‘The Bird Sisters’
Wednesday, June 1st
One More Page Books Reading and Signing at 7:00pm
An interview with the Author:
Rosita: It is a pleasure to meet you Rebecca and thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me. Tell me and my readers a little about yourself?
Rebecca: My name is Rebecca Rasmussen. I live in St. Louis, Missouri with my husband and daughter, where I teach writing and literature at Fontbonne University. In addition to writing, I’m reading some wonderful nonfiction books these days (My Life in France by Julia Child is my favorite of the bunch!) Writing The Bird Sisters, I completed during my tenure in the MFA Program at the University of Massachusetts. The Bird Sisters is my first novel.
Rosita: Did you always want to be a writer growing up?
Rebecca: Absolutely not. For the longest time, I wanted to be a lawyer (the good kind, who helps people!). In eighth grade, we studied the constitution in my social studies class and I got to role-play the part of a Supreme Court justice, which I also thought would be a pretty wonderful vocation. I was not a particularly bookish child, so it’s fairly amazing that I love to read and write as much as I do now. I’m even surprised sometimes! I only began to write in college and mostly because my mother loved to write and I loved her so much—I guess I figured if she loved it, I would too. It turns out that was very true.
Rosita: Where did the inspiration come for writing The Bird Sisters?
Rebecca: The story of the Bird Sisters belongs to my grandmother Kathryn. Until I was twenty-one, I knew very little about her even though I’d spent a lot of time with her (I even lived with her at one point). I knew her father was an extremely talented golfer and her mother was the most beautiful woman in the world, and that my grandmother thought I looked like her. I knew my grandmother fell asleep midway through television shows—that she was getting old. It wasn’t until after she was diagnosed with breast cancer, went through the treatments, and went into remission that I got to know her better.
She and my mother moved to Colorado, where I was living at the time, waiting out those last precious months before I went to graduate school. My mother worked a lot. My grandmother and I didn’t. Every morning, we’d go to breakfast together, and it was over our first cups of mountain coffee together that questions started popping into my mind and answers started flowing from her lips. She told me the story of her parents, their heartbreaks and their joys, as if I were a friend instead of her granddaughter. And then she showed me a picture of them at a county fair when they were very young. My great-grandfather and great-grandmother were standing under a cardboard moon, looking at each other with a kind of uncontained love that was rare for photographs of that time. I kept measuring their expressions against the story my grandmother had told me. I kept wondering: where did that love go?
A few months later, I went off to graduate school. A month after that, my grandmother fell down in a parking lot and discovered, after many tests, that she had a brain tumor. After she passed away, my mother sent me her journals, which we never even knew she’d kept. Once I found my way out of missing her terribly and into wanting to honor her, the first draft of The Bird Sisters took me about eight months to write. But, oh, the revisions that followed! The heartbreaks. The joys.
Rosita: What an honor indeed for Kathryn! Thank you for sharing her touching story and your memories. Was it important for you to have the novel set in Wisconsin?
Rebecca: I am deeply attached to Spring Green, Wisconsin, which is where my father has lived since I was a girl. My brother and I would go back and forth between his house and my mother’s, which was located in a small suburb of Chicago. For us, Wisconsin was magical. There we were able to swim in the river, cover ourselves in mud, and tromp through the woods. There we played with barn cats and snakes, lightning bugs and katydids. I’ve always preferred rural landscapes to urban ones. Wild over tame. It’s like the old bumper stickers from the 80s used to say: “Escape to Wisconsin.”
Rosita: Wisconsin sounds like a beautiful state! You grew up with your brother but is there a sister in your novel that you or your brother relate to most–Milly or Twiss?
Rebecca: Often people tell me Milly and Twiss are polar opposites when they are young. Milly and Twiss definitely accept their differences more as they grow older. Whether or not they always understand those differences, I’m not certain. My older brother and I are a lot like them. My brother is a great adventurer like Twiss, and I am more cautious like Milly. As we’ve grown older, we’ve grown a bit more moderate. He can sit still for a whole hour now, for example, and I don’t jump on his back when I sense danger nearby.
Rosita: Do you have a favorite quote, sentence or line from The Bird Sisters?
Rebecca: Yes, “Bone china is like your heart – if it breaks it can’t be fixed.”
Rosita: A touching quote, I love it! What advice can you give to future or aspiring first-time writers?
Rebecca: Have faith in yourself and your work. If you don’t have it, no one else will. Also, be kind to yourself. When you face rejection, treat yourself to something small that you love. Send yourself flowers or chocolates. Pick yourself up. Keep writing!
Thank you Rebecca for this delightful interview. I appreciate the sharing of your endearing experience with your of your own family, your upcoming novel and your creative sisters Milly and Twiss.
Purchase your copy of the Bird Sisters: