Author Interview: Ann Napolitano

Dear Edward is a “dazzling” novel that “will break your heart and put it back together again” (J. Courtney Sullivan, bestselling author of Saints for All Occasions) about a young boy who must learn to go on after surviving tragedy. Upon its recent release as a paperback, we spoke with author Ann Napolitano about the inspiration for Dear Edward, her favorite local bookstores, and more!

“A stunning portrayal of what it means to be a survivor and the fine balance between surviving and actually finding the will to move forward from the shattered remains of your life….Dear Edward is a novel that pierces you to the core with its depiction of grief, guilt, loneliness, and remorse, but through glimpses of hope, friendship, and kindness, shows how Edward slowly mends.”

Maxwell, Lake Forest Book Store

Please tell us a little bit about what inspired you to write this book and how this story took shape for you.

Dear Edward started from my obsession with a real plane crash in 2010. A commercial flight from South Africa to London—filled with mostly Dutch passengers on their way home from vacation—crashed in Libya, and everyone on the flight died except for one nine-year-old Dutch boy. He was found still strapped into his airplane seat about a half mile away from the wreckage. Investigators speculated that he’d been sitting near the fuselage and had been basically ejected from the plane. He had a badly broken leg and a punctured lung, but was otherwise fine. Everyone else, including his parents and brother, had died immediately.

I couldn’t read enough about this story, and I knew fairly quickly that I was going to have to write my way into understanding how this little boy could possibly walk away from this crash, from the loss of his entire family and find a way to not only survive, but to live. From that starting point, it took me eight years to write the novel.

Have you listened to your own audiobook? If so, what struck you about the narration?

I’ve listened to excerpts from it—I am big fan of Cassandra Campbell (she did a beautiful job reading Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens). It’s uncomfortable for me, as the writer, to listen to my own book, but I know Cassandra read Dear Edward wonderfully, and I am grateful.

Are you an audiobook listener? What are some of your favorite audiobooks?

I am! When I think of the perfect audiobook, the first one that comes to mind is the novel Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. Cathleen McCarron does a wonderful job reading that novel.

I also enjoyed listening to The Library Book, which is read by Susan Orlean. I love it when the author is also the narrator (although I think I would be terrible at recording my own books). Under the column of wonderful audiobooks read by the author is A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki. What a joy it was, listening to that book.

Circe by Madeline Miller was read so beautifully by Perdita Weeks. I could go on and on, listing audiobooks I’ve loved.

What have independent bookstores and/or booksellers meant to you personally and professionally?

For an author, independent bookstores are as essential as oxygen. I used to be a bookseller (at Barnes & Noble) and I know and appreciate that the truest, nerdiest book-lovers work in bookstores. If a bookseller loves your book, they will joyfully hand-sell it for years, which is a gift. And each independent bookstore is so wonderfully different from each other.

In Brooklyn, I’m spoiled for bookstores. I consider myself to have two spectacular local independents—Community Bookstore in Park Slope and Books Are Magic in Cobble Hill. And a little further away, but also wonderful, is Greenlight Bookstore.

Header photo by Jake Chessum

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