Patchett was inspired by the Lima Crisis when she watched the crisis on the news. The opera in the story was added when she thought how operatic the crisis was. However, Patchett did not know anything about opera prior to writing the book. To build a knowledge of opera, Patchett read books about opera, attended local theatre performances and listened to opera whenever she could.
Patchett has stated that writing her books has been a progression. She always wanted to write with an omniscient third person narrator, but stated that she always went back to a narrative structure she could handle. She was pleased when she was able to write this book in the narrative she wanted.
The basis of this book was a prologue in Gen's perspective where he told us that this book is about how he met his wife. However, Patchett's mentor Elizabeth McCracken told her that the prologue was not needed, so Patchett took it out. Also, Patchett's editor wanted her to take out three lines. One of the lines was about the plants growing a half-inch over the course of an hour. Patchett insisted on keeping the line and changed the length to a half-centimeter.