Rebecca Wells grew up "in a world that valued storytelling immensely, and where your status in the community was determined not solely by your wealth or profession, but by how good you could tell a tale." Based on that criterion, Wells has already achieved an aristocratic standing among readers who found her Little Altars Everywhere and Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood to be life-changing reads.
In 1992, a Louisiana-born playwright and actress introduced the world to a clan of quirky Southerners that instantly made an indelible imprint on readers all over the country. Little Altars Everywhere was the warm and witty story of the Walker family of Thornton, Louisiana, and it established Rebecca Wells as one of the most beloved writers in contemporary literature. She solidified that position further with Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood in 1996. Now, nearly ten years later, Wells is giving her avid fans yet another reason to celebrate.
Wells originally made waves as an acclaimed playwright. After a childhood spent indulging in the Southern tradition of verbal story-telling, Wells decided to develop her innate skill for yarn-spinning by penning plays after moving to New York City to pursue a career as a stage actor.
It was not until the early '90s that Wells decided to try her hand at a novel. While telling the larger story of the dysfunctional Walkers, Little Altars Everywhere chiefly focused on a young girl named Siddalee, a character which author Andrew Ward once described as "one of the sharpest little chatterboxes since Huckleberry Finn." Little Altars became both a critical favorite and a bestseller, and paved the way for the smashingly successful Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, which continued Siddalee's story and revealed her mother Vivi's affiliation with an exuberant society of Southern women. The Ya-Ya Sisterhood not only wowed critics across the country, but it hit #1 on the New York Times bestseller list and inspired a cult-like following of readers to rival Wells's fictional sisterhood.
Unfortunately, during the years following the release of Wells's most beloved novel, she was diagnosed with Lyme disease, an illness that no doubt slowed her productivity. "Before I started treatment, on my weakest days, I was unable to lift my hands to type," she says on her web site. "My husband would hold a tape recorder for me so I could talk scenes that were in my imagination. On some days, I could not walk. My husband would lift me out of my wheelchair and into my writing chair. I could only write about 20 minutes, always at night. I learned to humble myself to limitations of energy, and I learned to be grateful that even though my body was so sick, my imagination was still very much alive. I consider Ya-Yas in Bloom to be my ‘miracle baby.'"
Indeed, her legion of fans will agree that her latest release is nothing short of miraculous. After nearly a decade since the release of Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Rebecca Wells has finally produced the third installment of her popular series. Ya-Yas in Bloom reaches further back than either of her previous novels, examining the origins of the Ya-Ya sisterhood in the 1930s through various narrators and a family album-like format. Wells's devoted followers will surely find much to enjoy in what the author describes as a "more tender book" than her last two works. "Illness -- and the love and forgiveness I have been given have taught me about the need for Tenderness," she says. "Now I know more deeply that we all need more compassion and kindness than this fast, consumer-driven world encourages. Life is not easy. It is filled with pain. It is also filled with joy and moments of ...[a]nd all of a sudden, you realize how beautiful this raggedy life really is."
Wells's positive outlook should only glow more brightly as her health continues to improve. As for the Ya-Yas, Wells is happy to report, "Good Lord willing and the creek don't rise, I definitely hope to write more Ya-Ya books. The universe of the Ya-Yas has a million tales, and somebody has to tell them!"
Good To Know
While attending the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado, Wells studied language and consciousness with legendary beat poet Allen Ginsberg.
Writing is not the only thing that this author takes seriously. In 1982, she formed a chapter of the Performing Artists for Nuclear Disarmament in Seattle, Washington.
Some fun and fascinating outtakes from our interview with Wells:
"Flowers heal me. Tulips make me happy. I keep myself surrounded by them as soon as they start coming to the island from Canada, and after that when they come from the fields in La Connor, not far from where I live. When their season is over, I surround myself with dahlias from my friend Tami's garden."
"I believe that we are given strength and help from a power much larger than ourselves. I believe if I humble myself that this power will come through me, and help me create work that is bigger than I would have ever been able to have done alone. I believe that illness has led me to a life of gratitude, so I consider Lyme disease at this point in my life to be a blessing in disguise."
"I value humor, kindness, and the ability to tell a good story far more than money, status, or the kind of car someone drives."
"I dislike the second Bush administration's abuse of power. I abhor his administration's waging of war, and the systematic design to make the rich richer and the poor poorer."
"I love being with my husband and family, walking outside, standing in La Luz de La Luna in her ever-changing stages, playing with my dog, singing, dancing, having dinner with friends, playing word games in the parlor, thrilling at our sheep eating alfalfa out of my hand, going to the island farmer's market on Saturdays. I love being told by my doctors that there is every reason to believe that I will get ‘better and better' from Lyme disease. I love that I am privileged enough to have been diagnosed and treated for the fastest growing vector-born bacterial disease in this country."