[Last January 20, 2011, Eleanor Brown debuted with her “delightful” novel The Weird Sisters (presentation/review) and, within a week, she became a New York Times bestselling author. Amazing? Well actually the story of “sibling rivalry, the power of books, and the places we decide to call home” deserved every bit of acclaim and attention.
For those who have yet to enjoy this reading experience, today is your day as The Weird Sisters is released in its paperback edition. Also Eleanor begins another Book Tour….if she’s scheduled for your hometown, treat yourself to a meeting/signing for this talented novelist who shares why she writes.]
Like many American girls, I spent much of middle school on the phone, chatting with my friends. It seems ridiculous now, in this age where email and texting have proven themselves much more efficient forms of communication, but I suppose that was the point. We weren’t interested in efficiency, my friends and I. We were talking things through, asking each other questions about things we liked (Duran Duran) and didn’t like (gym class), considering the possibilities of our lives: boys we might be interested in, homework assignments we had yet to tackle, plays and sports we might try out for, and the unfathomable distant future of adulthood.
In his novella, The Body, on which the movie Stand by Me was based, Stephen King’s narrator says, “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, did you?” I actually do still have friends like the ones I had when I was twelve – I even have a few of the same ones – but our friendships are not the same. The idea of having enough long, empty hours to fill with meandering conversation seems indulgent, and we have, at this point in our lives, a less pressing need to discuss Duran Duran.
But I do still find myself with the kind of questions of identity and meaning I had when I was twelve, though I am better able to articulate and label them as such. And since my friends and I cannot talk those questions through on a daily basis, I must try to work out the answers myself.
And so, I write.
When I began writing The Weird Sisters, I was turning thirty, and, in the way that those decade birthdays have, it was shaking my faith in the status quo. That question I had mused over with such idle curiosity as a teenager – what was I going to be when I grew up? – now seemed terrifying and imminent, if not woefully overdue. And so I created three sisters, split my confusion and my personality traits among them, and set out to write my way out of my precocious midlife crisis. All the things I was wondering about came out in that book: What does it mean to be an adult? Why are family roles so persistent, so impossible to change? How do you relate to your parents when you are an adult? Why do I always feel like a failure? Can you change the person you always thought you were?
Those are big questions, and I can’t say I resolved them all in the pages of The Weird Sisters, but writing that book did give me a great blessing: it forced me to spend time with each one, often more than was comfortable. I faced mistakes I’d made, people I’d hurt, the way I had been careless with my own heart, all through the problems of these fictional sisters. I held each question to the light like a gem and watched the light reflecting off it until I had considered all its facets. And if I didn’t find the answers to the questions, I do think I found peace in them.
The page has infinite patience. It lets me say ridiculous things and then retract them a moment later without judgment. It allows me to change my mind at will, to wander off on seemingly unrelated tangents and then circle back around to find the perfect thing to say. It is as broad and as narrow as I need it to be at any moment.
Someone asked me recently why I read, and my answer was instantaneous: to understand, and to connect. And I think these are the same reasons I write. In stories, as both a reader and a writer, I am trying on lives, meeting new people, learning. I am twelve, lying on the linoleum of the kitchen floor, the phone cord twisted around my finger, talking my way through the mysteries of life with my closest friends.
Book Giveaway: In celebration of paperback release day for The Weird Sisters, The Divining Wand will give away one copy of the book — in a random drawing — to anyone who leaves a comment on this post by 8:59 p.m. EST tonight! The winner will be announced here on Thursday.