by Megan Dierolf
“It’s so great to finally meet you,” exclaimed Laura DeVault of Over the Moon Bookstore & Artisan Gallery as she met Eleanor Brown, author of the New York Times bestseller The Weird Sisters. Laura and Anne DeVault read The Weird Sisters while it was still a book galley and raved about it. Anne wrote about it on the store’s Facebook page, while Laura published a few tweets on Twitter. Brown heard about the sisters who were giving her such great reviews of her book from a little town in Virginia. She made it clear that she was going to make it to that small town to meet the sisters for a book signing as she toured around the country. Brown traveled to the DeVaults’ shop in Crozet April 28 to discuss her book and sign copies for some of her fans.
Brown started off the evening with a bit of background about herself. She grew up in Northern Virginia, always reading and writing. Following her mom’s advice, she never went anywhere without a book. Brown used writing as a way to figure things out that were bothering her. Before writing The Weird Sisters, she was a seventh grade teacher, and, as she claimed of her attempts to become established as a writer, “I wrote a lot of really bad books.”
After attempting to write novels that Brown thought would be easy, such as romances, she wrote a book about things that she cares about. It became her “love letter to books and reading.” She wrote to figure out birth order, growing up, adulthood, and illness. The Weird Sisters includes all of these things. The novel is about the Andreas sisters, the daughters of Dr. James Andreas, a Shakespearean professor. The daughters, each named after a different Shakespearean character, return home because their mother is sick and their lives are falling apart. After a summer back together as a family, the sisters learn more about things that they’ve been missing while away from home.
Audience members asked questions about what authors influenced Brown. She shared her love for books by Maeve Binchy, Stephen King, Margaret Mitchell, Ellen Brown, and Michael Northrop. She confessed that she’s not actually a die-hard Shakespeare fan. She never enjoyed reading the plays growing up. One summer while studying abroad at Oxford, her professor made her watch the plays before reading them. Brown laughed as she remembered her epiphany about Shakespeare that summer: he wrote plays, not books. She thought that Dr. Andreas’ obsession with Shakespeare would shape the family and affect family communications. It was a unique way for the family to communicate that the readers would understand.
Brown was questioned about the story being written with an unusual narration, first personal plural. When she began writing she asked herself, “Why doesn’t anyone use this [narration] and what kind of story would it work for?”
Brown thought that the narration would be a way to remind the sisters and the readers that they are all still connected. She soon realized why it’s rare that authors use this voice. “It’s hard,” she confessed.
During the process of finding an agent, some agents were interested in her novel, as long as she would change the voice. Other potential agents wanted to build up the plot and tension. Brown held her ground. The voice was important to her, so she waited until she found an agent that kept the book almost exactly the way her original manuscript was.
Brown signed copies of her novel for many of those who attended. As she signed in her green pen to match the green cover design, many of her readers shared how they had heard about the book or how they were going to pass it on to sisters and friends.