Eleanor Brown wrestles with the mysteries of home, family, Shakespeare—and a trio of sisters whom the Bard would love to cast—in The Weird Sisters, her elegant debut.
The narrator is a mystery—a sister, but which one? How did you come up with the perspective?
I was doing a lot of reading and playing around with different voices. But first person collective is really rare. One of the points I try to make is how we carry our families with us whether we want to or not. So the sisters are narrating it collectively; they can't get away from each other.
The parents are central to the sisters' history, and the pivot around which the novel turns. Yet they remain mostly in the background. Why?
As people, the mother and father are very disengaged, very much in their own heads, and are primarily invested in their relationship with each other. In some ways, they are horrible parents. But I wanted it to be the story of the sisters, [so] I had to push them to the background a little bit.
Which of the three sisters is most like you?
All the sisters are very much me. Readers will also see a little bit of themselves in the sisters. Part of us wants to be adventurous, and part safe and comfortable. I really do love them all equally, as impossible as each of them is in her own way.
You were raised in the Washington, D.C., area, and later moved to St. Paul, [Minn.,] San Francisco, Philadelphia, Florida, England, and now Colorado. How did that figure into a story about coming home?
Wherever you go, there you are—that's true, but I also think that home can be where you make it and where you find people important to you. There's a sense of adventure in going lots of different places. I think there's conflicted feelings for people who are born and grow up [in the same place] and for them, that is exactly the life they want.
Are there siblings in your life?
I have two sisters. I am from a family of three girls and I'm really fascinated with birth order, especially in a family with an odd number of sisters; there's never an equal pairing! I am the youngest. One of the keys to birth order is that we grow up in entirely different families. But there are certain things that are common in siblinghood.
Your bio describes your partner, J.C. Hutchins, as a "new media superstar." Are there fights at home between books and e-readers? Will the twain ever meet for those who love books on the shelves, and those who prefer to turn a digital page?
I watched him go through releasing his work in podcast form. It was interesting to watch, and I was able to learn from his experience. As far as new media, whatever gets you reading and involved in stories that really inspire you, I'm all for it.
I am working on a novel about love, marriage, and what happens when those things don't intersect with one another. My brain is completely in the new manuscript, so I don't think about the sisters every day like I did when I was writing it. It's fun for me to be able to revisit them. I love them!