Looking for a good summertime read that recalls those warm days at the lake or the beach, when a simpler rhythm of life prevailed? The Pie Sisters, a new novel by Leigh Brown and Victoria Corliss, offers that taste of summers past, spiced with the complications that adulthood has brought to three sisters.
The setting is Lake Canandaigua, in New York’s Finger Lakes, where Vikki Stone (Victoria still goes by Vikki; Stone was her maiden name) and her sisters often visited their aunt at her summer home. Vikki, a native of Rochester, N.Y., moved with her family to New Canaan in 1976 and attended West School, Saxe Junior High School and New Canaan High School; her mother still lives in New Canaan. Vikki knows of sisters: she has four older ones as well as an older brother; her writing partner, Leigh, has one sister.
Close as sisters, and often told they resemble each other, Vikki and Leigh met in Rhode Island where they both live with their families; they bonded at their sons’ baseball games. Their talk turned to reading and evolved into their first discussions of a possible project they’d write together.
“Leigh and I both had day jobs when we first began to write,” Vikki explained. “We managed to meet once a month to discuss, plan, plot and strategize how and what to write, but we knew ‘getting it right’ would take time.”
Their first book, Second Chances, was self-published as an e-book in 2013 and a soft-cover version was later printed; The Pie Sisters, which came out this spring, is also available in electronic and paperback versions (browncorlissbook.com).
Leigh said, “The first book, Second Chances, had several lives. It took us a few years to work our way through the entire story. Our original story line changed many times as we grew to know the characters better. We allowed ourselves the flexibility to change the story as it developed.”
One of the questions the co-authors field most often is about their process. Asked about this, Vikki said, “We wrote the book in stages. First we mapped out the overarching storyline from A to Z. Then we created each of the characters from their physical appearances to their mannerisms, hobbies, etc. Creating detailed outlines of each chapter was the final step before we retreated to our separate corners to write individual chapters.”
For The Pie Sisters, Leigh explained, “We outlined each of the sisters, discussing everything from their features to their personalities. It was important to really spend some time understanding each sister’s point of view because the story focuses on their reconnection after time spent apart. Once we ‘knew’ each of the girls, we divided up the writing.”
As for plot disagreements, Vikki said, “It’s the best part of having a writing partner. Much as I like to think I’m always right, I know there is more than one way to view something or write about it. Leigh and I have a healthy Push-Me, Pull-You relationship that I believe makes the final product even better than it might be otherwise.”
“We definitely disagree!” said Leigh. “I truly respect Vikki and her opinion and we have made an agreement to be very honest with each other. Sometimes when we work on the plot of the story, it only takes a few back and forths to redirect the story line. Other times, we labor for days over character names and details. We texted back and forth for the better part of a week before we agreed on Jackson’s name in The Pie Sisters. I think we tried every name in the book until one of us suggested Jackson…and then it just felt right.”
Like Vikki, Leigh had spent summer vacations on a lake; her family’s spot was in Maine, but the feel was the same. Once they had the title for their second book, they found the story, when they began work on it, flowed easily.
“The Pie Sisters” was a moniker shared by Vikki and her sisters, bestowed on them by the owners of a produce market that they frequent in Canandaigua Lake when visiting their aunt; the market’s pies are a major attraction. A similar market is one of the locales frequented by the three sisters in the book.
With the location set, the two authors brought to their plot and characters, the memories of summer places as well as their life experiences. Asked if they had favorites among the sisters they created, Vikki said, “I relate to each of the sisters in some measure; as the baby of my family, I feel an obvious connection to Lily. I admire Shelby’s strong sense of self and certainty. I love Yeardley’s loyalty to people, to her past, and her willingness to lean into an unknown future. Each girl has her own strengths, and her own weaknesses, just like me.”
Leigh said, “Hands down, Lily is my favorite because of her creative side. For years, I owned my own decorative painting company and I’ve always had a passion for interior design. I can relate to her excitement when she brings a room or entire home to life for her clients. She has such a sense of accomplishment pulling together the birthday party for her Aunt Nola. I’ve often said to Vikki that we need to open a boutique called Lily Lane Designs. I don’t care what we sell; I just love the name!”
Whether it is a boutique or a third book — the two authors are ready for the challenge. They are putting their energies into promoting their first two books for the next few months, doing public events and private book club gatherings. “We love meeting our readers, hearing their personal stories and getting feedback on our books,” said Vikki.
For more information about the writing duo and their books, visit browncorlissbooks.com.