Friday, August 26, 2022

Q&A with Eleanor Brown


Photo by Joe Henson, NYC



Eleanor Brown is the author of the new novel Any Other Family. Her other books include the novel The Weird Sisters, and her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including The Washington Post and The Guardian. She lives in Colorado.


Q: In Any Other Family's Author's Note, you write that your own experiences as an adoptive parent factored into the creation of the novel. Can you say more about that?


A: When I tell people my family’s adoption story and about our relationship with my son’s birth family – we have an open adoption and are close with both his birth parents and their extended families – I get so many questions. People’s ideas about and understanding of adoption are really entrenched in stories that aren’t necessarily true any more (and some that never were!).


And then of course I have my own questions – lots of them! Like any parent, I’m figuring things out as I go, and adoption adds another layer of complexity.


So I took all my questions and all the questions I get asked most frequently when I tell people about our family, and I handed them to these characters and said, “You figure it out, because I sure as heck can’t!”


Q: How did you create your characters Tabitha, Elizabeth, and Ginger?


A: One of my goals with this book was to get as many views and experiences around adoption and parenthood in as I possible could, so I wanted three really different women to set as the core of the family.


People always ask which one is me, and they’re all a little bit of me! My conflicting desire to be at the heart of everything and to maintain some distance, my sudden, inexplicable fury at my wonderful, wonderful husband when we became parents, my desire to make individual charcuterie boards for every child at my son’s birthday party – those are all bits of me that I gave to each of these women.


Q: The Shelf Awareness review of the book says, “Thoughtful, compelling and ultimately hopeful, Any Other Family asks hard and necessary questions about adoption, privilege and what truly makes a family.” What do you think of that description?


A: Haha. I never read reviews so this is funny to see! The “thoughtful and compelling” part is a nice compliment, and I’d agree with the rest. I do like a hopeful ending, and I set out to write a book that grappled with exactly those questions, so it looks like I did OK!


Q: The novel includes a series of (fictional) letters from prospective adoptive parents. Why did you incorporate those into the story?


A: Again, I wanted lots of perspectives on adoption, so this was a great way to get them in there.


But also one of the things I really want readers to grapple with is the intentionality of adoption. If you’re pregnant and you tell people, they say, “Congratulations!” and “When are you due?”


They don’t say, “What makes you think you’d be a good parent?” “Why do you want kids?” “Can I see your last three tax statements and all your bank records to determine if you’re financially stable enough to raise a child?” “Would you please tell me, in detail, what your sex life with your partner is like?”


But that all happens when you want to adopt. And I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but it is something most folks don’t consider. So what I wanted to do was put readers in a situation where they have to look at these hopeful adoptive parents and feel what it’s like to have to make these decisions, to decide a family’s fate.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m on hiatus! I’ve got drafts of two different projects in the freezer (not literally, although that’s not a bad idea!) and I’m letting them cool off until I’m ready to decide which one to take to the prom.


Q: Anything else we should know?

A: If you talk to me, feel free to ask me about adoption! I do get a lot of questions that Miss Manners might call rude, but I just use that as an opportunity to educate. Adoption can be a lovely way to build or expand your family, and I want people to understand all the beautiful and difficult things about it.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Eleanor Brown.

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