Article published on February 14, 2012.
Hermann Kermit Warm is going to die. Across 1000 miles of Oregon desert his assassins, the notorious Eli and Charlies Sisters, ride – fighting, shooting, and drinking their way to Sacramento. But their prey isn’t an easy mark, the road is long and bloody, and somewhere along the path Eli begins to question what he does for a living – and whom he does it for. The Sisters Brothers pays homage to the classic Western, transforming it into an unforgettable ribald tour de force. Filled with a remarkable cast of losers, cheaters, and ne’er-do-wells from all stripes of life-and told by a complex and compelling narrator, it is a violent, lustful odyssey through the underworld of the 1850s frontier that beautifully captures the humor, melancholy, and grit of the Old West and two brothers bound by blood, violence, and love.
Generally speaking, it’s a small idea. Big ideas have a tendency to collapse into themselves. Modesty goes the distance, in my experience.
A question from Samantha on channel4.com/tvbookclub: Where and how do you engage in the writing of your work?
I write from a home office. The ‘how’ part is less straightforward. It’s a bit like hunting or fishing: A lot of waiting around and shivering, followed by senseless carnage. Then the depression sets in, and it’s time for a bath.
A question from Jo Baines on the TV Book Club Facebook Group: Do you feel it’s inevitable that an author’s life experiences will influence their writing or is it possible to write a book that is pure imagination and creative process?
For me there’s usually a connection between my experiences and the work, but it doesn’t have to be overt. There’s as much or more of me in The Sisters Brothers, which takes place in 1851, as there is in Ablutions, which was inspired by real life.
A question from Ali on channel4.com/tvbookclub: My GCSE English teacher told me (a few years ago now), that when authors write a book they know exactly what the plot is, and wouldn’t start without knowing what the end will be. I’ve always found this difficult to believe; is it true!?
It’s not true. The not knowing is a big part of the draw, for me.
How old were you when you had your first book published, and what were you doing before you were a writer?
I was thirty or thirty-one. Before that I was working construction. Before that I washed dishes in a bar. Before that, an odd-jobber. For a long time, unemployment was a point of pride for me.
A question from the TV Book Club Facebook Group: In a crowded market many authors don’t get published; what’s the secret of your success?
The formula for success: 10% hard work, 30% natural ability, and 60% good luck. If you’re particularly lucky, you can skip the first two.
What’s the most outlandish idea you’ve ever had for a storyline, and has it made it into one of your books?
I want to answer this question but the idea is so disgusting that my internal editor won’t allow me to share it. Needless to say: it did not make it into a book, no.
And another question from the TV Book Club Facebook Group: What do you think of e-readers and would you ever consider providing additional content for readers who use them (e.g. pictures, video clips, web links)?
My personal preference is to read book-books, but I have no preference in terms of how my work is read. I’m all for additional content, so long as I don’t have to burn calories creating it.
‘Pigeon English’ Reading Group Guide
Watch the trailer, and read an extract from The Snow Child, by Eowyn Ivey
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