Showing posts with label sisters. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sisters. Show all posts

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.

24 February 2014

My Unusual but Happy Birthday


Jan Grape

by Jan Grape


Have to say, most people don't make too big a deal about birthdays. Mine has to have a special mention. Not because I'll be sixty-fifteen on the twenty-eighth of February, this coming Friday, but because the 28th of Feb. has been extra special since I was nine years old.

When I was seven my mother remarried, she had first been married to my father, Tom Barrow. They divorced when I was three. In 1946, she married Charles King Pierce. Mother, Iva "Pee Wee" Pierce was 25 years old and Daddy Charlie was 35. He had been in World War 11 and they met and corresponded for several months and when he came home, they were married. The three of us went to live in Post, Texas, forty miles southeast of Lubbock, nestled under the Cap Rock formed by the Llano Estacado.  A small town founded by C.W. Post of the cereal fame. He originally had hoped to build his fortune there but the climate was too dry and he moved to Battle Creek, MI where he did well.

Post didn't have a hospital anymore in 1948, but mother had an excellent doctor who would deliver her baby at home. On the evening of February 27th, the parents somehow knew the baby was due to be born so I was sent to my friend, Toni's house down the street two houses and around the corner three houses. The plan was I would come home the next day after the little boy or little girl was born. This was back in the days when sonograms hadn't even been discovered so no one knew the baby's sex before hand.

In the middle of the night the whole household where I was were all awakened by an excited pounding on the door. It was Daddy Charlie telling us my baby sister had arrived and he wanted me to come home immediately and see her. I found my clothes but couldn't find my shoes, I was so excited. Daddy Charlie, said, "Never mind I'll carry you." And he did; down the street, around the corner and to our house.

He actually carried me inside and set me down in the bedroom. My mother was in a bed, looking a bit tired but pleased. I was encouraged to look in the bassinette. I looked and thought I was looking at a baby doll, but it was my little sister. She had big brown eyes and was looking at me as if to say, "Hi there. I'm hoping you're my big sister."

Mother, her words a little strange because she was coming out of her pain medicine said, "Happy Birthday, Janice. This is your new baby sister, Sharla." (It wasn't until I graduated from High School and started X-ray School in Ft. Worth, living with my father and step-mother, that I shortened my name to Jan. I thought it went better with Barrow.)

Wow, a baby sister for my birthday. What a birthday present. Okay, that makes February 28 fairly special in my house. Yet, maybe not anything too unusual.

So this is where things turn extraordinary. Two years later, in 1950, please look at the scenario once more. My mother in once again expecting a baby. I'm eleven years old and Sharla is two. We still don't have a hospital, but Dr. Kahler is still taking care of mother and will deliver her baby at our house. Once again, I'm spending the night with my friend Toni, the night of February 28th. I don't think any of us went to sleep, we somehow expected news shortly. A few minutes after midnight, Daddy Charles came after me. This time I quickly dressed and put on my shoes. Good thing because I was almost too big to carry. Same bedroom, same bassinette, a little baby sister. Mother and Daddy Charles said, "Happy birthday, Janice. This is your second birthday present, your little sister Patsy." Yep, she had actually been born about three minutes before midnight on the 28th.

I don't remember what the odds are that three girls would be born to the same mother on the same day, although the age difference was obvious. Birthdays in our house were fun. Mother somehow managed to have our parties on the same day, but once that one was over she didn't have to worry
about birthdays for the remainder of the year.

A few years later, my mother's younger sister had her second child on February 28th. She called my mother and said, "You thought you had a monopoly on February 28th. That made four out of five grandchildren (on mother's side) with the same birthday. Any mathematician want the figure out the odds on that?

I love my birthday and my sisters, we don't have the chance to all be together on February 28th, but sometimes we can and when we do, it's extra special.

Next post: back to writing.



Patsy, Janice, Sharla, Easter-1951



Birthday: 1955,  Patsy's fifth birthday
Sharla's seventh birthday
Janice's sixteenth birthday