A very short summary of The Language of Sisters...Three sisters. One brother. A secret that is chasing them down.
A little longer summary:
1) Toni Koslovsky lives on a yellow tugboat in the Willamette River in Oregon. She needed space to breathe.
2) Toni has two sisters. They can sometimes hear each other in their heads, a message coming through. It’s odd, it’s inexplicable. It’s a gift handed down from the Sabonis family line through their widow’s peaks. Their mother had it, too.
3) The family immigrated from Russia when Toni was a little girl. They left a lot of secrets there...and the secrets have been running after them ever since.
4) The family has many crazy members and the dynamics can be mind blowing. You might relate to some of them.
5) Toni has something hidden in a little shed next to her tugboat. She doesn’t want to look at it. She doesn’t want to think about it. But she does.
6) Love. Laughter. Funny stuff. A blue heron, a woman named Daisy, a DEA agent who lives down the dock, a restaurant, a scary man. Pillow making, skinny dipping, too much wine. More laughter.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you started writing.
I knew I loved writing when my mother taught me how to spell the word, ‘brat.’
I must have been about four and the girl next door had thrown yet another temper tantrum and stalked out of my house. I was writing her a note. Not very nice, perhaps a bit of a vengeful streak was coming out even at that wee age.
Anyhow, I asked my mother, the kindest, most compassionate person I have ever met, how to spell ‘brat.’ Now, you would have thought the kindest, most compassionate person I have ever met would tell me not to write a note like, “Dear Sandy. You are a brat.” But my mother thought she was a brat, too, and she was none too fond of her whiny mother so she patiently said to me, “Honey, it’s B.R.A.T.”
And a writer was born.
What are some things you enjoy when not writing?
I love to garden. I am a plant collector. I could collect high heels, but no, I don’t. Who needs a broken ankle? I collect plants and flowers. Innocent Husband has told me to stop buying them as we have too many. (I call my husband Innocent Husband on my blog as no one should ever hold him responsible for the things I say or write.)
Anyhow, now I have to SNEAK my plants and flowers into the garden. What a husband doesn’t know, doesn’t hurt him, that is my motto for Gardening vs. Innocent Husband.
Do you have a ‘day job’ as well?
I’m a full time writer. No other day job except for ‘mom.’ The mom job doesn’t pay well, but the kids are cute.
Where do you get your ideas?
I get my ideas everywhere. Actually, if I’m in Starbucks and I look at someone too long, I’ll start telling myself a story about that person. If I was across the table from you, the same thing would happen. It’s odd, I know this, I do.
I have to tell myself, “We’re going to Starbucks to work, Cathy, not to imagine what secrets the person next to you is harboring and nurturing.”
“The First Day of The Rest of My Life,” my fifth book, was launched from an 80 year old violin I was buying for my daughter.
These questions came up as I held it: Who owned the violin before us? What made them cry? What made them laugh? Who did they love, who did they lose? Was this violin made in Europe? Who made it? What happened to the original owners? Why is there a stain on the violin? Is that blood? Why the scratches? What secrets could this violin tell? And a story began…
The “Last Time I Was Me,” my second novel, was partially launched by a marital spat with Innocent Husband, to whom I have been married for twenty three years.
That night we’d had a bit of an argument, I can’t even remember what we were fighting about. Anyhow, the man had the gall to fall asleep when I was still steaming mad. (!!!)
I had to write another book and I decided to have my main character get revenge on her cheating boyfriend. (For the record, Innocent Husband did not cheat on me, let’s clear that monster out of the way now.) Anyhow, Jeanne decided to take revenge on her cheating boyfriend with a condom, peanut oil and an exacto knife. How did I imagine that rather demented idea? Innocent husband is allergic to nuts.
For “The Language of Sisters” I was inspired by a yellow tugboat in the newspaper, a blue heron that flew by in front of me, a complicated and funny family, and secrets that one thinks are buried but start to come up again like sharp talons. Oh, and three cool but troubled sisters, an adopted brother with a murky past, and a mother who owns a popular Russian restaurant and who admonishes her children for their poor choices on the Specials board at night for everyone to see.
Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
Publishing nightmare. So, I was trying to break into category romance many years ago. Rejection. Rejection. I wrote yet another synopsis, the publisher asked to see the first three chapters. I wrote them. They asked to see the whole book. I sent it. Rejected. This happened three or four times. The last rejection took about two years.
Let’s just say when I wrote a rather “pointed” letter to the publishing house (Okay, I was ticked, the letter might have been fiery, flames leaping.) about how long the process was, the publisher apologized, and their head editor asked me to send all future work to her. What a chance! But I was then so burned out I couldn’t do it.
I wrote “Julia’s Chocolates” and just let it fly. The story is about a woman, Julia, who is on the run, away from an abusive fiancé. She heads to her Aunt Lydia’s house in central Oregon. The house is painted pink, like a camellia, there are five giant concrete pigs in the front of the house, all named for men that Aunt Lydia doesn’t like, and a rainbow bridge on the front lawn. Julia meets a group of women, and they all begin to heal…until the fiancé hunts her down.
I sent a partial to several agents and an editor. All the agents asked to see it. I waited for my favorite agent, Evan Marshall, to respond, he did, and he requested the book. The problem was that I had only written about the first 40 pages. I lied and told Evan I had a little “editing” to do. Ha. I wrote the book into the dark hours of night. Took months. He sold it as part of a two book deal with my current publishing house in 2005 and I’ve been happily writing for Kensington ever since.
What are you working on now?
I am writing my eleventh novel and marketing my new book “The Language of Sisters.” Both are head banging experiences, but with chocolate and mochas, I am persevering without losing my mind. For the most part.
Is anything in your books based on real life experiences?
Yes. Can I just end it at ‘yes?’
Do you have a favorite chapter or scene?
In “What I Remember Most,” my main character, Grenadine Scotch Wild, (I know!! Yes, that is her name. Grenadine. Scotch. Wild. As soon as I knew her name, I had my story.) is an artist. I have the artistic talent of a gnat. Or maybe an ant eater. I loved writing about the paintings and collages Grenadine was making. I could live vicariously through her.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
My advice to writers who want to publish?
Write all the time. Read all the time.
Figure out why you love the books you do, and why you don’t. Study pacing, character development, plots, ending, word choice, structure of the novel, dialogue. Everything.
What makes you keep reading? What’s compelling?
Go to writing conferences. Take writing classes.
Be open to criticism. Don’t get your panties in a twist about it. It’s not personal. Listen. Learn. Move forward.
Read Bird by Bird, On Writing, and Jessica Morrell’s books on writing.
Have a lovely day.
You can connect with Cathy here: