WeekEND Reading: Beloved author of THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS Ann Brashares talks about blended families, houses in the Hamptons, how writers shouldn’t worry about genre, and so much more in her newest novel, THE WHOLE THING TOGETHER. Oh, and lobster salad.

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By Leslie Lindsay

The #1 NYT Bestselling Author Ann Brashares releases new fiction THE WHOLE THING TOGETHER this month (On sale April 25, 2017 Delacorte/RandomHouse)  with a whopping 100,000 copies for the first printing.

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Beloved author of the bestselling THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS series is back with an unforgettable story about fractured families, first love, and loss in her latest novel THE WHOLE THING TOGETHER. You’ll feel the sand between your toes and taste the salty sea air of Brashares’ Long Island beach town setting, the backdrop for Sasha and Ray’s unusual budding relationship.

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; the marriage crumbled, 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.

This summer, the lives of Sasha, Ray, and their siblings intersect in ways no one dreamed. It’s about families, keeping secrets, and most of all, love.

Knock off the sand from your feet, grab a lemonade and join me in chatting with Ms. Brashares about her new look at unconventional families. She also brought along a bit of that lobster salad from the story. 

Leslie Lindsay: Ann, it’s a pleasure to welcome you to the blog couch. Like many, I read (and watched the movie, SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS). I was also captivated by MY NAME IS MEMORY. It seems secrets, shared pasts, and love are a bit of a theme for you. Can you talk about that please?

Ann Brashares: Thank you. Very comfortable blog couch you have here.

Yes, those are big themes for me. Love and secrets are staples of fiction and you’re right that I do seem to go in for characters who share their pasts in unexpected ways. In the case of Sasha and Ray they have a huge amount of overlap and intimacy for two people who’ve never met. I hope it adds depth and tension and a high level of expectation when they finally do meet.

L.L.:  Before we delve into the heart of THE WHOLE THING TOGETHER, I’m curious what was haunting you with this one? Why this story now?

Ann Brashares: I wanted to write a story about a family from multiple points of view. I wanted to write about a divorce from inside out and outside in. I come from an unconventional and “broken” family so I guess I am always drawn back to that subject.

“A gorgeously written novel on love, loss and family.”

—Nicola Yoon, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Everything, Everything

L.L.: Things are pretty unconventional in THE WHOLE THING TOGETHER. There’s a fractured family, one beach house, lots of secrets. But, that’s life. We often hope the fictional world will bring us some semblance of ‘typical.’ Can you talk a bit about the truth in fiction?

Ann Brashares: A lot of it happens on a semi-conscious level, but I guess I want to attach to my reader by making a fictional world that’s accessible and perhaps in some way universal—populated by characters who feel like real people. I start with what we know as familiar or ‘typical’ and then we, the reader and I, move together into psychologically or emotionally unfamiliar territory.  

L.L.: The setting is best. It’s Long Island. It’s summer. I can taste the juicy peaches, feel my shoulders blistering in the sun, and smell that salty sea air lapping at the shore. Plus, houses! What type of research or ‘pre-writing’ do you do when it comes to setting?

Ann Brashares: For this book I called upon a place I used to know. But the reality of it was buffered by many years of absence. Years ago we used to rent this house in the Hamptons much like the one I describe in the book.  So a lot of the pre-writing was remembering—laying out the place, feeling the landscape, the farmstand we used to go to, the old donut-frying contraption at the market in town. I often use memory to distort and enrich real places I’ve known. Somethings-Gotta-Give-Hamptons-house-lg

L.L.: I’m also curious about genre. THE WHOLE THING TOGETHER is considered YA; however there are some very adult themes under the surface. Even within YA, there are subgenres. Do you write for a specific genre, or do you just tell your story? Should writers worry about this?

Ann Brashares: I wasn’t at all sure this book would be YA. It’s really a family story with adult themes and major adult characters. But I figured I’d write it the way I wanted to write it and figure the rest out after. I don’t think it makes sense to shoehorn your writing to follow a specific genre. You should write what you want. Ideally genres should follow content, not the other way around.

L.L.: This story reminds me a bit of MAMA MIA meets MODERN FAMILY. What do you hope others glean?

Ann Brashares: I hope they enjoy it, mainly. It’s hard to be objective about your own writing, to imagine what it might mean to others, so I just hope readers will get some fraction of the pleasure and companionship out of it that I get from books I like.

L.L.: What’s currently obsessing you? What keeps you up at night? It doesn’t have to be literary.

Ann Brashares: I am reading a lot of historical fiction right now. I adore Hilary hilary-mantelMantel’s work—at the moment her book set during the French Revolution. I’m loving historical drama on TV too. I just finished watching Poldark, which was super fun and entertaining.

L.L.: Ann, it was a pleasure! Thank you so very much for popping over. And bringing that lobster salad.

Ann Brashares:  Thank you! And don’t forget to try the bean salad as well.

For more information, to connect with Ann Brashares via social media, or to purchase THE WHOLE THING TOGETHER, please visit these links: 

3116ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Ann Brashares is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, The Here and Now, 3 Willows, The Last Summer (of You & Me), and My Name Is Memory. She lives in New York City with her family. Visit Ann’s website at AnnBrashares.com.

You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, around these parts of the Internet:

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[Cover and author image courtesy of Dutton/Random House and used with permission. Image of Hilary Mantel retrieved from her webpage. Image of house on Hamptons–in fact the house from movie, ‘Something’s Gotta Give’ –retrieved from http://www.hookedonhouses, all on 4.12.17] 

About leslie1218

Author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA (Woodbine House, 2012) frantically working on a novel that should be ready for submission this fall. Mom of two spritely redheads & one chubby basset hound whose stories & images appear in my writing from time-to-time.

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