Inspiration Behind If Birds Fly Back

Carlie Sorosiak stops by MKB to share her inspiration behind writing her beautiful debut - If Birds Fly Back. 


I was supposed to be a neurologist. That’s what I was tracking for, at least. That’s what I applied to university to study. And that’s what my grandparents – who were mostly funding my education – wanted me to be. As a teen, I spent a good chunk of time reading Oliver Sacks, but what my grandparents didn’t understand is that I liked the stories of science much better than the practical application. Flash forward seven years, and I’m on vacation in Miami, where I see an elderly man sitting outside of a nursing home, staring longingly at the beach. I think: Does he ever actually get to go to the beach? What must his lift be like? These pieces form the beginning of If Birds Fly Back, a story about love, grief and astrophysics – about growing up versus growing old. In the novel, Linny’s parents are desperate for her to be a doctor; it’s safe to say that Birds is at least partly autobiographical.

When I started writing this story, I knew two things for sure: there would be science, and there would be a care home. Even before that Miami moment, I’ve always thought that a care home would make an unexpectedly excellent setting for a YA novel. I volunteered in them as a teen, and back then it really struck me: how I was at the opposite end of the age spectrum from my elderly friends, but there were so many parallels between us. We were both beginning a new way of life. Me, that awkward transition from childhood to adulthood. Them, the transition from independent living to assisted care. I couldn’t leave for a party without asking my mom. They couldn’t leave for a restaurant without asking a nurse.

If Birds Fly Back is a love story at heart, but it’s also very much about family. One of my other inspirations for writing Birds was getting to represent a multiracial family, like mine. We’re Swedish, African American, and Polish. My mom told me a long time ago that, as a little girl, she wanted ‘to see herself in a book.’ It’s always been my intention to give her that. And the Carson family – Linny, Grace, and their parents – is the result.

I love these characters. I love Linny and her obsession with missing people. I love Sebastian and his nerdy Wikipedia T-shirts. As cheesy as it sounds, each one is a little bit of my heart, and I hope that readers will enjoy getting to know them. 


Have you read If Birds Fly Back? Let us know what you think over at @mykindabook