Ann Patchett in Conversation about Tom Lake

8 Dec 202330:48
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TLDRIn this engaging conversation, the author discusses her new novel which explores the concept of time and the different stages of womanhood. She shares her obsession with time and how it influences her writing, especially considering the reader's time. The author also talks about her process of writing, including her use of a treadmill desk which contributed to the creation of a happier novel. She emphasizes the importance of supporting first-time novelists and recommends several books that have resonated with her.

  • πŸ“š The author's latest book is not in chronological order, similar to 'Commonwealth' and 'The Dutch House'.
  • ⏳ The novel explores the concept of time and the different stages of womanhood, including youth, middle age, and old age.
  • 🎭 The author discusses the challenge of managing two timelines in a novel and the importance of balancing reader interest.
  • 🌟 The author is known for brilliant beginnings in her books, and the ending of this novel is particularly poignant and well-crafted.
  • πŸ€” The author often knows the ending of her novels in advance, but there have been exceptions where the plot unfolded unexpectedly.
  • πŸ“– The idea for the current novel began before the pandemic, but its setting during the pandemic adds an extra layer to the story.
  • 🏑 The book touches on themes of fame, seeking fame, and the impact of fame on individuals and families.
  • 🌾 The author's characters often display a strong sense of place and state pride, reflecting the author's love for research and understanding different locations.
  • πŸšΆβ€β™€οΈ The author wrote part of the book on a treadmill desk, which she believes contributed to the novel's happier tone and her focused writing process.
  • πŸ“– The author recommends supporting first-time novelists and taking a chance on lesser-known authors during book festivals.
  • πŸ“š Several book recommendations are provided, including works by Lindsay Lynch, Alice McDermott, James McBride, Margaret Atwood, and others.
Q & A
  • How does the author relate the concept of time to the novel's narrative?

    -The author discusses time as a central theme in the novel, emphasizing the different stages of a woman's life such as youth, middle age, and old age. The narrative also explores the idea that youth is always with one, even when it is far behind, suggesting a reflection on the persistence of past experiences in the present.

  • What is the author's approach to writing about multiple timelines?

    -The author addresses the challenge of maintaining reader interest across multiple timelines by ensuring that characters from the present timeline, particularly the daughters, interrupt and reinsert themselves into the past. This technique is used to create a braided effect of time, mirroring the complexity of life where past and present are interwoven.

  • How does the author decide on the ending of her books?

    -The author typically knows the ending of her books from the outset. She views the ending as a logical conclusion and believes in knowing where the narrative is headed. However, she also shares that there have been instances where she didn't know the ending, such as with 'State of Wonder' and 'The Dutch House', indicating that her process can vary depending on the work.

  • What was the author's unique writing setup for this novel?

    -The author wrote this novel on a treadmill desk, which she received for her 50th birthday. She found that writing while walking helped her stay focused and happy, leading to a more creative and enjoyable writing process. This method also allowed her to alleviate physical pain associated with prolonged sitting.

  • How does the author feel about fame and her public image?

    -The author finds her fame to be a strange and specific kind, often leading to people wanting to take pictures with her or assuming they would be friends with her. Despite the oddities, she acknowledges the benefits of her fame, such as having her own jam with American Spoon, and uses it to promote literary works and support fellow authors.

  • What was the inspiration behind the setting of the novel?

    -The author was inspired by the idea of farm girls coming home to work on the farm during summer vacations. When the pandemic occurred, it added an extra layer to the story as the characters became trapped in their home environment, unable to leave, which she found intriguing.

  • How does the author's personal experience with the pandemic influence her writing?

    -During the pandemic, the author experienced a sense of freedom and self that she hadn't felt since her youth. She didn't have to maintain her public persona and could just be herself at home. This personal experience of happiness and reflection likely influenced the tone and content of her writing.

  • What is the author's process for researching and setting her books?

    -The author loves research and often sets her books in places she knows a bit about, with the help of friends who know more about these locations. She enjoys learning about specific details and facts that can enrich her storytelling, such as the intricacies of fruit farming in Northern Michigan.

  • How does the author handle the public's expectations and interactions during book tours?

    -The author finds it strange when people expect a certain level of intimacy or connection during book tours. She maintains boundaries, such as not allowing cuddling in photos, to protect her own comfort and health, especially during the pandemic. Despite the challenges, she appreciates the opportunity to connect with readers and other authors.

  • What are the author's thoughts on the concept of 'home' and belonging in her books?

    -The author explores the idea of home and belonging in her books, with characters often finding or creating a sense of home in different places. This theme is evident in how her characters develop a strong connection to their environment and feel a sense of pride in their origins or the places they adopt as their own.

  • What are some book recommendations from the author?

    -The author recommends several books including Lindsay Lynch's 'Do Tell', Alice McDermott's 'Absolution', James McBride's 'Deacon King Sureshot', Margaret Atwood's 'The Comfort of Crows', Elizabeth McCracken's 'The Hero of This Book', and upcoming releases like 'Martyr' by Cave Ottar and 'Sandwich' by Catherine Newman.

πŸ“š Chronological Order and Time in Writing

The speaker discusses the non-chronological order of their books, including 'Commonwealth' and 'The Dutch House'. They delve into the theme of time and its significance in their second novel, which explores the different ages of womanhood. The conversation highlights the author's preoccupation with time, both in their personal life and their writing process, and how they consider the value of an idea for a book in terms of the time it will take to write and the time it will take for the reader to engage with it.

πŸŽ‡ The Art of Story Endings and Beginnings

The discussion shifts to the craft of writing, particularly the challenge of managing dual timelines within a narrative. The author shares their approach to balancing the reader's interest between different story arcs. The conversation also touches on the ending of the book, which is described as beautiful and poignant, with a focus on the mother's role and the selective disclosure of information to her daughters. The author's process of knowing the ending of their stories is explored, as well as their method for brainstorming plot resolutions with fellow writers.

🌾 Pandemic Inspiration and the Value of Home

The author reflects on how the pandemic influenced their writing, transforming the setting and circumstances of their characters. They discuss the idea of being 'trapped' in a situation with family, which adds depth to the narrative. The author also shares personal experiences of the pandemic, highlighting the contrast between their public persona and private life, and how the pandemic allowed them to reconnect with their younger self. The theme of fame and its impact on the author's life is also addressed.

🌟 Fame, Public Life, and Personal Space

The conversation continues with the author's experiences and challenges of fame, particularly the public's expectations and the personal boundaries they maintain. The author talks about their discomfort with physical closeness during book tours and the unique fame they experience as a literary novelist. They also discuss the importance of supporting first-time novelists and independent bookstores, emphasizing the value of discovering new voices in literature.

🌍 Sense of Place and Literary Research

The author's love for research and setting is explored, as they discuss the importance of place in their novels. They share insights into their meticulous preparation for writing, including learning about specific industries and locations. The author also talks about their personal connections to Michigan, which serves as a backdrop for their characters' stories. The conversation touches on the theme of belonging and the pride characters feel for their home state.

πŸšΆβ€β™€οΈ Writing on a Treadmill and Creative Flow

The author shares their unique writing method of using a treadmill desk, which they believe contributed to the creativity and focus of their latest novel. They discuss the physical and mental benefits of this approach, as well as the challenges it presented. The author also provides recommendations for other authors and books, emphasizing the importance of supporting new and diverse literary voices.

πŸ“– Book Recommendations and Literary Discoveries

The author concludes the conversation with a list of book recommendations, highlighting the works of both established and emerging authors. They discuss the impact of certain books on their own perspective and the importance of taking a chance on lesser-known works. The author encourages readers to explore a variety of literary voices and genres, offering a diverse selection of titles to consider.

In the context of the video, 'time' is a central theme that the speaker is deeply fascinated with. It is not only a physical concept but also a metaphor for the finite nature of life and the importance of utilizing it effectively. The speaker discusses how time becomes an obsession, especially as one ages, considering the limited amount left to accomplish goals. This concept is reflected in the novel discussed, which explores different stages of a woman's life through time, emphasizing that youth is always present even in the distant past.
πŸ’‘Novel Structure
The term 'novel structure' refers to the way a story is organized and presented in a written work. In the video, the speaker discusses the challenges of writing a novel with two timelines and how they addressed this by ensuring the characters from the present timeline interrupt the past narrative, creating a braided effect that mirrors real life. This technique helps to maintain the reader's interest and control the pacing of the story.
In the context of the video, 'endings' refers to the conclusion of a story, which is a critical aspect of a novel. The speaker emphasizes the importance of a well-crafted ending, not only in terms of the events that occur but also in the form and impact it has on the reader. They mention their own approach to endings, often knowing where the story is headed, and how this influences the overall narrative.
The concept of 'fame' in the video relates to the speaker's experience as a well-known literary novelist and the peculiarities of public perception. It touches on the dichotomy between the private nature of writing and the public persona of an author. The speaker reflects on the strangeness of being recognized and the expectations that come with fame, as well as the impact it has on their personal life and writing process.
The 'pandemic' refers to the global COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the speaker's life and writing. It is used to illustrate how real-life events can influence and shape the narrative of a novel. The speaker discusses how the pandemic affected their personal experience, providing an unexpected period of happiness and freedom from the pressures of public life. This period also influenced the setting and themes of their novel, as it took place during the pandemic.
πŸ’‘Writing Process
The 'writing process' refers to the methods and techniques an author uses to create their work. In the video, the speaker shares insights into their unique approach to writing, including the use of a treadmill desk, which they believe contributed to the focus and happiness of the novel they were writing. The process is depicted as a blend of physical activity and mental concentration, emphasizing the importance of creativity and the author's well-being.
πŸ’‘State Pride
The term 'state pride' refers to a strong sense of attachment and pride in one's home state or region. In the video, the speaker discusses how their characters often exhibit a strong connection to their place of origin, reflecting the significance of regional identity in their novels. This concept is explored through the characters' experiences of finding or losing a sense of home and belonging in different places.
In the context of the video, 'research' refers to the process of gathering information and details about various subjects to enrich the narrative and authenticity of a novel. The speaker expresses a passion for research, which they consider one of the best parts of their job, allowing them to explore new topics and settings for their stories.
πŸ’‘Book Festival
A 'book festival' is an event where authors, publishers, and readers gather to celebrate literature, participate in discussions, and engage in book-related activities. In the video, the speaker encourages attendees to use the book festival as an opportunity to discover new authors and support first-time novelists, emphasizing the importance of diverse voices in literature.
πŸ’‘Literary Power
The term 'literary power' refers to the influence and impact that a writer or a piece of literature can have on the culture, society, or even on a personal level. In the video, the speaker humorously refers to their own 'literary power' when discussing their collaboration with a jam company to create a product named after them, illustrating the recognition and reach that comes with being a well-known author.

The book is not in chronological order, similar to 'Commonwealth' and 'The Dutch House'.

The novel explores the concept of time and the different ages of womanhood, including youth, middle age, and older age.

The author's obsession with time and its influence on her writing, including the consideration of reader time.

The challenge of writing a novel with two timelines and balancing reader interest between them.

The poignant use of the past interrupting the present in the narrative structure of the book.

The author's process of knowing the ending of her books, including the importance of the logical conclusion.

The influence of the pandemic on the book's setting and plot, adding an extra layer to the story.

The author's experience of fame and its impact on her personal life and public interactions.

The contrast between the author's fame as a literary novelist and the fame of social media influencers.

The author's writing process on a treadmill desk and its positive impact on creativity and focus.

The importance of supporting first-time novelists and taking a chance on lesser-known authors.

Recommendations for other books, including 'Absolution' by Alice McDermott and 'The Comfort of Crows' by Margaret Atwood.

The author's love for research and setting her books in places she knows or has connections with.

The significance of state pride and characters finding a sense of home in different places in the novel.

The author's personal connection to the book's setting and the influence of her friend who lives in Traverse City, Michigan.

The humorous mention of the author having her own jam, a result of her fame in the literary world.

The author's advice on using a treadmill desk for writing to improve focus and alleviate physical strain.

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