I remember seeing The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants for the first time and knowing that I wanted to read the books. Why? Because the writer had written a world that I could relate to. A world that I understood. It had been awhile since I had found an author that I felt spoke to be the way that Ann Brashares did.
Maybe that’s why I got overly excited when I received an email asking if I wanted to ask her some questions about her new book. Did I? Ummm, did humans need to breathe? It was not even a questions.
What novel would we be talking about? The Whole Thing Together.
Summer for Sasha and Ray means the sprawling old house on Long Island. Since they were children, they’ve shared almost everything—reading the same books, running down the same sandy footpaths to the beach, eating peaches from the same market, laughing around the same sun-soaked dining table. Even sleeping in the same bed, on the very same worn cotton sheets. But they’ve never met.
Sasha’s dad was once married to Ray’s mom, and together they had three daughters: Emma, the perfectionist; Mattie, the beauty; and Quinn, the favorite. But the marriage crumbled and the bitterness lingered. Now there are two new families—and neither one will give up the beach house that holds the memories, happy and sad, of summers past.
Sure I wanted to ask her questions about The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, that was until I read her new book. She’s still got it guys. What I like to call a complicated love letter to memories and family, The Whole Thing Together is amazing. It will move you, just like a book should. It’s beautiful. Best of all, it was written by Ann Brashares.
Writing a new series has to be somewhat scary? What would you say the hardest part of writing a new series is?
Creating a new world is a challenge. You have to start small and concrete, but with the faith you can grow it into something big enough to contain multitudes and worthy of the effort. That faith is the hardest and maybe the most important part.
What inspired The Whole Thing Together?
I wanted to write a story about a family–a divided family forced to share. And then somehow it also turned into a love story.
You write such complicated characters, but all with redeeming qualities. Do you map out your characters in an outline or do they just come to life as you write?
I don’t really map them out ahead of time. I can’t describe them before I know them and I don’t know them until I’ve written them for awhile–until I’ve spent some time trying to see and feel the world through their eyes. I start by putting them into scenes. I see how they interact with other characters, how they think and respond.
The family dynamic in the book is very complicated. What is it about this family, that even amongst the chaos, people will fall in love with?
It is a complicated and flawed group of people, especially the parents, but at least they are trying. I think it’s the trying that makes them deserving of empathy if not love.
The book feels like a complicated love letter to family and memories. Was that the intention?
I like that description. On some semi-conscious level it probably is. It’s not an autobiographical novel, but the old family divisions and yearnings I feel on a personal level.
What do you hope that people take away from The Whole Thing Together?
As always with my books, I mostly want people to enjoy them. Beyond that I’m happy when readers feel in some way stretched or invigorated by something I’ve written. I’ve taken so much joy from reading in my life. I would love to return even a tiny part of that.