Several WU’ers encouraged me to put up an interview today to help spread the word about The Moon Sisters, and while I recognized the value in doing that I also felt the idea lacked…spark. And then I thought, hmm, I wonder if my real sisters might be willing to step up today to talk about this book we know so well.
Let me introduce you to them. Aimee and Heather are my sisters. They won’t refer to me here as Therese; they’ll call me Teri (and you can, too!). Our childhood was made up of many normal childhood things–ice cream trucks going through the neighborhood, bicycle rides, dogs and cats (and guinea pigs and hamsters), favorite meals, arguments, ice down the back, water balloons to the face, and a lot of love. Our lives tipped upside-down, though, when our father died at the age of fifty-six. I’ve written a lot about that lately, and about my sisters, all with their gracious permission. This isn’t easy stuff to talk about, but over the years it’s become easier for all three of us. We’ve healed, each in our own ways. Death of a parent plays a significant role in The Moon Sisters; it forms the basis for a story about recovery of hope after grief, long histories and secrets, dark woods and train hoppers, synesthesia and ghost lights. And, of course, the complex blood bond that is sisterhood.
I hope you enjoy getting to know my family a little bit. And I hope you’ll stop by my personal website today, for a fun contest (and a fun video put together with the help of former WU’er Yuvi Zalkow) involving the taste of hope.
Q: What would you like people to know about The Moon Sisters?
Aimee: The Moon Sisters is a novel about despair, family bonds, coming of age, and most of all, it’s a story about desperate and heartfelt hope. It evokes laughter and tears, recognition and enlightenment, and it is a story that will stay in the mind long after the last page has been turned. Although it is listed under the genre of “women’s fiction,” it is a story that can speak to anyone: male, female, young, old, and everyone in between. Because really…who doesn’t need a little bit of hope?
Q: Do you see yourself in the story at all?
Heather: Initially, my first response was no. But in a separate conversation with Teri regarding our father’s passing and talking about how I coped with it, she said, “Doesn’t that sound like anyone from the book?” And I stammered and stuttered and said, “Well, I suppose I sound a little like Jazz!” I felt that what I needed to do for my family was to shut down and step up; that was my choice. You can say I gave Atlas a run for his money.
Aimee: I personally felt a very strong connection with Olivia. We share similar whimsical natures, vagabonding and a love of adventure, a touch of unrestrained energy, and a hope–often masked as confidence–that everything is going to be all right. However, I can easily relate to Jazz’s anger and her midnight black outlook on life. I was once there. That is one of the wonderful things about The Moon Sisters. Thanks to Teri’s crafting, the colorful and very real characters are easy to bond with, in part because they are experiencing life in a way that all readers can somehow transpose onto their own personal life stories.
Q: Does any part of the book–aside from the loss of a parent–ring true in terms of your family dynamics, or seem like a slice of your family’s history?
Heather: There’s a part in the book that describes being lost in the woods. When I read it for the first time, I started to laugh, because it reminded me of stories that I had been told about Teri and myself getting lost in the woods. After I read that part, I talked to Teri on the phone and said, “You used that story from when we were kids.” Teri didn’t remember then, but she and I went for a walk in the woods and we got lost while camping, when I was very young.
Therese Teri butts in for a second: I have the worst memory! This instance came back to me, though. I remember walking until we found a road, then stopping and asking for help. It’s funny how that happens as you’re writing–how you pull from a place deep inside your memory and you may not even realize it on a conscious level.
Heather: You pull from what you know. Your family history, your life experiences, and your emotions. Experiences of feeling lost or grief and fear… That’s all stuff that people can connect with and empathize with, and that’s important when you’re writing a book. No one wants to read a book about things that make no sense to them.
Q: Do sisters really behave the way Jazz and Olivia behave?
Aimee: Sometimes!! Sisters can throw punches with the best of them, in part because we’re (in most families) also such great friends. The friendship is a deep soulful bond but when there is dissonance in such a relationship, it tends to ring loudly.
Heather: No, we’re so much worse! (Laughing)
Q: What’s your favorite part of the book and why?
Heather: I don’t have a favorite part, per se; it’s more about how Teri wrote the book. I liked that she went back and forth between the two characters’ points of views, because it really gives you a sense of who these characters are, where they’re coming from and how they’re feeling. It also provides you with “there’s two sides to every story,” because you’re able to see, “Well, in Jazz’s mind that happened that way, but in Olivia’s mind it was this way.” That stuff happens.
Aimee: Personally I love, love, love the scene where Olivia is solo on the train, and at the end of the chapter she takes off her sneakers and wiggles her toes, feeling free. That feeling is something I relate to and cherish more than just about anything!
Q: What’s something you want people to know about this book that they might not learn in any other interview, ever?
Aimee: People often read books, muse over them for a time, and put them on a shelf to later be re-read or passed on to a friend. However I think very little thought goes into acknowledging what it takes an author to create their own personal masterpiece. This book was a work of art from the beginning–it had many reincarnations, edits, and changes in characters and story lines as most books do. But most importantly, we should spend a moment to acknowledge the heart and soul and time that Teri and every author pours into their work! It is a vast amount of energy which should be appreciated!
Heather: I read three versions of the story, and I know why Teri wanted to call it The Book That Almost Killed Me!
And because that was so fun, a few bonus questions for other family members:
Q: Did the world of The Moon Sisters filter into your family at all?
Sean, husband and helpmate to Therese: The characters of The Moon Sisters became a lot like extended family members. We would talk about them around the dinner table – about things they did, their quirks and problems – in the same way we would talk about our family and friends. Teri would say things like, “Guess what Jazz said today?” and we would say things like, “Do you think she’s envious of Olivia?” At some point, this became normal in the Walsh household. The characters wandered off the page and stepped into our family’s universe. I suppose it speaks to the strength of the characters that, despite being fictional, we probably know them more deeply than many of the ‘real’ people in our lives.
Q: What have you done to earn that dedication, kiddo?
Riley, daughter extraordinaire: I feel as though my job throughout this entire process has been to listen and offer the best and most honest feedback that I could. I think it was very useful for my mom to talk things out as she wrote. It helped her organize her thoughts and ideas, and then streamline them coherently. When she was stuck, talking about the issues at hand helped to untangle them. Verbalizing the problems seemed to make them more tangible in a way, and then it was a matter of unraveling them one by one, and brainstorming the best ways to overcome them. We could bounce ideas off of each other, and work to find the best way to proceed. Overall, however, my main job was to listen, because although she didn’t think so, she knew what she was doing.
Q: And you, boy child, did you play a role in this crazy book thing? Explain yourself.
Liam, wonder boy: First of all, I believe that a child is defined as a young human being below the age of puberty. I am sixteen years old, mom.
Therese Teri butts in for a second: That should be a capital “M,” Bud, but okay, point taken. Let’s try that again.
Q: And you, post-pubescent young man of the Walsh household, did you play a role in this crazy book thing? Explain yourself.
Liam, wonder young man: Yes! I was definitely along for the ride as the novel was being created, although I became more active in its final stages. In the past few months, I’ve produced advertisements and other miscellaneous designs for the novel. One of these can be found here at Writer Unboxed (left sidebar), and some can be found in other locations. Working on the designs was a great learning experience for me, and offered a lot of good work. I’m truly lucky for having such an opportunity at home.
Truth: Five years ago, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to do this story justice. I hope that I did; I believe that The Moon Sisters is the best and truest thing I’ve ever written. I definitely did not do it alone. My heartfelt thanks to anyone who helped me along or sent an encouraging word my way; it made a difference.
Wishing all of you good fortune, meaningful pushes and encouragement, and the drive to persevere.