Friday, April 13, 2012

The Weird Sisters and Giveaway with Eleanor Brown


I happen to remember exactly where I was when I read The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown. I was on vacation over the July 4th holiday, and this was my "getaway" reading. Each night, I holed up in the spare bedroom I occupied, with a small lamp and a cupcake, and read into the wee hours of the morning. Then during the day, I carried the book around with me just because it was so BEAUTIFUL, I wanted to gaze at it. People would say, "Hey, what's that you're reading?" and I'd be like, "Oh, just The Weird Sisters. It's pretty good so far" and they'd be like, "Oh," and I'd stick my nose back in it so they wouldn't bother me. . .

The Weird Sisters is a fun peek into a quirky family who have to bond in order to help each other through a gut-wrenching ordeal. As a firstborn, I could relate to Rose, the oldest daughter in many ways. I think everyone could find something in this book that they have experienced to some degree. I was easily swept into the drama since all of the conflict is set up in the beginning. This is no "slow plot" story; I found myself aching for each one's separate dilemma and cheering for Rose (the oldest, of course) to get past her firstborn instincts and get onto living her own life.
In case this book hasn't made it into your hands yet, here is a summary about the book from www.eleanor-brown.com:
The Andreas sisters were raised on books - their family motto might as well be, 'There's no problem a library card can't solve.'
Their father, a renowned, eccentric professor of Shakespearean studies, named them after three of the Bard's most famous characters: Rose (Rosalind - As You Like It), Bean (Bianca - The Taming of the Shrew), and Cordy (Cordelia - King Lear), but they have inherited those characters' failures along with their strengths.
Now the sisters have returned home to the small college town where they grew up - partly because their mother is ill, but mostly because their lives are falling apart and they don't know where to go next.
Rose, a staid mathematics professor, has the chance to break away from her quiet life and join her devoted fiance in England, if she could only summon up the courage to do more than she's thought she could. Bean left home as soon as she could, running to the glamour of New York City, only to come back ashamed of the person she has become. And Cordy, who has been wandering the country for years, has been brought back to earth with a resounding thud, realizing it's finally time for her to grow up.
The sisters never thought they would find the answers to their problems in each other, but over the course of one long summer, they find that everything they’ve been running from – each other, their histories, and their small hometown – might offer more than they ever expected.

Welcome, Eleanor! Congratulations on your success! As of today, the book is #12 on the NYT Bestseller List. What does that feel like?
It’s thrilling! When it hit the list, I was completely surprised – I had expected two people to buy the book: my mom, and my editor’s mom. So when it was that successful, it was totally unexpected. But the more I think about it, the more wonderful it is, because what it means is that I’m not alone in the questions I was struggling with when I wrote the book. None of us is alone. And that’s a comforting feeling.

I loved the theme of Birth Order and its influence on us. How did you research birth order, and how did you use it to completely form each character, personality, behaviors, and even the conflict each was experiencing?
I’ve been fascinated by birth order theory for a long time – my research project for my psychology major in college was on birth order! So when I sat down to create the Andreas sisters, I drew on the archetypes and built them from there, creating their motivations and, yes, their conflicts from those traits.

What inspired the idea of this Professor of a father who only spoke in "Shakespeare"? I completely adored how the sisters could still understand what he was saying despite his cryptic sonnets.
Every family has its own language, comprised of nicknames, quotes from books or movies (or plays!), references to experiences they had together. I wanted the family in The Weird Sisters to have its own language, so I tied that idea in with a question I had about what would happen if someone in a family were obsessed with something, and, voila! Shakespeare!

One of my favorite parts was how they all read books, laying them around the house, picking up one in the kitchen, then putting it down to read something else when they reached the living room. Also carrying them in their purses to be pulled out whenever they wanted to not communicate. This is kind of a description of my dream world. Did you grow up this way, or know someone who did?
I’m grateful to have grown up in a house full of books and music. Reading was what we did – aloud, silently, together, alone. It’s allowed me to explore lots of different ideas and live different lives, all through the pages of a book or a magazine. The family’s love of literature definitely mirrors my own!

I did my research and noted that you love Maeve Binchy, too! Hello! I wrote a post about her since one of her recent novels was starred on my list. Can you pinpoint what it is about her writing that has touched yours?
Isn’t she wonderful? Reading one of her books feels like chatting with an old friend. The most important lesson I took from her is how to weave together multiple storylines. She so deftly juggles multiple characters and then brings them together in surprising and thoughtful ways. I studied her books a lot in order to be able to write a story with three main characters.

Lastly, what is your advice for aspiring writers?
Read everything. Write everything. Then do it all over again!

Thank you so much for taking your time to answer my questions! I can't wait to see what you have in store for your next book!
Readers, it is your turn! Eleanor is graciously giving away a signed copy of her paperback, newly released! To enter, just leave a question or comment here. Or tell us how birth order has influenced you. The winner here will be drawn randomly on 4/19/12. (US/Canada only, sorry!)

For more information you can like Eleanor Brown on Facebook or visit her website.

Our randomly selected winner is. . . . jpetroroy! Congratulations! Thanks for participating, everyone!

23 comments:

  1. Barb Leatherman (mom)April 13, 2012 at 1:26 PM

    As the mom of you, my firstborn, I'll be first to comment. I'm glad you, Erin, and Michael have become good, fast friends, even though a little weird. I'm looking forward to reading this book! It was wonderful of you, Eleanor, to take time for the interview and it was good to meet you through Christina.

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    1. Aww. Thanks, mom. We are weird, I know, but it's fun.

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    2. As the middle child, Christina's little sister, not the oldest, not the youngest, and not the only boy (who's also the youngest), yes I admit I used the birth order as an excuse sometimes...I rebelled against the traditional order of things, I took off on a few adventures knowing my parents would be okay because Christina was there. I've also acted as a "go between" in our family of 3 grown kids, able to relate to Michael when no one else could. Now as I plan the most important day of my life so far, I realize more than ever how lucky I am to have an amazing big sister, really cool little brother, and two wonderfully supportive parents who will be there for me however they can... Weird as we are, I wouldn't change us for the world.

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    3. Well, the middle child IS the one who is often misunderstood and not even completely figured out by the experts. We do know that the middles are usually peacemakers, which you were with all your friends, and that they seek out the social life since they are often unsure of their place in the house. Hmm.. we'll have to talk about your adventures! Don't really want details...You're awesome, and I'm happy for you!

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    4. What a lovely family! Three children always makes for interesting dynamics, but it sounds like in your case there was a happy ending to it! Thanks for your support!

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  2. I'd love to know if she sees qualities of herself in any of the sisters.

    Jpetroroy@gmail.com

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    1. Thanks for coming by! That's a good question, I'd like to know too.

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    2. Yes! All three of them! I should write a blog post about this.

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  3. I've been wanting to read this book! I am the middle child of three girls, so my issues run deep. :) I did a research paper in high school on birth order and am always looking for good fiction that explores those ideas. Thanks so much for hosting this Christina! It's always fascinating to hear from authors about how their characters come to life and how those lives differ or mirror the author's own life.

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    1. Hi Anna! Another middle with lots of issues, huh? :0) I love Kevin Leman's books on Birth Order; I'll probably be blogging about them next week since I'll continue this topic. As someone who has researched birth order, you'll probably get a lot out of The Weird Sisters because you'll see things other people might not pick up on. I hope you can identify with one of the sisters. Come back and tell me what you think after you read it.

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    2. Middle children are the best, Anna, don't let anyone tell you different! I came to my interest in birth order through being one of three sisters, too - it's the perfect pressure cooker for birth order traits!

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  4. Great post! I'm intrigued by this book just because of the title. Congratulations, Eleanor, on your wonderful success. I dabbled a bit in birth order in my first trilogy--from the "I've got to do everything because I have all the answers and experience" oldest brother, to the "forgotten--and glad of it" middle brother, to the "dreamer, gadabout--since all the serious jobs have been taken" youngest brother. Birth order is an interesting topic, and it sounds like you do it beautifully. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Yes! You just reminded me of the way you used the birth order traits with your Wilkins brothers. This is why I have always liked Brady best-- because I identified with him. HOWEVER, sadly, we would not work out as a couple, so I would have to go with Hank or Jack. I do have my own "youngest brother" that I married. He has an older sister, so he was used to being bossed around! It works out perfectly.

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    2. Thanks, Kaki! A lot of people have asked me if it would have been the same if it had been three boys in my book - I'll have to refer them to yours!

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  5. Geri (Aquino) StraberApril 18, 2012 at 12:52 PM

    Hi, Christina
    I love hearing all the theories about birth order. I'm the middle child in a sandwich of three, older sister and younger brother. I've definitely experienced the "middle child syndrome" and married another middle child who has it even worse than me. My sister's husband is the oldest child in his family and my brother married the youngest child in her family. Maybe it's the similar personalities that's associated with birth order?
    Great blog!!

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    1. Hi Geri! That is so interesting that you all married the same birth order! Isn't it funny that growing up, and being friends with you, I didn't think about this much. I didn't really know you had "middle child syndrome" but just knew you were my pal. Was I bossy? I probably was. Then again, we were both pretty quiet and got along just fine. Come back to my blog soon! This is a hug
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    2. Fascinating, Geri. Often people marry opposite birth orders, so it's really interesting that you all married the same!

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  6. Some very cool concepts to build into a story.....no wonder it's a success, Eleanor! A HUGE CONGRATS to you!!!! Amazing, your story echoes a very lengthy conversation I had with my identical twin sister just the other day (one we've shared often over the years) about how we formed into the very different women we are by our birth order, sandwiched between two brothers with whom we aligned ourselves separately, and by resisting our mother's innocent efforts to raise us the same. One of the greatest things my twin and I have in common is our love for reading. And another compelling force driving me toward your story is that Shakespeare remains one of my all-time favorite authors from my teen years. I'm especially intrigued to read how you pull the quirkiness of birth order and a father speaking in Shakespearean tongue together. The very bestest to you in your journey with The Weird Sisters!

    Christina--you are the master interviewer!!!

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    1. Thanks! It's my journalism skills from high school coming back to haunt me. I didn't know you were a twin. Twins usually are extremely opposite of each other, aren't they? The ones I've known have been. It sounds like your household was an interesting one in which to live. I can only imagine your mother and her "innocent efforts." Were you ever devious in tricking her? You know, switching identities? Maybe in many families, if one likes to read, they all read. Just a theory. (Or vice versa).

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    2. Most twins I know, at least identical, are more alike than not. But environment plays a huge role in differentiation; how twins are raised adds a lot to the equation. The more twins are made to be alike, the more they strive for uniqueness. We would NEVER have fooled our mother, but our father was gullible at times. It was more fun to trick especially teachers and outsiders. My poor husband---what he had to put up with, I'm surprised he's still around after 31 years!

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    3. Thank you, Lisa! I love hearing stories like yours about how children work out their own birth orders, especially when there are unusual combinations like twins involved. You are right - environment is so key in how it all turns out!

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  7. This is very interesting... I'm the oldest and my husband is the only child. I'm always worried about other people and he is not. He tells me to "relax" all the time. I never thought I'd be married to "the only child"! I see my daughter acts like me sometimes..... LOL! I so need to get this book!!! Can't wait to read it:)

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    1. Hi Yuki! It sounds like you guys are really good for each other. Also, your daughter acts like you because she is the oldest and has a younger brother (just like you!) I had the same feelings with my son since he was oldest. You'd enjoy this book! Come back soon!

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