04 February 2015

My Brother, My Editor and The Silent Sister

Diane Chamberlain
Diane Chamberlain
      Today it is my pleasure to introduce someone I have known literally all my life.  Diane was the sibling closest in age to me (still is, come to think of it), which means I was the dopey little brother who drove her crazy by following her around.  I hope I've outgrown that.
       I remember the first time she got something published: an op-ed page piece in a major newspaper about being a social worker in a hospital emergency room.  It made a gripping read, I'll tell you.
       Since then we have spent many hours discussing our writing experiences.  Unlike me she had the guts to try it full-time, and that sometimes seemed like a dubious choice ("Are you SURE you want to be in this business?" she asked me more than once) but persistence and talent has produced more than twenty novels, and a ton of fans.  The novel she discusses below is currently #9 on the UK Bestseller List!
        We invited her to write about her new novel and she sent us this modification of a piece she wrote for She Reads back in October.  By the way, the story of mine she mentions, "Shooting at Firemen," is scheduled for the July/August issue of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine.  
      And now, here's Diane.  Enjoy.
— Robert Lopresti


My Brother, My Editor and The Silent Sister
by Diane Chamberlain

            My younger brother, SleuthSayers blogger Robert Lopresti, was a writer before I was. We'd been very close as kids but lived on different coasts as adults. Back when I was a social worker, I would go to the gift shop in the hospital where I worked and look through the mystery magazines on the newsstand. I'd feel a little thrill every time I'd find one of Rob's stories inside them. Even though we lived 3,000 miles apart, seeing those magazines in the place where I worked made me feel close to him.

            Fast forward thirty years (yes, thirty!). Rob has published nearly sixty stories and a novel, and my twenty-third novel is about to be released. We've reversed coasts—he's in Washington State and I'm in North Carolina—but our writing still connects us and we commiserate frequently about the publishing world.

            Rob and I write very different types of stories. About a year ago, he sent me a short story he'd written that was set in our hometown. I loved it. In a subplot of the story, a brother laments the disappearance of his sister. I won't give away what happened to his sister, but I knew that in a Diane Chamberlain novel, something very different—not better or worse, just different--would happen. My imagination was off and running. I would write a brother/sister novel! I loved the idea that it was inspired by my own brother.

            Imaginations are fickle things, however. I'd wanted my protagonist to be a young man whose sister disappeared long ago, but whenever I tried to picture him, he turned into a woman. I finally gave in and created a twenty-two-year-old woman, Riley MacPherson, as my central character. Well, there went my brother/sister story! I did give Riley a brother, Danny, but he'd been killed in the Iraq war a few years earlier. That felt necessary because I wanted to isolate Riley to increase her need to find Lisa, the sister who disappeared and the only remaining member of her family.

Silent Sister
            This is where my editor steps into the picture. I'd written the entire book and typed 'The End' when she said, "Danny should be alive." In my early writing days, my initial reaction to such an extreme editorial suggestion would be, "Noooooo!" followed by twenty-four hours of soul searching at which time I would realize my editor was brilliant. I've now evolved to the point where I can often see the brilliance within minutes. That was the case when Jen Enderlin at St. Martin's suggested I bring Danny back to life. Together, Riley and Danny would search for their missing sister, each with a different motive … and very different plans for what they would do if they found her. Suddenly The Silent Sister was a richer story … and ironically, I once again had the brother/sister novel I'd wanted to write. So thank you, Jen, for the suggestion, and Rob, for the inspiration, and I hope we'll be sharing our stories for a long time to come.



Diane's publisher, St. Martin's Press, will give two lucky readers copies of The Silent Sister randomly selected by Diane among the comments. Check back here tomorrow for the winners and how to claim your prize.

35 comments:

Leigh Lundin said...

Diane, welcome to SleuthSayers.

Readers: Sometime tomorrow, Diane will choose two of the commenters (not counting Rob and me) to receive a copy of her novel, The Silent Sister. Winners will be notified in the comments HERE and given instructions later tomorrow.

Fran Rizer said...

Diane, congratulations on the publication of THE SILENT SISTER and thank you for sharing its inspiration and the thought processes you went through to develop the story. The influence of your editor brought to mind yesterday's news that a second novel by 88-year-old Harper Lee is being released in July. It's her first version of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, which she had written from the pov of Scout when she returned to her hometown twenty years later as an adult. Lee's editor suggested that the story of
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD be told from Scout's pov as a child instead. That editorial advice proved priceless, and I'm pulling for your editor's recommendation to be equally as successful. By the way, you come from an exceptionally creative and talented family!

CarolynJenkins said...

Congratulations on the release of your latest book, THE SILENT SISTER. Editors make great suggestions. Trust me, I know from my own writing experience. But, I'm sure with the many books you have written, you would have come across the same conclusion. I look forward to reading your latest book. I'm sure it will hit Number 1 on the UK best sellers list soon.

Diane Chamberlain said...

Fran, Can you imagine the story of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD told through any other lens? I've studied Scout's voice and the structure of TKaM often through my career. I'm a bit nervous about the second novel, though!

And Carolyn, I'm not so sure I would have come to the same conclusion. The value of a good editor is being able to see a story from a distance impossible for the writer to achieve. The value of a great editor can't be overstated!

Cindy Mathes said...

Diane, you always write a story that has a twist that completes the plot. We are always wanting more, but not be cause you didn't give it closure. I think sometimes writers will write THE END without ending it at all. Love you and your writing.

Julia Breveleri said...

Such a charming post, linking you and your brother, your writing and his, and all tied up with a great suggestion from a really good editor. Now I want to know more about your family of origin! Any other creatives in the gene pool? Can't wait to read The Silent Sister. Keep on writing and I'll keep on reading. Thanks!

Diane Chamberlain said...

Cindy, thank you!

Julia, we are a creative bunch, though we don't understand how that happened! Our older brother is a super photographer and he sings with Princeton Pro Musica. Our sister was an artist and an actress who is still involved in community theater. Our nephew Chris Messineo is the founder and director of the New Jersey Film School. Needless to say, we all have plenty to talk about when we get together!

John Floyd said...

What a pleasure it is to have you here, Diane, and to hear about The Silent Sister--I look forward to reading it. Many congrats on your great success.

Your brother is an inspiration to many of us, all the way back to the Criminal Brief days.

Melodie Campbell said...

What a delightful column! So great to hear about a 'literary family' who act as muses for each other. I am full of admiration (and a teeny bit of envy, if I'm being honest :)
How nice to meet you, Diane, and congrats on such a stunning career.

Eve Fisher said...

What a great (double) post - and THE SILENT SISTER sounds wonderful - I look forward to reading it. I'm an only (and adopted) child, so my perspective on things is "different" - but one thing I have learned over time is that every single sibling in a family grows up in an entirely different family. Yes, they share memories, etc. But each one of them has their own perspective, their own take on what happened and why - and so to me, the idea of Danny and Riley having separate plans for the "silent sister", rings absolutely true. Thanks for joining us!

debbie morrison said...

Diane...nothing I haven't said before many times to you about your work. I simply love your works. Now however, I would add reading above, makes me wish I wasn't an only child. I wish I had a brother.
Many thanks as always!

Debbie Morrison

Susie besford said...

Thanks Diane for all your great books and I hope many more to come!x

Jill Hannah Anderson said...

I have three brothers and I think it is so neat you both share your love of writing with each other. I've recently read THE SILENT SISTER, along with most of Diane's other novels, and love the plot twists that are not what we would typically expect in a novel. Creative writing at its best!

Hayley Savage said...

This is one of the books I am yet to read of yours. I am working my way through old ebooks of yours and loving them all :)

Amy Frye said...

Congratulations on your latest publication, Diane. I have always enjoyed reading your books.

I have to say, what a creative family! I think there is nothing better than an imagination that can run wild with creativity. I'm so glad you both share your talents with us in the written form.

Robert Lopresti said...

As Diane indicated, all of our sibs have a creative side. I have demonstrated Tom's photography here: http://www.sleuthsayers.org/search/label/seasons

And one of Joann's paintings hangs over our fireplace. I still love it as much as I did when she gave it to us as a wedding present.

Sharon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sharon said...

First let me say that this blurb above ^^ cracks me up.

Second, I already replied but felt it was in haste so I deleted it and here I am again.

What a family. I love that your brother is your editor and cheerleader. Congrats on The Silent Sister! I love your work.

Fl!p Breskin said...

Congrats! I love Rob (music buddy) and his writing. Now I need to go find some of your books to read as well! Both blurbs were wonderful. Jeez! Your parents must have had their hands full!
Love/Fl!p Breskin

PennyG said...

That's so interesting that you bounce ideas and sometimes those become novels. Very awesome.

Janet Kay Jensen said...

How wonderful to have a brother who's also a writer! My big sisters proof and give me feedback...they're the best.

Janet Kay Jensen said...

I don't want to be disappointed by Harper Lee's 2nd book....because I love the first one so much.

Ola Norman said...

Can't wait to read this! I'm on the waiting list at the library.

Kristy Padilla said...

Diane,

You are absolutely amazing and your books are always a welcome distraction from day to day life. I can't wait to read The Silent Sister, it is on my wish list with a few other DC books I haven't yet read.

KC Koller said...

I used to be an avid mystery fan, but then I fell for historical novels. I know you can read more than one genre at once, but I have a tendency to go down the list and read everything any author I like has written, so I have been away from mystery novels for a bit. From what I have read here, yours seems to be an interesting one to get me back into mysteries. Congrats on your new novel!

Sherry said...

What is heaven? A warm blanket (I live in cold Illinois), hot tea and a Diane Chamberlain book. I have been waiting for The Silent Sister to come out, and I can't wait to read it. I always feel something special will happen in Diane's books, and they have never disappointed me. Congratulations on your newest release, I know you must be proud!

Diane Chamberlain said...

Flip, we were actually pretty easy kids. How much trouble can a kid get into with his/her head buried in a book?

KC, my books are hard to categorize. Most have a mystery in them but don't easily fit into the genre. The one book I've written that was classified as 'historical fiction' is Necessary Lies, inspired by the forced sterilization program in NC where I live. Who knew that 1960 was considered historical? Frightening!

Julia Kerr said...

I am a huge fan of your sister and was directed here by her, I am on my way to look around now :)

Diyar Harraz said...

I love all of your books!

Kate K said...

Being a voracious reader, I'm quite shocked to discover I haven't read anything by Diane before. But I did I purchase Necessary Lies for a friend's Christmas gift and I'm anxiously awaiting her to finish so that I can read it! Living in NC (recently moved here) I love to read books with a local setting.

Jeff Baker said...

Speaking of 1960, "To Kill A Mockingbird" came out in July of 1960, just a week before I was born! Diane, I loved this! Thanks!

Robert Lopresti said...

On behalf of all the SleuthSayers bloggers I want to welcome the newcomers who followed Diane here today. Please take a look around. You fans of historical novels might want to start with Eve Fisher's post that had more than 70,000 hits last month: http://tinyurl.com/padxzco

Leigh Lundin said...

STOP PRESS! Our two winners are Cindy Mathes and KC Koller.

Congratulations! I’m attempting to contact you now via Google+ Circles, where I ask for your contact information (physical address and email) and preference of book format, print or digital (Nook, Kindle, Kobo, etc). I’m not certain how St. Martin’s Press will deliver, but we’ll forward your information to them.

If all else fails, please contact us via the SleuthSayers facebook page.

Thank you for participating from Diane, Rob, the rest of the SleuthSayers, and me.

Six Decades said...

Diane is one of my favorite authors to follow on Facebook. Love her books because they are "stand alone". So, Danny is alive.....Now when I read The Silent Sister I'm going to wonder how he could ever NOT be alive!

Pages of You and Me said...

Sleuth Sayers,
Wonderful blog! Can't wait to explore your blog and read the other blogs.

Diane,
Looking forward to reading Silent Sister. My brother and I fought like cats and dogs (typical of siblings), just as we started to learn to get along better, he passed away. There are many times I wonder how are relationship would have gone. I always like to think it would be a strong bond. Something I will never know. I can't wait to see the different dynamics in each siblings relationship and the story behind the reason the lost touch!!