Interview with author Eleanor Brown

The Weird Sisters: A Debut Novel with Staying Power.

Posted Jan 04, 2011

The Weird Sisters is Eleanor Brown's quirky, funny, and deeply moving debut novel about three adult sisters who must come to terms with their dreams, destiny, and the reality of their lives. The Andreas sisters are called home to help their mother deal with cancer, and in the process they help each other as only sisters can do. Here's more from Eleanor:

Jennifer Haupt: This is such a quirky, unique and totally fabulous novel. I know you started getting serious about writing a novel when you turned 30. How long did it take you to actually complete this story? Did you write full-time or have a "real" job?

Eleanor Brown: Thank you! The first draft took about a year, but I wasn't writing full-time. I was teaching, so most of my writing happened on vacations. In between, I would spend a lot of time thinking or researching (these are fancy writer terms for "daydreaming"), but I was grateful for the vacations because it allowed me to immerse myself completely in the fictional world of Barnwell and the Andreas sisters.

JH: Why "Weird?" What's so weird about these sisters?

EB: There's nothing weird about the sisters, really! I hope that people will find that they have a lot in common with at least one of them - maybe Rose's protectiveness of her family or her struggle to step outside her comfort zone, or Bean's fear that it isn't enough just to be herself without playing some kind of part, or Cordy's sense of humor and unwillingness to grow up. But I chose the title because Macbeth's three witches, also known as the "weird sisters", represent fate and destiny. The novel deals a lot with the sisters' questioning what they had thought they were destined to be and fighting the roles that fate dealt them.

JH: Did you grow up with sisters, and if so how did your relationship influence these characters and their story?

EB: I am the youngest of three sisters, and I believe my interest in birth order stems from the way in which we aligned in many ways with those archetypes - the driven and successful oldest, the frustrated but dynamic middle, and the spoiled, charming youngest. We're all much more complex than that, of course, but I have seen, in my own family and others, that our place in family order affects who we are for quite a long time.

JH: I love the idea of a belated coming-of-age story about three women, told from each of their perspectives. Do you think that women actually have a second coming of age - and sometimes a third if they're lucky?

EB: We can have as many coming-of-ages as we're ready to, I think. The more open we are to the opportunities that come to us and the more self-reflective we are about how our life experiences affect us, the more possibility we have for change. The experiences we go through as women - adolescence, "quarter-life", relationships and children, mega-birthdays like 30, 40, or 50, facing our own parents' aging, etc. - give us endless opportunity to change our worldview.

JH: Has becoming a novelist been a belated or second coming of age for you?

EB: Becoming a novelist has definitely been a part of a belated coming-of-age for me, but only a part. I had hit a point where I realized I wasn't happy, and knew the only person with the power to change that was me. I asked myself what things in the world mattered to me, and I began to surround myself with them, and books and writing were a key part of that.

JH: What's the one true thing you learned while writing this novel? (Or one of the truest things!)

EB: That stories have the power to heal. Writing The Weird Sisters helped me work out some pain I was carrying with me, and in talking to readers, I'm hearing their stories not just about their families or their siblings, but about mistakes they've made that they can't forgive themselves for, and I hope that sharing those feelings makes a difference for them the way that it does for me.

JH: What's one weird thing about you that may give readers insight into this novel?

EB: My greatest fear is being stuck in a line without having something to read. Even thinking about it makes me antsy.

The Weird Sisters, published by Amy Einhorn Books, a division of Penguin Publishing, is available for pre-order now, and goes on sale January 20th.