- Official Bio
- Overly Long Unofficial Bio
|Official (i.e., boring) Bio
Edith Pattou is the author of East, a retelling of the Norwegian folk tale "East of the Sun and West of the Moon, and it’s sequel, West. They are both sweeping tales of adventure and magic, set in 16th century Europe. She has also written the New York Times bestselling picture book Mrs. Spitzer’s Garden, as well as Ghosting, a contemporary novel for young adults, told in free verse. And she is the author of the two high fantasy Songs of Eirren, Hero’s Song and Fire Arrow, which are infused with Celtic folklore.
She was born in Evanston, Illinois, grew up in Winnetka, and was a teenager in the city of Chicago where she attended Francis W. Parker School. She completed her B.A. at Scripps College in Claremont, California where she won the Crombie Allen Award for creative writing. She later completed a Masters degree in English Literature at Claremont Graduate School, followed by a Masters of Library and Information Science at UCLA.
She has worked for a medical association, a clothing boutique, a recording studio, the Playboy Foundation, a public television station, a school library, two public libraries, two advertising agencies, and two bookstores.
She has lived in Chicago, Los Angeles, Denver, Durham, NC, Cambridge, England, Stockholm, Sweden, and currently resides with her husband, Charles, in Columbus, Ohio.
I grew up in a house with a red door in a town called Winnetka which is a suburb of Chicago, Illinois. I lived in that house with my mom and my dad and a bunch of cats. My dad worked in the city and took the train to work every day. My mom was beautiful and loved reading books. Just like her, I loved books too.
|Harold and Narnia
I read everything I could get my hands on, but the two books that were in the life-changing, thank-god-I-found-you category were Harold and the Purple Crayon and The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. One taught me how to be creative and the other planted the seed for being a writer. And they both taught me about other worlds, worlds you could escape to and worlds you could create yourself.
My dad read to me every night before going to sleep. He would read me Babar and Madeline and Dr. Seuss, but my favorite stories were the ones he made up. He called them Bear Stories and they always featured bears as the hero, with names such as Bruce Bear and James Bear (a debonair spy). When I grew up my father confessed that he had leaned heavily on such literary sources as Rudyard Kipling, Ian Fleming, and William Shakespeare to construct his stories. Which explained the comforting feeling of déjà vu I experienced when I saw my first James Bond movie Dr. No. When Ursula Andress emerged from the sea in her white bikini I knew her instantly as Honey Bear.
Best Friend Sue
I met Sue in kindergarten and we became inseparable. Our elementary school did their best to split us up by putting us in different classrooms every year after that, but it didn’t work. In each other we found kindred imaginations and would spend endless hours constructing imaginary worlds either with props from the dress up box or with our collection of small stuffed bears. Later we were inspired by Harriet the Spy and The Man from Uncle and formed an organization called I.S. (International Spy). It required a blood oath, the ability to rewrite Beatles lyrics, and a talent for shadowing suspected Russian spies. I still wear my I.S. dogtag on occasion.
Red Door 2
When I was nine my mother sat me down on the front stoop in front of the red door and told me that she and my father were getting a divorce. Not long after that we moved into the city of Chicago and I lost my dad and my best friend in one fell swoop. Books were my refuge, along with music, especially music by the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Rodgers and Hammerstein.
Francis W. Parker
When we moved to Chicago I attended a school called Francis W. Parker. At first I struggled mightily, being an awkward shy girl from the suburbs amongst all the sophisticated city kids, as well as having never learned cursive writing. But ultimately I thrived in the progressive atmosphere of creativity, curiosity and open-mindedness.
My two crowning achievements were: 1. a multimedia presentation of the story of Bonnie and Clyde for which I naturally wore a beret, though was disappointed when the gunshot sound effects failed to arrive on cue (which may have something to do with what has become a life-long aversion to guns); 2. a fairy tale I wrote and illustrated about the adventures of Peter the Prince, the only part of which that has survived is my portrait of the villainess of the piece.
As a teenager I went through a phase of painting castles, over and over. Not sure what Freud would say but I still like to draw the occasional turret.
When I was sixteen I spent the summer in Ireland through the Experiment in International Living. I fell in love with Ireland. I loved the Gorbys, the family I lived with. I loved the cute Irish boys. I loved the songs about uprisings, gypsy rovers and drinking whiskey (which truthfully I didn’t sample back then, but in my later years have developed a great fondness for Jameson Irish whiskey). And I especially loved Irish fairy tales and folklore, which sowed the seeds for the Songs of Eirren books.
In high school I was friends with a talented rock band called Ned and went to all their gigs. Through them, and Sun, another equally talented band, I got to hang out backstage with Three Dog Night when they came to play The Auditorium in Chicago. I still have the vinyl album that Ned cut and when I was looking for a song for the soundtrack of the trailer for my book Ghosting I realized that one of my favorites from the album would be perfect. The band was kind enough to give me permission to use it and a local musician rearranged it, ramping up the creepiness quotient. The song is “Above the Storm” and it is wonderful.
I went to college in California, studying English Literature at Scripps College and learning about surfing from California boys. (I did manage to stay upright on a surfboard for a few minutes on the gentle waves at Waikiki Beach on a memorable spring break.)
I also went to graduate school in California and got a degree in Library Science. For my Master’s Thesis I somehow convinced them to let me write and illustrate a series of fairy tales, all about castles (at least I am consistent).
|I had two wonderful jobs as a children’s librarian in Glendale, CA and Denver, CO. I particularly liked reading books to children.
In California I met Charles, we married, and he took me first to Denver, then Durham, NC and finally Columbus, OH. Along the way we had a daughter named Victoria, though we call her Vita.
My first book, published the same year Vita was born, was Hero’s Song. It is the first book in the Songs of Eirren series, and was inspired by Irish fairy tales and folklore. (For more about this and why I haven’t written the third book in the trilogy see Books and FAQ’s.)
When Vita was in kindergarten I wrote a book about her teacher. It was called Mrs. Spitzer’s Garden, which is in fact the name of her wonderful kindergarten teacher. It is an homage to teachers everywhere and was on the New York Times bestseller list. One of the highlights of my writing career was the honor of being featured on a 4th of July float in Ohio.
|My fourth book East was inspired by the fairy tale “East of the Sun and West of the Moon” which I had discovered and fallen in love with as a child in Andrew Lang’s Blue Fairy Book. I loved the steadfastness and bravery of the heroine who traveled to the very ends of the earth to rescue her prince. And even though I should have been writing the third Song of Eirren, I found I had to tell that unnamed heroine’s story. I started off by giving her a name--Rose for the compass rose--and I was off and running. During the writing of East I got to travel to the fjords of Norway and I also did extensive research into the Arctic.
|Ghosting was inspired both by my own childhood and the sometimes scary adventures Sue and I would have, egging each other as we played hide and seek in cemeteries, etc., as well as current news stories involving gun violence and teenagers. Like East it is told from the points of view of multiple characters, though in this case I chose to craft their voices into individual brands of free verse. The title has several layers of meaning, ranging from an innocent Halloween game played by children to the act of looking for ghosts.
|Things I love:
England – went on two solo walking trips there; tried very hard to concentrate on Grasmere Lake when I was in labor
English pubs – my two favorites are The Lamb and Flag in Covent Garden and a lovely pub on the Thames with twinkly lights in the trees where I had a memorable discussion about the movie Mrs. Miniver
Guacamole and chips
Movies, Love Actually (Bill Nighy is my hero), Chinatown, Galaxy Quest, North by Northwest, Moonstruck, Princess Bride, Diner, The Squid and the Whale, Room with a View, Saving Mr. Banks, My Brilliant Career, and pretty much any disaster movie, but especially Independence Day (“Welcome to Earth”)
The Beatles and the Rolling Stones (never could decide which I love more)
John Lennon and Keith Richards
Agatha Christie mysteries
Coconut – coconut cake, almond joys, and especially coconut body lotion
Broadway musicals, especially Wicked and Cabaret
Things I hate:
Liver, and any other entree that involves internal organs like brains or kidneys
Homophobia (actually, most kinds of phobias, including hemophobia which is the fear of blood, though I like to think I’ve made my peace with it)
Things I love that I used to hate:
Things I collect:
Olives and pickles
Egg salad sandwiches, sushi
The Red Hot Chili Peppers
Reality TV shows, at least some of them (e.g. Project Runway, Top Chef and American Idol.)
Images of old typewriters
Strings of lights, especially Halloween