Fresh Ink is a monthly series of interviews with debut novelists that focuses on the journey to publication. Rebecca Rasmussen, author of The Bird Sisters, is celebrating the release of her paperback today (the hardcover launched in April). It’s the beautiful story of two elderly sisters who live together and spend their days nursing injured birds back to health, and the summer from their youth that bound them together when their hopes for the future were changed forever. The Bird Sisters was selected as a Target Emerging Author’s Pick and the Ladies’ Home Journal Book Club Pick for November/December.
I’m really excited to have Rebecca here as the first Fresh Ink interview to be featured after the original launch, so I’m interested to get her insights on what happens during this time. Thanks so much to Rebecca for being here!
Launching a book is an extremely emotional experience, and for authors I think it’s made more so by the fact that it is your project and in the end you have very little control over it. Unless you are personally wealthy, you can’t create an advertising budget if your publishers don’t create one for you. You can’t sit in on the pitch meetings and try to convince everyone at Random House that yours is a book worth spending time and money on. You can’t do so many things you want to do.
Most authors I talk to are in some way disappointed by their launches—the world didn’t shift, maybe at all, the day their books came out. I knew all of this beforehand, and of course I couldn’t help but hope my experience would be different. It was and it wasn’t. The best part of my launch was that I met so many lovely people who really moved the earth for my book. These people included bloggers, other writers, reviewers, radio personalities, editors, etc. I owe them everything because eventually, if you are in any way normal, you strain your voice talking about your book and you need someone to take over for you. I was simply amazed by my generous friends. What a joy to meet so many of them when I drove all around the country on my crazy, three-generations-of-Rasmussens-book-tour (Wow! That’s another story altogether!).
In the months after your launch, what are some of the ways you kept momentum and the excitement going for your book?
I put a lot of miles on the car! All in all, I think I visited (and read at) over twenty bookstores!
I read in an article that some of the initial feedback you got for The Bird Sisters was that it was “quiet.” So my question is really two questions:
How did you interpret this, and what does “quiet” mean to you when describing a book?
To be honest, I knew those editors were the wrong readers for my book, and I knew I wasn’t going to change my book into something it wasn’t meant to be for the sake of someone else. I was happy to work on the book to make the writing stronger, the scenes tighter, etc., but I wasn’t about to turn a funeral scene into a parade if you know what I mean…
How did you work with this feedback ?
Luckily, my editor didn’t try to make the book a loud one. She tried to make it better, which I know she did. My editor is no longer with Crown, and I miss her and her brilliant editing every day.
With The Bird Sisters coming out in paperback, did you have to approach promoting this any differently than your initial launch? In what ways?
I’m happy to say that for the paperback launch, my publisher is the one doing most of the work for me. This time around, Crown/Broadway is putting a lot into the book, which basically means I am feeling relieved and somewhat like a normal person again, tweeting here and there, blogging here and there. That’s one of the risks of having to market yourself almost exclusively; you can easily lose sight of what’s important. Now I have time to teach and grade papers, to play with my daughter and make supper, to have a conversation with my husband, etc. It’s a big blessing. I’m very grateful.
What are you working on next? What is the most important thing you learned from writing The Bird Sisters that you think will help you with future writing?
I am actually working on my third novel. I wrote my second when I was waiting for The Bird Sisters to come out – from the day I signed my contract to the hardcover publication about 18 months passed, so I had plenty of time to work on a new project. My novel is about an old country doctor whose life gets turned upside down when a woman accuses him of malpractice in Oneida, Wisconsin.
About The Bird Sisters:
When a bird flies into a window in Spring Green, Wisconsin, sisters Milly and Twiss get a visit. Twiss listens to the birds’ heartbeats, assessing what she can fix and what she can’t, while Milly listens to the heartaches of the people who’ve brought them. The two sisters have spent their lives nursing people and birds back to health.
But back in the summer of 1947, they knew nothing about trying to mend what had been accidentally broken. Milly was known as a great beauty with emerald eyes and Twiss was a brazen wild child who never wore a dress or did what she was told. That was the summer their golf pro father got into an accident that cost him both his swing and his charm, and their mother, the daughter of a wealthy jeweler, finally admitted their hardscrabble lives wouldn’t change. It was the summer their priest, Father Rice, announced that God didn’t exist and ran off to Mexico, and a boy named Asa finally caught Milly’s eye. And, most unforgettably, it was the summer their cousin Bett came down from a town called Deadwater and changed the course of their lives forever.
Thanks, Rebecca, and congratulations on a great launch year!