Interview: Author ‘Robin Oliveira’ Talks Her New Book Winter Sisters

Robin Oliveira grew up just outside Albany, New York in the town of Loudonville. She holds a B.A. in Russian, and studied at the Pushkin Language Institute in Moscow, Russia. She worked for many years as a Registered Nurse, specializing in Critical Care and Bone Marrow Transplant. In 2006 she received an M.F.A. in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives outside of Seattle, Washington, with her husband, Andrew Oliveira. In her forties, Oliveira began taking writing classes at the local community college, then at the University of Washington Extension, and finally entered the MFA in Writing program at Vermont College of Fine Arts (then Vermont College.) In between she wrote many failed short stories and one completed but unpublished novel. It wasn’t until 2007, when she was awarded the James Jones First Novel Fellowship for her debut novel-in-progress, then entitled The Last Beautiful Day, that she began to reap rewards from her years of hard work. My Name is Mary Sutter was published by Viking in 2010. It hit the New York Times and ABA bestseller lists, received the 2011 Michael Shaara Prize for Excellence in Civil War Fiction and the 2010 American Historical Fiction Honorable Mention from the Langum Charitable Trust, was chosen as an all-city read for Schenectady, N.Y., Kirkland, Washington, and Roswell, Georgia, and as an all state read for Iowa. It became an Indie Next pick, a Good Housekeeping top 10 “Good Read,” and was featured in “O” The Oprah Magazine. It was translated into several languages.

Published in February 2014, Oliveira’s second book, I Always Loved You, examines the lives of the Impressionist artists in late nineteenth century Paris, particularly Edgar Degas and Mary Cassatt. The novel is the result of meticulous research. Among other highlights, Oliveira was granted access to the basement of the Musée d’Orsay in Paris to view rarely seen artifacts from Edgar Degas’s studio. Her third novel, Winter Sisters, is forthcoming from Viking on February 27th. Check out her website here.

New York, 1879: After an epic snow storm ravages the city of Albany, Dr. Mary Sutter, a former Civil War surgeon, begins a search for two little girls, the daughters of close friends killed by the storm who have vanished without a trace.

Mary’s mother and niece Elizabeth, who has been studying violin in Paris, return to Albany upon learning of the girls’ disappearance—but Elizabeth has another reason for wanting to come home, one she is not willing to reveal. Despite resistance from the community, who believe the girls to be dead, the family persists in their efforts to find the two sisters. When what happened to them is revealed, the uproar that ensues tears apart families, reputations, and even the social fabric of the city, exposing dark secrets about some of the most powerful of its citizens, and putting fragile loves and lives at great risk.

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