Q&A with The Bird Sisters Author Rebecca Rasmussen
The Cast of Characters
RH: You create a rich cast of characters who populate the town of Spring Green and Milly and Twiss's lives. Are there any that are particularly close to your heart?
RR: One of my favorite characters in the book is Rollie, the groundskeeper of the Spring Green golf course. He and his wife are the kind of people Milly and Twiss deserve as parents. They're wonderful and generous and stable, and yet they can't save the girls. They can only put salves on their wounds. Mrs. Bettle -- otherwise known as The Beetle in the novel -- also has my heart because she is so fussy and troublesome and she has such a funny yet heartbreaking relationship with her parrot, Henry. I absolutely adored writing about the peripheral characters in the novel. It may be strange to say, but I miss them terribly sometimes. My fictional townspeople. My friends. Even the crazy old Beetle.
RH: Cousin Bett and her hometown of Deadwater, Minnesota, prove both terrifying and alluring to Milly and Twiss. Bett is such a compelling character because she projects such confidence, yet has deep-rooted insecurities. How did you approach writing her character?
RR: I can't help but love Bett because of where she comes from: an extremely wild (and fictional) place in northern Minnesota where birds come back to life and rivers are full of dead fish. Bett is physically unlovely in the novel. She's poor. And yet her survival instinct is so very strong I have to admire it. She was one of my favorite characters to write because she kept telling me to be more imaginative, to break through walls instead of always trying to use a door.
RH: Who is the perfect reader for this book?
RR: If you have a sister, this is a book for you. Or a family. Or a cousin. Or a long-lost love. Or an adventurous spirit. Or a heart of gold. It's a book for you if you love rivers and hills and fields in bloom. If you love small towns and county fairs and windowsill birdsong. I wrote The Bird Sisters to honor my grandmother Kathryn and her sister, Virginia, but I like to think this is a book that honors the memories and complicated histories of all families.