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The Patron Saint of Liars

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The Patron Saint of Liars Cover

 

 

Author Q & A

Q. The Patron Saint of Liars is your first novel. How did you come to write this? What inspired you?
A. I very much thought of myself as a short story writer when I was young, but I wanted to give a novel a try. I won a fellowship for seven months to the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, which rescued me from being a waitress. I knew that this block of time was my great chance to make the jump to a longer form. So in a sense the fellowship itself inspired me, that and being a waitress. I made up the story of Patron Saint while rolling silverware at the end of my shift every night.

Q. As a writer, would you say you operate more from life or imagination?
A. In the case of this novel, the question then becomes, "Did you do time in a home for unwed mothers or did you make it up?" I work very much from my imagination, though I write about issues that interest me in my own life, like the construction of family. There are also some similarities between the home for unwed mothers and the artist's colony on Cape Cod in the winter where I wrote the book. Like the pregnant girls, the artists and writers were all sort of stuck out in the hinterlands for seven months.

Q. When you wrote The Patron Saint of Liars, did you start with the characters, the narrative, or something else? What was your process, and did you always know where you were going?
A. I started with the scene of Beatrice giving birth to her twins and not calling out. I was thinking about who the other people in the room were and where they had come from and Rose was the one I was most interested in. I do always know where my books are going before I start writing them. I always say if I don't know where I'm going I tend not to get anywhere.

Q. The novel was adapted to a TV movie. Did you have any hand in the adaptation? What do you think is the best way to make a book into a movie?
A. The best way to make a book into a movie is to have nothing to do with it. I find Hollywood a very frustrating place. I did become good friends with the screenwriter for Patron Saint, Lynn Roth. I always thought of it as Lynn's movie, not mine. Even when I see it now in reruns I think, "Lynn's movie is on!" I had a part as an extra, one of the pregnant girls, but I was cut.

Q. Because your first novel takes place mostly in a small town in Kentucky, some people might think of you as a southern writer. How do you think of yourself?
A. I've lived in Tennessee for most of my life but I was born in Los Angeles. People here take that very seriously, where you were born. Southerners have been so supportive of my work that I will always think of being called a southern writer as a great compliment, but I think everyone ultimately wants to just be a writer, not southern, not female, not Catholic.

Q. How would you say The Patron Saint of Liars fits into your body of work? Did you discover themes or make artistic choices that continue to intrigue you?
A. Patron Saint is the novel in which I learned to write novels. I figured it out as I went along. Many of the choices I made in the book, the three points of view for example, came from what I was capable of doing at the time. I have a real tenderness for the book because it was my first, but I've also never read it since I finished writing it, so I can't speak to whether or not it holds up.

Q. Do you think writing for magazines was important to your early progress? Now that you are a successful novelist, do you still write short fiction or nonfiction?
A. I think writing for magazines was good for me because it helped me take my feelings out of the process of writing. For years when I was young and very broke I wrote for Seventeen Magazine and they were merciless, making me rewrite things ten times. I got to the point where I didn't take it personally. I just buckled down and did what needed to be done. I stopped writing short stories when I wrote my first novel, but I still write nonfiction and I really love it. It's so great when your life revolves around novels that take years to write to do an essay that people read and comment on right away.

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Dina, November 25, 2007 (view all comments by Dina)
I am a big fan of Ann Patchett. I first read The Magician's Assistant and then backtracked to read this book. The Patron Saint of Liars is an interesting look at Rose, a woman who leaves her marriage and her family and goes to a home for unwed mothers. Her plans change and she ends up staying at the home. Patchett tells the history of the mother's home and the small town where it is located. All of her characters are interesting, but ultimately Rose is hard to figure out. She is unhappy and seeking something, but can't seem to really find what she is looking for.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780060540753
Author:
Patchett, Ann
Publisher:
Harper Perennial
Location:
New York
Subject:
General
Subject:
Fiction
Subject:
Mothers and daughters
Subject:
Kentucky
Subject:
Nuns
Subject:
Unmarried mothers
Subject:
Bildungsromans
Subject:
General Fiction
Copyright:
Edition Number:
1st Perennial ed.
Edition Description:
Perennial
Series Volume:
107-212
Publication Date:
March 18, 2003
Binding:
Paperback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
352
Dimensions:
7.98x5.38x.81 in. .61 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
History and Social Science » American Studies » Popular Culture

The Patron Saint of Liars Used Trade Paper
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Product details 352 pages Perennial (HarperCollins) - English 9780060540753 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Patchett's first novel...has a quiet summer-morning sensibility that reminds one of the early work of Anne Tyler....In an assured, warm, and graceful style, a moving novel..."
"Review" by , "[A] thoughtful first novel....[A] complex character study of a woman driven by forces she can neither understand nor control."
"Review" by , "Ann Patchett has written such a good first novel that among the many pleasures it offers is the anticipation of how wonderful her second, third, and fourth will surely be....It is a world that Ms. Patchett draws with wit and imagination....It is about pilgrimage and healing. A made-up story of an enchanted place. A fairy tale. A delight."
"Review" by , "A remarkable first novel...the voice is fresh and winning and the images linger....'A Patron Saint of Liars' is everything a novel should be, rich in beautiful language and tender wisdom."
"Review" by , "Perhaps this novel's greatest accomplishment is that we become as yearning and uncertain as the characters themselves — we search for a divine pattern to their lives, yet are surprisingly accepting of the author's reluctance to trace it for us."
"Review" by , "Beautifully written....Ann Patchett has produced a first novel that second- and third-time novelists would envy for its grace, insight, and compassion."
"Synopsis" by , Set at St. Elizabeth's in Habit, Kentucky, this is the story of Rose, an obstinate young woman fleeing her first marriage who seeks temporary sanctuary but instead finds a place among the nuns when she decides to keep her child and marry the groundskeeper.
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