not having that impulse."

It's an impulse which Patchett has cultivated to great effect - and after the Orange Prize, more readers are bound to find out why.

See also:

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