“Guilt, like the cat she’d never had, wove around her legs and hopped up onto the bed to insinuate itself at close range. ‘Go away,’ she said to the guilt. She imagined it brushing alongside her, swiping its tail against her cheek. Guilt wanted her most when she least wanted it. Cats always loved people who were allergic to them.”—Ann Brashares, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (Day Thirteen: a quote about cats)
“It would be easy to say that the pants changed everything that summer. But looking back now I feel like our lives changed because they had to, and that the real magic of the pants was in bearing witness to all of this and in somehow holding us together when it felt like nothing would ever be the same again.”—Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants (via karinanicole)
“The problem is every time I try to get close to somebody it’s like there’s something out there that just says oh Tibby’s about to be happy, better get her.”— tibby [the sisterhood of the traveling pants 2] (via perfectlycrazy)
“I admit that I feel half like a mother, and half like a grandmother, this time around. More like a grandmother when I’m muttering about what kind of advanced degree you need to fold this new kind of stroller. But I feel unalloyed pleasure watching my 15-year-old—now the size of a man—carry his tiny brother around.” - The Wall Street Journal
When I started writing about the Sisterhood ten years ago, I wanted to create characters with big, open-ended lives-girls who wouldn't fit into a single novel. At the same time, I wanted to tell a proper story with a beginning, middle, and end. So I planned a four-book sequence to tell that story. And as I got to the end, I realized I was ready for the end of that story, but not remotely ready for the end of the characters. They were only nineteen, after all. They had so much life ahead of them! I didn't want to miss it. Would their friendship survive adulthood? Who, if anyone, would they marry? What about having babies? What career would Carmen choose? Would "someday" ever come for Lena and Kostos?
I promised myself that after taking a break from them and trying out some other things I would come back and find them later in their lives. So that's what I've done in Sisterhood Everlasting. I've rediscovered Carmen, Lena, Bridget, and Tibby on the cusp of their thirtieth birthdays. Though it felt right to be away-all of us off doing our different things-it felt wonderful to come back together. I don't think I would have appreciated the characters as much without the hiatus, and I hope the characters feel the same. I discovered I have certain ways of thinking and writing that are unique to those girls, and I had really missed them while I was away.
If you are familiar with the girls of the Sisterhood, I hope you will enjoy the reunion as much as I have. If you are coming to them for the first time, I hope you will find pleasure in the introduction.
So welcome (back) to the Sisterhood. We've missed you.
Fire Island is a barrier island–a skinny stretch of sand between the Great South Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. It’s just sitting out there in the water, 32 miles long and 1/4 of a mile wide at its widest. Because it’s essentially a sandbar, it’s vulnerable.
In the famous and terrible hurricane of 1938, the eye passed right over Saltaire, the town where we live. According to town lore, the ocean met the bay that day, and the entire island lay under water. Three-quarters of the houses were destroyed and even those that weren’t were washed off their pilings and floated around like boats until the water finally receded.
There used to be a promenade–a wide boardwalk–along the ocean and there were houses on both sides of it. Ocean Prom, as they called it, was long ago destroyed and so were all the houses on either side. It’s a bit haunting to me, the ghosts of those old houses and walks, now deep under the sea. They say when a big storm is coming, the ocean pulls far back and you can see the stone hearths from those houses long since washed away.
You feel like you’re in the hand of nature there, subject to her moods. In New York City, were we live for most of the year, nature seems more like our guest. In a place like Fire Island, we are hers. It’s a dumb place to build a house when you think of it, but also thrilling and beautiful. As with many things, the curse and the blessing of it are pretty much the same.
The fragility makes it a good setting for a novel, I think. The sea-light brings on nostalgia much quicker. It conjures a state almost like deja-vu, when you feel like you are living an experience and remembering it at the same time. As a writer, I love that spot where land and sea and sky meet. I love that blurry place where life’s transitions are made without you even knowing it.
There’s a woman I used to see at on Fire Island sometimes. I don’t think she goes there anymore. I never met her, but I was struck by her, aware for some reason we are similar in age, but that she’d been coming to this beach since she was born, while I had found a place here only as an adult.
I remember one evening around sunset a bunch of us newcomers were sitting on the deck at a friend’s house. We were drinking gin-and-tonics and talking about our jobs and sounding like our parents as our various children ran around on the sand. I remember seeing this woman ride by on her bike. She made a romantic silhouette turning the corner at the bay–almost childlike–and I was struck by her native look of freedom. She wore surfer shorts over her old lifeguard bathingsuit and I could tell she’d spent a long day on the beach. Like all true Fire Island kids, she rode her bike as though it were part of her body. I looked at her for a second and she looked back at me. I wasn’t sure what I felt, whether it was pathos or envy. She didn’t have many of the things I held sacred: children and marriage and all-day accountability. She was holding on to the house that belonged to her parents, while I was raising children in my own. But she had freedom. She had a kind of lightness I didn’t have. She had solitude and the beach to herself and her own choices all day. She finished her thoughts and her sentences, I imagined. Or maybe she felt no need to start them. When she looked at me I wasn’t sure what she felt, whether it was with envy or pathos. It was almost like we glimpsed each other through the veil between possible worlds. I could have been you, I thought. You could have been me. Do I wish that? Do you?
I can’t say that she became my character Riley, exactly. I don’t know her at all. But my idea of her, accurate or not, provided an inspiration.
It strikes me that Fire Island is a great place to be a kid. It’s a good place to be a grown up and to raise your kids. But it’s almost an impossible place to make the trip between the two.
It’s funny that it’s the place I’ve chosen–not personally, but as a writer–to attempt that very trip.
My name is not memory, in fact. But that is the name of my new book, which I just finished this week. I am excited about it. It will be published by Riverhead Books in early June.
But before I go on, I have to apologize. I think I am the worst multi-tasker in the world. No, that is too grand. I am a bad multi-tasker. I have a lot of trouble focusing on writing a book while also keeping my website up to date (not to mention taking care of my children, making dinner, calling my mom back, keeping the pets alive and so on.) To those of you who have continued to check in, thank you. I am so grateful to you for being interested in my books and for letting me know your thoughts. I’m sorry I haven’t been writing in and updating the site more frequently. I hope to do better.
This new book is kind of a departure for me. Not a total departure–it’s mainly about love. But it takes place on a broad canvas of time. I’m going to include a part of a scene below to give you an idea of it. This scene is told from the point of view of Daniel, a young man blessed (or cursed, it often seems) with a long history and a very unusual memory.
Thanks for reading. I’ll write again soon. “Well. It’s a strange thing,” I explained. “With each birth your body starts out fresh and mostly blank, but then you print yourself on it over time. You hold onto old experiences: injuries, injustices, and great love affairs, too.” I glanced up at Sophia. “And you hold them in your joints and your organs and wear them on your skin.” “You do.” She was giving me that same look of indulgence, but it was less confident. “We all do.” “Because we live again and again?” “Most of us.” “Not all of us?” Her indulgence showed more signs of genuinely wanting to know.
“Some live only once. Some a very few times. And some just go on and on and on.” “Why?” I put my head back on my pillow. “That is hard to explain. I’m not sure I really know.” “And you?” “I’ve lived many times.” “And you remember them?” “Yes. That’s where I’m different than most people.” “I’ll say. And what about me?” She looked like she wasn’t going to believe the answer, but slightly feared it anyway. “You’ve also lived many times. But your memory is just average.” “Clearly.” She laughed. “Have you known me for all of them?” “I’ve tried. But no, not all.” “And why can’t I remember?” “You can more than you think. Those memories are in there somewhere. You act on them in ways you don’t realized. They determine how you respond to people, the things you love and the things you fear. A lot of our irrational behavior would look more rational if you could see it in the context of your whole long life.” It was amazing the things I was will to tell her if she was willing to listen, and she was. I touched the hem of her sleeve. “I know enough about you to know you love horses and you probably dream about them. You probably dream of the desert sometimes and maybe taking a bath outdoors. Your nightmares are usually about fire. You have problems with your voice and your throat sometimes–that was always your weak spot …” Her face was rapt. “Why?” “You were strangled a long time ago.” Her alarm was a mix of real and pretend. “By whom?” “Your husband.” “Awful. Why did I marry him?” “You didn’t have a choice.” “And you knew this man?” “He was my brother.” “Long dead, I hope.” “Yes, but bearing a grudge through history, I fear.” I could see by her face, she was trying to figure out where to put all of this. “Are you a psychic?” she asked. I smiled and shook my head. “Although most psychics, if they are any good, do have some memory of old lives. And so do most of the people we consider insane. An asylum is about the densest concentration of people with partial memory you will ever find. They get flashes and visions, but usually not in the right order.” She looked at me sympathetically, wondering if that’s where I belonged. “Is that what you do?” “No. I remember everything.”
A little over a year ago I started taking piano lessons. I last took them when I was ten, so it’s been awhile. I am terrible at it, and my brain and fingers are maddeningly slow, but I really love it. The piece I’ve been working on is a Mozart sonata (#16 in C) and it is beautiful. Well, it’s not beautiful when I play it, but you know what I mean.
Another thing I love is the movie Groundhog Day. It is a profound movie in many ways. I watched it again recently, because I am writing a new book that is partly inspired by it. And then I watched it another time, really slowly. I was trying to figure out where the turning point of the story occurs–the moment when Phil (Bill Murray) begins his transformation from a selfish, hedonistic, misanthrope into a person capable of loving and being loved. I kept starting and stopping the movie, trying to figure it out. And then I did. Or at least I think I did. I think it’s the moment when he’s sitting in the diner and is struck by a certain beautiful piece of piano music playing on the radio. And guess what that piece is? Mozart’s Sonata #16 in C. The very piece I’ve been playing over and over for weeks. I thought that was a nice confluence of things I happen to love.
There has been some confusion in switching over from my old website to my new one. I think it’s all figured out, finally. Thanks for your patience. We’re still trying to bring the comments section over from the old site. They should get here soon.
I set up a new mailbox (firstname.lastname@example.org or just click on “write to Ann”), and the thing is, it actually works! I am getting emails from readers and writing back. It didn’t work on my old site, so I’m very excited that it works on this one. Thanks to those of you who have written to me. In other news, I was sick the week before last and I had to cancel my bookstore visits in Connecticut, Atlanta and Miami. If you were planning to come to one of those, I am sorry. I’ve never been sick enough to cancel an appearance before, and I felt terrible for it (in addition to feeling generally terrible because of being sick). I’m feeling much better now and thankful for modern medicine and antibiotics. I’m rescheduling those visits, and I will post them on this site as soon as they are definite. And last of all, I found out that 3 Willows is going to be #1 on the New York TImes bestseller list of Children’s hardcovers next week. I was pretty surprised and excited about that. The only problem is that I made a deal with my kids that if 3 Willows made it to the top spot on the list, I would take them somewhere warm this winter. I was sort of kidding around when I made the deal. I didn’t think it would happen and I promptly forgot about it. But my kids have been very eager to remind me. So I guess we’re going somewhere warm this winter. So much for the deal I made with myself that I was going to save money.
That my new book, 3 Willows, goes on sale. I’ve got the usual anxiety. I’ve also got the usual excitement, but I guess excitement never feels usual. It’s the beginning of life for new characters and their stories. Now they are in the world and they get to interact with readers and change and evolve as they go.
I start my book tour in Southbury, Connecticut tonight, move on to Atlanta and Miami later in the week, and then go to Chicago and Denver next week. The full tour schedule is posted on this site under “Events,” so please do come if you live in one of the cities I’m visiting. I’d love to meet you.
On the subject of this site, I’m sort of reintroducing it today. It’s been simplified a bit, it can now be reached by the address annbrashares.com (as well as annbrashares.net), and I will be able to update it much more easily. Also, you can now write to me directly (see the “Write to Ann” link on the homepage). All these changes are for the better, I hope, and I am thrilled to be able to interact with the site and with readers more easily.
Thank you for your interest in my books. Thank you for posting your lovely comments. I’ll write again soon.
My deep thanks to all of you who have read my posts and left comments. It is so nice to hear from you. I wanted to take a minute to answer some questions several of you have asked.I am gearing up to write another book about the girls (women) of the Sisterhood. I am thinking about them quite a bit later in their lives (mid to late twenties), and I promise the big questions, issues, and love interests (Kostos, among others) will not be left out. I have been missing all of them recently. I have quite a bit of (fun) work to do, so I would guess that book will come out in 2010.In the meantime, I have a new book coming out this January. It is called 3 Willows. The main characters are new, but the book takes place in the same world as the Sisterhood. In fact, there are certain secondary characters you will recognize. (Effie!) So that’s the news for now. Please stay in touch.
I tend to write about characters who are younger than me. In the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books, the characters started out being sixteen and by the end were nearly twenty. In the Last Summer (of You and Me) the three main characters are in their early and mid-twenties. At readings and in interviews people often ask me why this is so. I’m not sure exactly why. But it’s a pretty fascinating stretch of life. Many if not most of the great novels of the last couple centuries are about teenagers or characters in their early twenties: Jane Austen’s novels, the Bronte novels, much of Dickens, Thackeray and so on. It’s the time in our lives when we are making critical decisions (and mistakes) about who we are going to be and whom to love. We get to take longer to figure it out this century, but it’s still a pretty dramatic period of life. Besides being asked why I write about young characters, I am often asked how I write about young characters. How do I throw myself across the chasm of full adulthood to relive that period? I guess I don’t, really. Age is not so much a feature of your character, as the spot where you stand for a pretty fleeting time on the arc of your life. When I write about a character who is eighteen or twenty, I try to include her as she was when she was four and eleven and also as she’ll be when she’s thirty-five and seventy. When I think of my own self twenty years ago, I don’t feel like I was a different person. The circumstances in my life have changed a lot, but I don’t feel like there is any chasm to cross between me now and me then. My interior life feels very much the same. The other explanation is that I have a deep emotional attachment to that juncture of life and haven’t quite moved on from it. I guess that’s possible too.
I’m sorry to have been away so long. After having had a very busy year last year with two new books out, Forever in Blue and The Last Summer (of You & Me), I took a long break from all professional enterprises other than simply writing. I think it’s hard to promote your writing while actually trying to write. It’s hard for me, anyway. Some people are capable of looking outward and inward in a kind of seamless way, but I’ve never been good at that. So I have been doing some writing (I’ll have more on that soon) as well as hanging around with my kids and my husband, learning the piano (badly, but with enormous effort), running, traveling, seeing friends, and reading. More recently I’ve been following politics somewhat obsessively. (I’m from Washington, D.C., that’s partly my excuse.) And, more relevantly, I’m gearing up for the paperback publication of The Last Summer on May 6 and the sequel to the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants movie on August 8. There’s a lovely new paperback cover for Last Summer which I’ll post on this site as soon as I figure out how. And there’s a new movie poster to show you too. In other news, the paperback of Forever in Blue just came out this month. Now you can get the whole four-book set in a box. (I do love boxed sets-ever since I got my Little House on the Prairie collection.) So that’s the quick update. I’ll have more for you soon. Thanks for visiting this site.
It’s pretty clear that writers have a strong influence on our characters. We make them who they are. They are nothing without us. Until we publish a story with them in it, anyway, and then they make a break for it.
The thing that surprises me (one of the things) is how our characters can influence us. Bridget, for example, a character in The Sisterhood novels. She is not much like me. She’s the least like me of the four main characters. (Readers always seem to love her the most.) I realize that since I’ve started writing about Bee, she has inspired me. She inspires me to do more and think less. To worry less. She’s not afraid of how people see her or how things seem. She’s a runner. When I first wrote about her I was not a runner. I had developed a strong dislike of running in fifth grade when we had to run an 8-minute mile for the Presidential Fitness test. But I realized I loved running with Bee–running toward things, running away from things. I realized what a release it was for her. As I attempted to occupy her mind as her writer, I felt it too.
Soon after I wrote the Second Summer, in which Bee does some truly cathartic running, I started running myself. It was pretty miserable at first. I’d run half a mile and feel exhausted. “You’re not running far enough,” a friend told me. That, weirdly enough, turned out to be true. Two miles felt better than one mile. Soon three miles felt better than two. When I described Bee running seven or eight miles in under an hour, I thought it was nearly superhuman. Now I can do that, and it feels pretty ordinary. And though I feel like I know Bee better now, she’s become less mysterious. Maybe she was always in there somewhere
This is the day my new book comes out. Always a slightly (or profoundly) nervewracking experience. I got up at 6 am to start doing radio interviews. I talked to Whoopi Goldberg. That was fun. I tend to get involved in the conversation and forget to mention the title of the book and website info at the beginning and end, which is what you are supposed to do. I’m not much of a salesperson, I’m afraid.
It’s tricky to do live phone interviews from home-at least from my particular home. I try to be smooth and professional and put on a radio voice while my kids are banging on the door because they can’t find their shoes and another phone is ringing and a siren is blaring out the window and the fire alarm is beeping because I forgot to replace the battery.
I always worry on such a day. I worry that no one will buy the book. I worry that many people will buy the book, but no one will like it. I worry that my mind will wander on live TV: I will stare blankly at the camera while my hair is sticking up in some funny way. I worry that no one will come to my bookstore signings. I worry that lots of people will come and that I will be boring and disappointing. “You do this every time,” my husband points out.
But this day also brings a certain joy. I am launching these made-up people into the world and giving them a kind of life. I am turning a private, meditative writing experience into a reading experience I hope to share. I am trying to connect my inner life and my stories to the inner lives of others. As E.M. Forster famously wrote in Howards End, “Only connect.”
It’s always nervewracking to put yourself out there. But it’s the root of joy.
If any of you have come to one of my bookstore events, you’ve probably heard the story of my wedding dress. I won’t give the whole thing right now, but the general idea is that it is a magical dress that not only conforms to the wearer-whatever her shape-but also transforms her and connects her to the women, before and after, who have worn it. Does this sound familiar at all?I wore it when I got married 14 years ago. Then my sister-in-law Kirsten wore it when she married my older brother. Then my sister-in-law Katrina wore it when she married my younger brother. Then by my life-long friend Beth wore it at her wedding. Now my youngest brother Ben is getting married and there was some suspense as to whether his fiance, Kate, would wear it. Well, guess what? She’s wearing it. (I didn’t pressure her, I swear).
Kate emailed me a couple of days ago to say that a woman (I think a co-worker) asked her what she was wearing to her wedding. Kate explained the great history of The Wedding Dress and all of its wearers. The co-worker said, “That’s just like the Traveling Pants.” And Kate explained that, in fact, I, her sister-in-law to be was not only the originator of the dress, but also wrote the Traveling Pants. According to Kate, the woman was “gobsmacked.” I love that expression, but do not feel entitled to use it in regular speech, because I am not British. Kate is British, so it sounds just right from her.
Well, I think Warner Brothers is really making a sequel to the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants movie. I think this because my phone rang from a place called Sisterhood, Inc. I was quite confused until the very nice woman on the other end told me she was calling from the production office of the new movie. “Does that mean it’s really happening?” I asked. She laughed at me. In a kind way. They start shooting in less than two weeks.
It turns out the prop guy wants to call my husband about using his paintings (or maybe his students’ paintings) for the scenes of Lena in art school. How about that? I think it shows good taste on their part. Which brings me to the spousal plug: you can see my husband’s beautiful paintings on his website Jacobcollinspaintings.com. I’m so subtle
My brother is a lawyer. (One of my brothers. I’ve got three in total.) His job is intense and he works really, really hard. He works for a firm here in NYC and his area of specialty is called Private Equity. I throw this term about with the slight fear that someone will ever ask me what it means. Recently my brother was coming up for partner in his firm, and when he made it, I congratulated him. I was excited for him not only because he’s such a dern bigshot, but because I thought it meant he would get a break. I figured he’d paid his dues and now he’d get to hang out more with his family and play hockey. (He loves hockey.)
My brother explained, though, that that’s not quite how it works. Apparently there is a oft-quoted analogy among lawyers involving pie: Becoming a partner is like winning a pie-eating contest, and the reward for it is … more pie.
This got me thinking about pie, which I love, and winning in general, which I admit I also like. I think it’s also true of my job-and probably most jobs-that the reward for success is getting to do more of what you already do. The better I do at writing the more writing I get to do. Which is a lucky thing because I love to write. (Except for the times when I hate it.) If I liked winning more than I liked writing, then the winning would be hollow indeed. As would be the writing, I suppose.
So my thought for the day is this: whatever contest we enter, we should do it not because we love winning, but because we love pie.
I should add that my brother is funny and nice and a great lawyer, so if you are ever having trouble with your, er, Private Equity, you should give him a call.
I had an insight about our dog, Finny. (His actual name is Phinneas. That sounds very fancy, doesn’t it?) Finny does not quite consider me his mother or even his owner. Though well-meaning and sweet, he doesn’t listen to a thing I say. He drags me around by his leash when we take a so-called walk. In the Finny hierarchy, my husband, Jacob, is alone at the top and the rest of us are down here duking it out. A couple of days ago, my husband came home from a trip. He reached out to hug me hello, and Finny jumped up right between us, put his paws on Jacob’s shoulders, and attempted to stick his tongue in Jacob’s mouth. Meanwhile I stumbled backward, recognizing that in my marriage, Finny is the other woman. When Jacob goes to bed first, Finny lies next to him in my spot with the covers up to his shoulders. When Jacob drives, Finny likes to sit proudly in the front passenger seat. I picture the two of them motoring off together in a convertible-Finny’s ears tied back in a flowered kerchief. Finny is attentive and loyal, desiring only the glory of Jacob’s presence. His goodbyes are sorrowful. His greetings are ecstatic. In so many ways, he is the perfect wife. It’s not that Finny doesn’t love me too. When Jacob’s not around he gives me commiserating looks, like we’re two girls left in the harem. And when it’s time for dinner and then dish-washing, Finny knows who the sucker is. For that one hour of the day he loves me first and best.
I am kind of excited because this is my first blog entry. I don’t know if anyone will actually read it, but it is fun to sit here and write it.
To begin with I am a writer. I live in New York City with my husband and my three kids and a large sweet dog named Finny, and a hamster named Moonbeam, who bites. The first book I wrote was called The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. My newest book is featured on my profile. It’s called The Last Summer (of You and Me) and it will be published on June 5. My main hobbies are running and eating, which sort of cancel each other out. I don’t have a TV and I don’t have a drivers license. That makes me kind of odd, I know. And very unsuccessful in carpools and pop culture trivia quizzes. I do have a movie projector.
I love to read. I guess that’s not shocking. The most recent book I read was called Lonesome Dove, the hugely great and famous novel by Larry McMurtry. It was amazing and I loved it. Now I go around saying “dern” a lot-as in “put your dern cereal bowl in the dern sink.” Also, I have fallen in love with Gus McCrae. I miss him when I’m not reading about him. My husband might be jealous except that Gus is fictional. It’s not the first time I’ve fallen in love with a fictional character.
In my ardor for the book, I couldn’t help renting the movie of it-or TV miniseries to be more accurate-from Netflix. This is never a good idea. You must wait for your ardor to die down before you rent the movie. And even then it’s not usually a good idea. Not because it wasn’t a fine movie. It really was. Robert Duvall is one of my favorite actors. But he is not Gus McCrae. Movies and books are completely separate experiences-each potentially enjoyable, but not to be compared. As a reader, I feel like Gus belongs to me in a way that Robert Duvall up there on the screen in my living room never will. Robert Duvall is an actual person and not subject to my beliefs or hopes as Gus is. Gus, you see, has become a collaboration of sorts between Larry McMurtry and me. (Larry McMurtry may not see it that way.)
I do believe that characters in novels belong to their writers and their readers pretty equally. I’ve learned a lot of things about the characters I write from people who read about them. Readers expand them in ways I don’t think of and take them to places I can’t go. That’s partly why it’s fun to sit down and write this dern blog with the hope that I’m connecting with a few readers. We’ve got a lot of people in common.
On a different and completely irrelevant note, I love sour gummy candy-in the shape of worms, fruits, kids, whatever. I love it.