INTERVIEW WITH RANDALL VAN NOSTRAND
Rappahannock Review Fiction Editors: “One Daughter Weeping” as an image comes together and resonates at the end of the story. How did you arrive at the idea for the final scene and when did you know it would become the title?
Randall Van Nostrand: The final scene grew out of the argument in the kitchen. What I was going for was that moment when people step outside themselves to embrace a larger concern. A little like what’s happening in so many areas with the pandemic- people putting individual wants aside for the greater good. Even though the sisters drive each other crazy, they’re facing the same grief and loss. I didn’t have a title for the story until I wrote the line, one daughter weeping, and realized that captured what I was trying to say.
RR: We love the distinct characterization of each of the sisters. How did you decide to tell the story from the point of view of the middle sister
RVN: Everyone I know who is a middle sibling feels at least a tiny bit overlooked. I liked that Marianne as the middle sister didn’t have the family authority of the eldest or the ‘specialness’ of being the youngest. I liked that she- the unobtrusive one in the middle – is the person who steps up and is there for all of them.
RR: You take a close look at grief and how it can stress the connections between family members. What was your process in writing about and through grief so closely in this story?
RVN: I sat vigil for my mother’s passing and was present when my father died. Everyone handles grief differently. I think confronting big grief is the emotional equivalent of trying not to drown. People use whatever they have to survive. In my story, Beth tries to take control, Isabelle wants attention, Marianne goes quiet. When writing, I try to feel the character in my body and let her tell me what happens. It doesn’t get the story across the finish line, but it helps with getting it on to the page.
RR: Throughout the story Marianne uses tea to ground herself through the emotional distress. Do you yourself have any coping methods like this for extreme emotions?
RVN: In times of emotional distress I put pen to paper and don’t stop writing until I feel better. For me, the act of writing can be highly therapeutic.
RR: A favorite book can be a huge comfort. Do you have any go-to favorite books in times of crisis?
RVN: No, but I do have a favorite practice. I go to a bookstore, roam the aisles, and see what catches my eye. I always find something that helps.
Randall Van Nostrand’s work in Issue 7.2: