An exclusive Authorlink interview
with debut novelist Eleanor Brown

By Paige Crutcher
April 2011

The Weird Sisters cover
The Weird Sisters
by Eleanor Brown

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Eleanor Brown’s novel, THE WEIRD SISTERS, is a modern day Shakespearean dramedy. Rich in voice and character, Brown brings to life the story of three sisters and their struggles to find their place in the world. Engaging, thought provoking and as witty as it is wise, THE WEIRD SISTERS is nearly (if not entirely) impossible to put down. Brown shares with us what inspired the creation of the sisters three, the amount of time she invested researching The Bard and how experiencing the worlds of Bean, Cordy and Rose brought home sage lessons to her own life.

“I always wanted to be a writer. I love books and daydreaming.”

AUTHORLINK: As a child, what did you dream of becoming when you grew up?

BROWN: Aside from a brief period where I wanted nothing more than to be Mrs. George Michael (and I guess it's probably for the best that didn't work out), I always wanted to be a writer. I love books and daydreaming, and when I realized I could spend my life doing those things for a living, I was sold!

AUTHORLINK: What inspired the creation of THE WEIRD SISTERS?

BROWN: Like most novels, it was a number of ideas that came together slowly. I've always been interested in birth order and had an idea for a story about three sisters kicking around for years, and then got interested in using a first person collective narrator, and then got to thinking about what it means to be an adult, and so on. When I turned 30, I decided to get serious about writing a novel, and as I began to write this one, more ideas just kept coming until I had something complex enough to become a book!

AUTHORLINK: What do you believe the most important element of story is?

BROWN: That answer depends on the day! Some days I'd say figuring out what it means to be an adult, some days how we carry our families with us wherever we go. I hope it's rich enough that the most important element could be different to everyone.

AUTHORLINK: William Shakespeare has a clear influence over the sisters in your story. How influential has Shakespeare been in your life – did your family communicate via quotes of The Bard, too? : )

BROWN: I definitely came to Shakespeare relatively late in life. We did a sort of children's version of some of the plays in 6th grade, and I read Romeo & Juliet in 9th grade, as pretty much everyone does, but it wasn't until graduate school, when I began to see a number of the plays performed, that I really fell in love. I believe strongly that we should see the plays played, because a brilliant actor can bring those beautiful words to life in amazing ways.

AUTHORLINK: How much research (Shakespearean and otherwise) went into writing this novel?

BROWN: A lot, initially. I read and re-read the plays and saw productions and movies and read scholarly articles. But after a while I realized I couldn't use much of what I'd researched, as this is a family that's been talking about Shakespeare for years – they're all out of original thoughts on old Will, and the quotes are dreadfully out of context. It was fascinating stuff, though since that research was done about six years ago, I'm sad to say I've probably forgotten most of it.

AUTHORLINK: Shakespeare invented a number of fantastic words (such as radiance, lonely and amazement to name a few). Have you followed his lead and created any words/phrases that are strewn through THE WEIRD SISTERS? If not, were you tempted to?

“People amaze me with their endless creativity.”






BROWN: I don't remember any that I created in the book, but I think people are creating wonderful words all the time nowadays. Silly ones, sure, but even a word like "craptastic", which I see all over the place, is just a great way to describe something. People amaze me with their endless creativity.

AUTHORLINK: There are so many wonderful interweaving threads in this novel, did you write each of the sister’s stories separately (like a patchwork quilt) or did the threads simply come together?

BROWN: A little bit of both. There were times, especially if I got stuck, that I would veer off and write a number of scenes with one sister so I could focus on her for a while, but since they influence each other so much, it was often harder to do in isolation.

AUTHORLINK: Did you draw from your own experiences to mold the worlds of Bean, Cordy and Rose?

BROWN: Sure! I typically start with something I know and then mold it until it becomes its own thing. Barnwell, for instance, started as images from a college trip I'd taken years ago – memories of being in small college towns in Ohio in the summer, but I took little bits and pieces that I'd seen and imagined others until the town became fully its own.

AUTHORLINK: How attached did you become to your characters? Are they as real for you as they are for your readers?

BROWN: I hope so! I really did fall in love with each one of them, even when they're being stubborn or foolish, and now that I've moved on to other projects, I miss them a little, and wonder what they're up to!

“I write to figure things out in my world, so I think the things that I realized came from that process. ”






AUTHORLINK: Would you share any eye opening experiences that writing THE WEIRD SISTERS has brought you – perhaps from the research that went into the novel?

BROWN: I write to figure things out in my world, so I think the things that I realized came from that process. The Andreas sisters, for instance, are all convinced that they are failures at the beginning of the book. But as I wrote their experiences, I came to realize right along with them, that if you compare yourself to other people, you will always feel like a failure. There will always be someone richer, smarter, more talented, more successful than you. It's only when the sisters start to accept themselves on their own turns that they feel like successes, and begin to succeed, as it was for me.

AUTHORLINK: While Shakespeare coined a number of words, he also wove his fair share of phrases. One of these is All that glitters is not gold. Would you say that the wyrd sisters, who perhaps began the novel with this view, may now beg to differ in their heart of hearts?

BROWN: Definitely. They all start with one vision of what perfection is, and all of them realize by the end that nothing is perfect. It just is, and they need to "screw their courage to the sticking-place" and face reality. It's kind of shocking to look at the lists of phrases that come from Shakespeare, isn't it? He impacts us in ways we don't even recognize!

AUTHORLINK: THE WEIRD SISTERS is your debut novel. What has traveling down the written road been like for you, up until this publication point?

“I write to figure things out in my world, so I think the things that I realized came from that process. ”






BROWN: Long, slow, and wonderful. I took a long time to find the voice and genre I wanted to write in, and a long time to write and edit The Weird Sisters. But I've met wonderful people and gotten amazing support along the way, and I feel grateful and happy the book has been so well-received.

AUTHORLINK: What has been your favorite part of the publishing process?

BROWN: Meeting and hearing from readers. The Weird Sisters is, in large part, a love letter to books and reading and readers, and hearing from people who have responded to one part or another of the story has made it all worthwhile.

AUTHORLINK: Would you share any advice for aspiring writers?

BROWN: I feel strongly that reading is the most important part of writing. Writing is a conversation, and it's happening in all kinds of formats and all kinds of genres. Even if you want to write mysteries, read romances. If you want to write nonfiction, read literary fiction. If you want to Tweet, read blogs and cookbooks. We've all got something to learn from each other.

AUTHORLINK: Would you share/hint at what you’re working on now?

BROWN: I am very superstitious about talking about works in progress, so I'll just say I've been thinking a lot about love, and marriage, and divorce, and how all those things fit together. We'll see how it all turns out!

About Eleanor Brown

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About Regular Contributor
Paige Crutcher

Paige Crutcher is a writer, voracious reader and literature enthusiast. A purveyor of the written word, she loves supporting authors and their remarkable stories.