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Contact: Emma Boyer

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Finding Home in the South, Small Town History, and Medicine in all its Forms…

Q&A WITH TIM WESTOVER

AUTHOR OF THE WINTER SISTERS

Question: What inspired you to write The Winter Sisters?

Tim Westover: The Winter Sisters is my exploration and expansion of the research I’ve done on local history. It’s an amalgamation of many weird stories, anecdotes, and ideas I found while walking up and down the streets and going through the library. Bits and pieces that I found interesting and worth remembering, and I strung them together in a novel. Waycross’s story borrows a lot from the life of Crawford Long, who was a doctor in Jefferson, GA, not too far away. By a curious chance, he started using ether, which was essentially a party drug in the 19th century, and applied it to surgery as one of the first methods of anesthesia. Medicine was “heroic” in the 19th century – people had to endure incredible pain for even simple operations. But with anesthesia, medicine could alleviate this suffering, and this opened the door for kinds of operations and cures that wouldn’t have been endurable before.

 

Q: Why did you set the story in Lawrenceville, GA?

Westover: I wound up living in Lawrenceville by accident, but it’s a cute little town. I’ve always been interested in local history, and the more I read, the more weird stories I learned. There’s really an Honest Alley, where patent medicine sellers used to sell their cures. A building that’s now a restaurant used to be a saloon, and one Mrs. Maltbie wrecked it up with her cane after the saloon sold her son one too many drinks. I took these real-life places and events and put them into the story. For themes of this novel, I couldn’t have asked for a better name for the Winter sisters’ home than “Hope Hollow,” and I didn’t have to make that up. Hope Hollow was a town that faded away, and now it’s just some street names a few blocks from my house.

 

Q: The novel deals a lot with the tension between folk and modern medicine. Where do you come down on the issue?  

Westover: I’m a firm believer in the scientific method. I believe we are closer now to answers about medicine, the world, and life than ever before. But we can’t think now that we have all the answers, or that there’s nothing we can learn from the old ways, whether it’s herbs or tradition, any more than Waycross could think that his generation of learning had all the answers. Look at the leaflet that comes with your prescriptions, and you’re likely to see “the mechanism by which this medicine works is not fully understood.” We have to keep our humility, and we have to keep looking. I think that’s the best kind of science – to never think you have all the answers, but to keep looking for the next question.

 

Q: What do you hope people will take away from the novel?

Westover: I hope that people will think about the nature of belief. How important it is to be open to other beliefs, combining beliefs to make them the greater of the sum of their parts, and how powerful it can be. Also, I hope that people will stop and think about the history that’s around them every day. There is a tremendous amount of history in any small town or little suburb—weird stories and folktales and legends hiding under streets that people speed past every day without thinking twice.

 

Q: You’re doing something special with the proceeds from The Winter Sisters, correct?

 Westover: All author proceeds from the sale of this novel are being donated to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta – Child Life department. This is a 100% donor-funded department dedicated to taking care of children’s emotional well-being while they and their siblings are spending long hours at the hospital. I’ve been working with the volunteers there to upgrade their video game systems, buy new games, and make sure they have new controllers.

 

About the Author:

Tim Westover is an adopted Southerner, arriving in suburban Atlanta via Rhode Island, England, and Russia. He’s perfected a family recipe for biscuits after dozens of failed attempts, learned to play the clawhammer banjo, and traveled all over the South looking for new stories. The Winter Sisters is his second weird Southern novel.

 

You can find Tim at timwestover.com, on Facebook @timwestoverauthor, Twitter @timwestover, Instagram @timwestover, and Goodreads @Tim_Westover.

The Winter Sisters is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Indiebound.

REVIEW COPIES OF The Winter Sisters AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST