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Eleanor Brown: Why I Write

February 07, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Books, Guest Posts

[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.]

Why I Write

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.

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ATTENTION: Please remember that Catherine McKenzie’s debut novel SPIN makes its U.S. launch today.
AND

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.

Presenting Debutante Eleanor Brown and
The Weird Sisters

January 17, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books


When Debutante Eleanor Brown began visiting The Debutante Ball during its first Season of 2007, it’s doubtful that she ever imagined being one of the most honored Debs well before her book launched. But this Thursday, January 20, 2011, the author will hopefully stop pinching herself and simply revel in the debut of her novel, The Weird Sisters.

Described by as a major new talent, Deb Eleanor has written a literary/commercial book focusing on the complicated relationship of sisters, the powerful influence of books in our lives, and what we finally come to accept as home. For this, Publishers Weekly has given it a starred review “…bright, literate debut, a punchy delight”. Barnes & Noble has chosen the novel to be part of its Discover Great New Writers program beginning February – May. Amazon.com has selected it as one of the Best Books of the Month, January 2011, and it’s also been mentioned in USA Today. Of course that’s in addition to the other sparkling Praise and Press.

Duly impressed yet still wondering why The Weird Sisters is considered that special? To better understand, please know that there’s nothing weird about the sisters. In fact they even proclaim from the book’s front cover: See, we love each other. We just don’t happen to like each other very much.Now how normal does that sound for three female siblings?

The choice of the title is a logical one since it comes from Macbeth’s three witches, also known as the “weird sisters,” who represent both fate and destiny. And, since the novel focuses on the sisters’ questioning what they thought they were destined to be and struggling against what reality has dealt them, the title is a perfect description.

In writing her October 5, 2010 post, Deb Eleanor on Change and Saturn’s Return, the author explains how important she believes change is for characters:

“I believe good fiction is all about change. If there’s no difference between the characters at the beginning and the end of a novel, a memoir, even a non-fiction screed, I’m likely to end up dissatisfied. I want the characters to go through discomfort and maybe even a little pain, and to come out the other end reborn through the experience.

“Though it’s never mentioned in the book, when I wrote The Weird Sisters, I did a lot of research on Saturn’s Return.

“I call The Weird Sisters a belated coming-of-age novel. There is a reason my characters are 27, 30, and 33- I wanted them to be on the cusp of great change, to be pushed into places where they confront the lives they have created and acknowledge – and change – the pieces that aren’t working.”

Still it’s not only how the three sisters change but where they change as the author writes in her October 19, 2010 post, Deb Eleanor’s Favorite (Fictional) Place:

“….one of the things that I love most about books is their ability to transport you somewhere. In The Weird Sisters, one of my goals was to create a living, breathing town, a place that you felt you had seen before, or might be able to stumble upon, and I hope I’ve done that in the town of Barnwell, Ohio.”

Indeed Deb Eleanor has succeeded in giving the small college town of Barnwell a hometown feeling – a place where readers want to linger, while the sisters want to flee. And the combination of characters and location provides for the novel’s synopsis:

There is no problem that a library card can’t solve.

The Andreas family is one of readers. Their father, a renowned Shakespeare professor who speaks almost entirely in verse, has named his three daughters after famous Shakespearean women. When the sisters return to their childhood home, ostensibly to care for their ailing mother, but really to lick their wounds and bury their secrets, they are horrified to find the others there. See, we love each other. We just don’t happen to like each other very much. But the sisters soon discover that everything they’ve been running from – one another, their small hometown, and themselves – might offer more than they ever expected.

This debut novelist, as the youngest of three sisters, has been frequently asked which of the weird sisters — Rose (Rosalind – As You Like It), Bean (Bianca – The Taming of the Shrew), and Cordy (Cordelia – King Lear) — is she? Her response is that “there’s a little bit of me in each of the characters” and The Divining Wand has exclusive proof of that from three Q&A’s in The Revealing of Eleanor Brown:

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: Complacency.

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: Enthusiasm.

Q: What do you regret most?
A: Hurting other people.

No *spoilers* here, but every one of these three answers describes one of the three sisters. It’s true, the author is delighted to admit. And, oh yes, the major theme of the book is revealed in:

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: Having the courage to build a life I want to live.

However what may be the most vital and magical element of The Weird Sisters is the narrator’s omniscient first person plural voice. Using “we” rather than “I,” the voice is privy to all the sisters’ thoughts, feelings, and secrets. It will pull readers into this triangular sisterhood, allowing one to feel as if they too belong…and never want to leave. In other words, it’s highly effective as well as pitch perfect.

As an Amy Einhorn book, the Uncorrected Proof of The Weird Sisters I received had an introductory letter from Ms. Einhorn in which she confesses:

The Weird Sisters is a novel I would shout about from the rooftops and urge everyone to read if I could.”

And, if that were possible, I would be among the first to join Ms. Einhorn. Yet what is possible for me to tell here is that this will be the book you reluctantly bookmark after each reading, muse about the characters as your mind wanders during the day, and rush back to its pages with anticipation only when you have a good chuck of time to spend in Barnwell, Ohio with the charming, weird sisters.

Since The Weird Sisters does not debut until Thursday, Amazon.com is featuring the novel at a Pre-order price — that costs little more than a Trade paperback — for a few more days. If you can, please take advantage of this opportunity. . . .and enjoy!

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Eleanor Brown’s The Weird Sisters in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, January 19, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. EST with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.

Guest Eleanor Brown on
An Open Letter to My Books

January 11, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[As much as we love to read, visit libraries, and browse bookstores, who knew there would come a day when how to read would cause a moral dilemma? In today’s guest post, Eleanor Brown (The Weird Sisters coming January 20, 2011) shares a heartfelt confession and offers a compromise to her true love.]

An Open Letter to My Books

Dear Books:

I’ll admit it. I’ve been cheating on you.

No, it’s not with that disturbingly large television we just bought (frankly, it kind of creeps me out, what with the HD making everyone’s pores visible – I just don’t feel I want to be that close to anyone unless we’re kissing).

It’s with e-reader.

I know, I know, when I first met e-reader, I was underwhelmed. The pages took too long to turn, I couldn’t really fall into the story, it just didn’t feel right.

And then I decided to re-read one of my favorite books on it. And I fell in love. It turns out that the device hadn’t been the problem to begin with, it was the content. It wasn’t the medium, but the message.

The thing is, Books, you’re still special to me. We’ve got a history, you know? But I can’t take you everywhere – I always have to factor your size into any purse shopping I do. When i go on vacation, you selfishly take up half my suitcase, and often cost me money in overweight fees at the airport.

I do love you, Books, I do. You’re easier to use than my cell phone, you’re better-looking than e-reader, and you hold the stories I want to read. And heaven knows I buy enough of you – I don’t think there’s any danger of the bookstore down the street going out of business while I’m around.

But why can’t I search inside you by keyword when I’m trying to write a book review or find a glorious sentence I remember? And why don’t you just appear on my bedside table, waiting for me when I finish the one before you? Why can’t I lie on my side and flip the pages with one hand while I read the way I can with e-reader?

And why, when I’m done with you, don’t you just go away? I’ve got to find something to do with you, and there’s never enough room. And you look kind of messy when there are too many of you, you know?

Listen, Books, I don’t want to break it off entirely. We’ve got a lot in common, you and me. You like to hang out in bookstores, and so do I. We both hate waiting in line, but you definitely make the time go faster. You never run out of batteries, you’re good-looking, you invite conversation when we’re out in public together, and we’ve been together a long, long time. We’ve got good memories, and I can’t just let you go.

So, what do you say, Books? Are you willing to open this relationship up a little? You, me, and e-reader? There’s enough room in my heart for both of you.

I promise, you’ll always be my first love.

Eleanor

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Book Giveaway: For those readers who have Kindles, The Divining Wand will honor the first 10 comments — left on this specific post, Dee DeTarsio and The Scent of Jade, until Wednesday, January 12, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. EST. — with a download of The Scent of Jade.

The Revealing of Eleanor Brown

January 05, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

The actual debut of Eleanor Brown’s first novel, The Weird Sisters, may still be two weeks away on January 20, 2011, but it’s already received tremendous praise and attention.

Yet how could it not when both author and book are described as:

A major new talent tackles the complicated terrain of sisters. A winsome novel that explores sibling rivalry, the power of books, and the places we decide to call home.

Then the trade praise:

“…bright, literate debut…a punchy delight…” Publishers Weekly

“…lovely debut…creative and original…” Library Journal

Followed by the announcement that The Weird Sisters has been chosen as part of Barnes & Noble’s Discover Great New Writers program!

The Divining Wand has scheduled a presentation/review of The Weird Sisters on Monday, January 17, 2011 however, between now and then, let’s meet the author through her “official” bio:

Born and raised in the Washington, D.C. area, Eleanor Brown has lived in St. Paul, San Francisco, Philadelphia, South Florida, and Oxford, London, and Brighton, England. She lives in Colorado with her partner, writer and new media superstar, J.C. Hutchins.

Eleanor’s writing has appeared in anthologies, journals, magazines, and newspapers. The Weird Sisters, her first novel, will be published by Amy Einhorn Books on January 20, 2011.

Now knowing the facts about the author, it’s time to get to know the real Eleanor as she reveals:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: Better than I ever expected it to be.

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: A good book, J.C., my cat, and a nice, comfy chair.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: Living without J.C. and my cat.

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: Right here is pretty darn good, but I wouldn’t mind a being on a beach in Hawaii with a great book.

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: Julia Child. Except I hate to cook. Otherwise, we’re exactly the same.

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: Any great teacher working to make a difference.

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases?
A: In life? OMG, “I heard about that on NPR!”
In writing? Perhaps, just, seems.

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: I’m in such awe of people who can dance – I wish I were graceful like that.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: Having the courage to build a life I want to live.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: Complacency.

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: Enthusiasm.

Q: What do you regret most?
A: Hurting other people.

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: A pampered house cat.

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: I am very, very tall, and very, very loud.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: Atticus Finch – if only we all had that much honor and compassion.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: Iago, from Othello.

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: I’d like to meet a professional football player and ask why what they do is worth so much darn money – I’m genuinely curious.

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: Gum-chewing. UGH.

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: Reading!

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: Nail technician – I’d love to have that much patience for detail.

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: A good sense of humor, intelligence, and thoughtfulness.

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: Watermelon.

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: Taking the Long Way – Dixie Chicks
Angels – Robbie Williams
Rock with You – Michael Jackson
Silent Night
Oklahoma – Oklahoma!

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: Evening Class, Maeve Binchy
The Lords of Discipline, Pat Conroy
Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
The Stand, Steven King
The Outsiders, S.E. Hinton

Thoughtful, clever, and oh so talented, Eleanor Brown is likely to soon become your new favorite author. To share in her company become a follower on Twitter, a friend on Facebook, a regular reader of her Blog, and a visitor to the The Debutante Ball where she posts every Tuesday.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Eileen Cook’s The Education of Hailey Kendrick in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Eileen Cook and The Education of Hailey Kendrick. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is tonight at 7:00 p.m. EST with the winners to be announced here in tomorrow’s post. If you enter, please return tomorrow to see if you’re a winner.