Writerhead Wednesday: Featuring Eleanor Brown

Welcome to Writerhead Wednesday, a weekly feature in which a brilliant, charming, remarkable author answers three questions about her/his writerhead…a precious opportunity for looky-loos around the world to sneak into the creative noggins of talented writers and (ever so gently) muck about.

Welcome, welcome, welcome to Eleanor Brown, author of one of my favorite novels, The Weird Sisters. I’ve been hankering to learn a little something-something about Eleanor’s writerhead ever since The Weird Sisters debuted and now (whoop! whoop!) I do.

Listen up, folks!

The Scoop About The Weird Sisters

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. [from http://www.eleanor-brown.com/]

The Buzz

“…bright, literate debut…a punchy delight…” ~ Publisher’s Weekly

“Here’s what I adored about this book: the first person plural narrative voice (I can still hear it in my head), its realistic take on the pleasures and pangs of sisterly relationships, and a cast of complex, three dimensional characters who love reading but find that real life sometimes doesn’t fit neatly—or can’t be solved—within the pages of a novel.” ~ Nancy Pearl, author of Book Lust and Book Lust to Go

“Brown’s knockout debut about the ties that bind us, the stories we tell ourselves, and the thorny tangle of sisterhood was so richly intelligent, heartbreakingly moving and gorgeously inventive, that I was rereading pages just to see how she did her alchemy. Brilliant, beautiful, and unlike anything I’ve ever read before.” ~ Caroline Leavitt, author of Pictures of You and Girls in Trouble

First Sentence

“We came home because we were failures.”


And now, Eleanor’s writerhead

1. Describe your state of writerhead (the where, the when, the how, the what, the internal, the external).

You describe writerhead as a temporary state, but for me it’s a state that lasts a long time, just in different levels. On the first level, usually when I’m thinking on a new project or just starting to write something new, everything I see calls out its story to me— conversations I overhear (okay, eavesdrop on), articles in magazines, song lyrics, the perfect blue of the summer sky. Things are sharper and clearer to me. It’s like a heightened sense of awareness of everything that’s going on in the world, and I’m usually very, very happy.

The second level is when I’m actually writing, and that’s when I really start to get sucked in, when I can draw on all those things that have been catching my eye, literally or metaphorically, and start to put them on paper. That’s kind of dreamlike, because I’m no longer aware of the outside world. I’m fishing around in my heart and my memories to find exactly the right way to describe that perfect blue.

The third level is when I’m deep into the project, when I’m beyond sorting through my notes or doing research or anything that pulls my eyes away from the page or the screen. The words are just coming out—not always pretty, but they’re coming!—and I can’t stop them. Interestingly, I am usually very, very grumpy at this level, maybe because my body keeps making ridiculous demands, like needing to be fed or washed or something silly like that.

2. What happens if someone/something interrupts writerhead? (a spouse, a lover, a barking dog, an electrical outage, a baby’s cry, a phone call, a leg cramp, a dried-up pen, a computer crash, etc.)

I don’t usually notice! My partner will say something to me, and I won’t respond—I genuinely don’t even hear it. Usually, he then launches into an extended monologue about how he and our cat are going to go to the moon in their cotton candy spaceship. By the time he gets to cotton candy, I’m usually aware enough to tune back in, but sometimes he has to get even more ridiculous before I’ll notice. Maybe I should suggest that he mention ice cream earlier in the story—I think even writerhead can’t keep me away from ice cream.

3. Using a simile or metaphor, compare your writerhead to something.

For me writerhead feels like I’ve passed out of my body in order to connect more directly with the world through its stories.


Eleanor Brown is the New York Times and national bestselling author of The Weird Sisters. Born and raised in the Washington, D.C. area, Eleanor 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.

To find out more about Eleanor, visit her web site. You can also give her a wave on Twitter (@eleanorwrites) or Facebook.


Q4U: Readers / Writers / Looky-Loos / Sisters: What grabs your attention about Eleanor’s writerhead? What makes you go “Hey, that’s so crazy!” or “Oh, my god, that’s just like my writerhead!”



Today—Wednesday, August 24, 2011—I’m giving away 2 signed copies of Eleanor Brown’s The Weird Sisters.

RULES: To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment right here on WRITERHEAD for Eleanor. Compliment her on her shoes. Tell her about your sisters. Talk about a shared writerhead experience. Ask her a question about how she wrote The Weird Sisters. Give her a standing ovation for writing such a spectacular novel. Etc.

*Comments must be posted before the clock strikes midnight on August 25, 2011. (That’s Eastern Standard Time U.S.)

**This contest is open internationally.

***Winners will be drawn on Thursday, August 25. Be sure to check back to see who wins.

****Though I welcome all your charming comments, only one comment per person will be counted in the contest. (I know, I know…but this isn’t American Idol.)

****The winner will be drawn randomly by the highly scientific method of my 3yo pulling a name out of a hat (or some other convenient container).


30 Responses to Writerhead Wednesday: Featuring Eleanor Brown

  1. I absolutely loved The Weird Sisters, and your Writerhead description, too! I relate to the three levels, although at the third I’m more befuddled than grumpy (“Stomach, why are you rumbling? I just fed you — oh wait, that was five hours ago”).

    • Thank you, Julie! I’m so glad you enjoyed the book, and relieved I’m not the only one who ends up completely ignoring basic human needs when the writing is going really well!

  2. Hi, Eleanor! Thanks for sharing your Writerhead with us today. I loved THE WEIRD SISTERS and I want more! Hope you are deep into Writerhead, frantically working on your next book, which I just can’t wait to read.

  3. I wish my writerhead was as strong as yours, Eleanor. I get distracted so easily from my writing. It’s not that I’m not dedicated to it or don’t love it, because I am and I do…I swear I have adult ADD.

    • Brianna, I think some of that is training (and certainly my friend Alex George’s recommendation of macfreedom.com really helped!), but I also think if that’s the way you work, that’s the way you work!

      Just because I’m focused doesn’t mean I don’t end up with a whole lot of junk on the cutting room floor at the end! Maybe shorter spurts are more efficient – who knows?

  4. Because I am a “closet writerhead” (read: too much going on in my life to write– and draw, as I’d like to publish children’s picture books)…
    I get my writerhead-on through my daily work as a Montessori teacher(where I create/paint/draw/write/create works for my students); Mom of three boys (now 4 with a third… yes read third teenage boy from Germany here for a year) for 4 days while my husband is out of town doing his consulting gig; and am the publisher/creator/designer of our school’s 72-page annual yearbook. I can TOTALLY relate to step three!!

    Soooo keep writing for all of us wannabes…

    • I love that you make your own creativity! And I totally have more than my fair share of those periods where even if I can make time to write, my mind is still going a mile a minute. It’s not a coincidence that most of The Weird Sisters was written during vacations when I was teaching.

  5. I love Eleanor’s answer to the 2nd question: “What happens if someone/something interrupts writerhead?” Eleanor said she doesn’t notice and doesn’t respond when her partner says something. I can relate to this although more in terms of readerhead than writerhead because, although I like to write and do, I’m too unsure of myself still to really lose myself in my writing the way I can lose myself in a book. When my husband or someone else tries to talk to me when I’m deeply absorbed in a book, I hear a buzzing-like sound and give a nod or something that encourages them to believe I’m listening. Only when they’ve finished whatever they said and are waiting for an answer or comment from me do they realize I wasn’t listening at all. They usually come to this realization about the same time I realize the buzzing has stopped and manage to pull myself out of readerhead to try and find out what happened!

    Thanks for your answers, Eleanor…I love how absorbed you get in your writing world and I think the 3 levels of <writerhead you described are fantastic. I hope to get to that point with my writing some day!

    Thank you for hosting a giveaway of The Weird Sisters. I still haven’t read it but it’s high up on my tbr list!


    • I’m totally the same way – my sweetie does this when I’m reading, and gets annoyed when I don’t hear him, and I say, “I’m READING!” If it’s a good story, I shut out the world, whether I’m reading or writing it.

      Thank you so much for your support!

  6. It’s so nice to hear others enter into the semi-hypnotic state while writing. There needs to be a special award for all of our partners/spouses out there who put up with those of us with one foot in reality and the other in la la land.

    Great post!

  7. I want this book 🙂 I love books that really delve into family relationships. I have noticed lately a number of books on my wish list deal with the relationship between sisters (yours, The Orphan Sister, The Birdsisters-those are the easy ones to name off the top of my head). What makes women want to read about sisters?

    • It’s interesting, right? Rebecca and Gwen’s books are on my TBR list as well!

      I think sisterly relationships are peculiar (and I mean that in both senses of the word) and fascinating, built of closeness and enmity, in a way that few other relationships are.

      And I like books with lots of strong female characters, so maybe I am a bit biased!

    • As a women with three sisters, I love reading about sisters. The relationships are so wonderful and so complex. In some ways, it gets easier as adults (we’re no longer wrestling each other to the ground), but it other ways, it gets more difficult.

      Thanks for popping by!

  8. I haven’t had the opportunity to read this book yet but I’m sure I would enjoy it.
    I can get so lost in reading and in writing, totally absorbed in either one when opportunity presents itself. Because of the way life is happening lately it is much more reading than writing.

    Very interesting blog and interview. Thanks.

  9. Loved your book and have found myself checking out where bookstores place it when I’m traveling. Spotted it in Wisconsin, Kentucky, and Georgia prominently displaed to name a few. Always makes me smile (:

  10. I really like Eleanor’s answer to question number 3. It’s wonderful that you have found your calling. To connect to people (eventually, when the book is published) through your words.
    Also for me as well, it seems I gravitate towards books with women, be it friends, sister, etc.

    This book has been on my goodreads list for a while so I would luv to win! Thank you

  11. The first line of many stories in literature have been memorable and potent.
    The Weird Sisters opens with a powerful line, reminds me of “April is the cruelest month,” but even better. “We came home because we were failures.”

  12. And the winners of the 2 signed copies of Eleanor’s THE WEIRD SISTERS are:

    Laura Kay


    the 2nd Amy (the one whose comment begins “I really like Eleanor’s answer to question number 3.”

    Laura & Amy, if you left your email address, you’ll be hearing from me soon. If not, please email me!

    Congratulations! & thanks for popping by Writerhead!