"I just finished writing an essay about William Maxwell, an American writer whose work I admire very much." -- Donna Tartt
Donna Tartt (born December 23, 1963) is an American writer and author of the novels The Secret History (1992) and The Little Friend (2002). She won the WH Smith Literary Award for The Little Friend in 2003.
"Actually, I enjoy the process of writing a big long novel.""But it's for every writer to decide his own pace, and the pace varies with the writer and the work.""But romantic vision can also lead one away from certain very hard, ugly truths about life that are important to know.""Character, to me, is the life's blood of fiction.""Children - if you think back really what it was like to be a child and what it was like to know other children - children lie all the time.""Children have very sharp powers of observation - probably sharper than adults - yet at the same time their emotional reactions are murky and much more primitive.""Children love secret club houses. They love secrecy even when there's no need for secrecy.""Everything takes me longer than I expect. It's the sad truth about life.""I believe, in a funny way, the job of the novelist is to be out there on the fringes and speaking for an experience that has not really been spoken for.""I love the tradition of Dickens, where even the most minor walk-on characters are twitching and particular and alive.""I really do work in solitude.""I think innocence is something that adults project upon children that's not really there.""I think it's hard to write about children and to have an idea of innocence.""I'd rather write one good book than ten mediocre ones.""I'm not sure whay I've been drawn to this subject, except that murder is a subject that has always drawn people for as long as people have been telling stories.""I've written only two novels, but they're both long ones, and they each took a decade to write.""In order for a long piece of work to engage a novelist over an extended period of time, it has to deal with questions that you find very important, that you're trying to work out.""It's hard for me to show work while I'm writing, because other people's comments will influence what happens.""My novels aren't really generated by a single conceptual spark; it's more a process of many different elements that come together unexpectedly over a long period of time.""On the other hand, I mean, that is what writers have always been supposed to do, was to rely on their own devices and to - I mean, writing is a lonely business.""So I'm not a Southern writer in the commonly held sense of the term, like Faulkner or Eudora Welty, who took the South for their entire literary environment and subject matter.""Sometimes you can do all the right things and not succeed. And that's a hard lesson of reality.""Storytelling and elegant style don't always go hand in hand.""Taking on challenging projects is the way that one grows and extends one's range as a writer, one's technical command, so I consider the time well-spent.""The books I loved in childhood - the first loves - I've read so often that I've internalized them in some really essential way: they are more inside me now than out.""The job of the novelist is to invent: to embroider, to color, to embellish, to make things up.""The Little Friend is a long book. It's also completely different from my first novel: different landscape, different characters, different use of language and diction, different approach to story.""The novel is about five students of classics who are studying with a classics professor, and they take the ideas of the things that they're learning from him a bit too seriously, with terrible consequences.""The storytelling gift is innate: one has it or one doesn't. But style is at least partly a learned thing: one refines it by looking and listening and reading and practice - by work.""There's an expectation these days that novels - like any other consumer product - should be made on a production line, with one dropping from the conveyor belt every couple of years.""To really be centered and to really work well and to think about the kinds of things that I need to think about, I need to spend large amounts of time alone.""Well, I do have some maiden aunts that are not quite like the aunts in the book, but I definitely do have a couple of them, and a couple of old aunties.""Well, I think storytellers have always found murder a fascinating device.""When I'm writing, I am concentrating almost wholly on concrete detail: the color a room is painted, the way a drop of water rolls off a wet leaf after a rain.""You are - all your experience just kind of accumulates, and the novel takes a richness of its own simply because it has the weight of all those years that one's put into it."
The daughter of Don and Taylor Tartt, she was born in Greenwood, Mississippi and raised in the nearby town of Grenada. At age five, she wrote her first poem, and she was first published in a Mississippi literary review when she was 13.
Enrolling in the University of Mississippi in 1981, she pledged to the sorority Kappa Kappa Gamma. Her writing caught the attention of Willie Morris while she was a freshman. Following a recommendation from Morris, Barry Hannah, then an Ole Miss Writer-in-Residence, admitted Tartt into his graduate short story course. Following the suggestion of Morris and others, she transferred to Bennington College in 1982, meeting then-students Bret Easton Ellis and Jill Eisenstadt.
Tartt began writing her first novel, originally titled "The God of Illusions" and later published as The Secret History, during her second year at Bennington. She graduated from Bennington in 1986. After Ellis recommended her work to literary agent Amanda Urban, The Secret History was published in 1992, overwhelming the 75,000 copies in the first printing to become a bestseller. It was later translated into 24 languages.
The Secret History is set at a fictional college that closely resembles Tartt's alma mater. The plot concerns a close-knit group of six students and their professor of classics. The students embark upon a secretive plan to stage a bacchanal. The first-person narrative is flavored heavily by the differences within the group. These include: social class, privilege, intellect and sexual orientation. The narrator reflects on a variety of circumstances that lead ultimately to a murder within the group.
The fact of the murder, the location and the perpetrators are revealed in the opening pages, usurping the familiar framework and accepted conventions of the murder mystery genre. Critic A.O. Scott labeled it "a murder mystery in reverse."
The book was wrapped in a transparent acetate book jacket, a retro design by Barbara De Wilde and Chip Kidd. According to Kidd, "The following season acetate jackets sprang up in bookstores like mushrooms on a murdered tree."
The Little Friend, Tartt's second novel, was published in October 2002. It is a mystery centered on a young girl living in the American South in the late 20th century. Her implicit anxieties about the long-unexplained death of her brother and the dynamics of her extended family are a strong focus, as are the contrasting lifestyles and customs of small-town Southerners.
In 2002, it was reported that Tartt was working on a retelling of the myth of Daedalus and Icarus for the Canongate Myth Series, a series of novellas in which ancient myths are reimagined and rewritten by contemporary authors.
In September 2008, it was announced that Tartt would publish her third novel with Little, Brown and Company. The new novel, as yet untitled, is a story of loss and obsession about a young man, guilt-stricken and damaged after the death of his mother, and the growing power that a stolen piece of art exercises over him, drawing him into an underworld of theft and corruption where nothing is as it seems. Publication is scheduled for 2012.