My Brother, My Editor, and The Silent Sister

Today’s post by Diane Chamberlain | @D_Chamberlain

Diane Chamberlain Collage

My younger brother, Rob 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 along with a couple of novels, and my twenty-third novel is about to be released. We’ve reversed coasts—he’s in Seattle 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 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 that the idea 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.

This is where my editor stepped 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 Press 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.

8 Responses to My Brother, My Editor, and The Silent Sister

  1. Gwyn October 17, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    I really enjoy reading your books. I intend to read your new book for my book club when it is my turn. Keep up the good work!!

  2. Ariel Price October 17, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    Great post! It’s so neat to hear about how impactful the work of editors is. Hearing stories like this make me all warm and fuzzy inside and love my job even more! And I did love Danny’s character, so I’m glad he’s in the book!

  3. Robert Lopresti October 17, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    Thanks for the mention, Sis. I am looking forward to reading The Silent Sister.

  4. Katherine Jones October 17, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    And indeed, bringing Danny to life was a brilliant move. The story wouldn’t have been the same without him. His character adds loads of texture and depth to the plot, as well as provides a darker foil for Riley’s sweet nature. Kudos to Ms. Chamberlain for fleshing Danny out so marvelously and weaving his own compelling story line into the tale.

  5. Diane Chamberlain October 17, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    Thanks, all. Sometimes it really takes a fresh eye to see what’s missing, and Danny was definitely missing! I’m glad you’re enjoying the book.

  6. Kathy October 17, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    I was amazed to know that you have another book out. I just went to the library and picked up one of your books , ” Necessary Lies,” based on the brief description in front of the cover. I had no idea you were writing for “She Reads,” and that will be my next read after I finish this great find from the library. It’s great when you have such a rich resource of family connections to bring out another story. The impact of your editor seems to be profound and I’m glad you are listening and respect her opinion.

  7. stacybuckeye October 24, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    I finished this last week and loved it. I can’t imagine the story without Danny present and adding to the story! Thanks to She Reads I finally read one of your books and I’ll be lookingfor more. Hope to have my thoughts on this one on my blog next week.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Silent Sister Readalong Part 2 (Spoilers and Discussion) | Traveling With T - October 24, 2014

    […] PS: Check out the interview that Diane did with She Reads- My Brother, My Editor and The Silent Sister. […]

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