What do you do when you discover your whole life was a lie? In Mary Carter’s unforgettable new novel, one woman is about to find out. . .
At twenty-eight, Lacey Gears is exactly where she wants to be. An up-and-coming, proudly Deaf artist in Philadelphia, she’s in a relationship with a wonderful man and rarely thinks about her difficult childhood in a home for disabled orphans. That is, until Lacey receives a letter that begins, “You have a sister. A twin to be exact…”
Learning that her identical, hearing twin, Monica, experienced the normal childhood she was denied resurrects all of Lacey’s grief, and she angrily sets out to find Monica and her biological parents. But the truth about Monica’s life, their brief shared past, and the reason for the twins’ separation is far from simple. And for every one of Lacey’s questions that’s answered, others are raised, more baffling and profound.
Complex, moving, and beautifully told, My Sister’s Voice is a novel about sisterhood, love of every shape, and the stories we cling to until real life comes crashing in…
Hi Mary Carter,
Welcome to Paperback Writer
Q: Will you share with us how you came up with the idea for this book?
A: I knew it would be a book about sisters. Then I decided to finally make one of the characters deaf. I am a sign language interpreter in addition to being an author and friends and my editor had been wanting a deaf character for awhile now. Finally, I decided they would be twins who had never met. I’ve always been fascinated with stories of twins meeting up as adults, and discovering they had eerie similarities and/or parallel lives.
Q: Do you plan your stories first with an outline or does it come to you as write it?
A: It’s funny because this seems to be a common debate among creative writers. The decision is taken out of my hands because I am required to turn in an outline if I want to sell the book before it is completed. However, I am allowed to veer from the outline if something changes in the process of writing the story. I think having a flexible outline is the best of both worlds—if you get stuck you have a guidepost, and if new directions pop up, you are free to follow them.
Q: Do you know the end of the story at the beginning?
A: I have a rough idea of the end, although sometimes it changes.
Q: Do you have a process for developing your characters?
A: I daydream about them, I write down what I know about them, and I learn about them as I hear them speak and get them talking to other characters.
Q: It is said that authors write themselves into their characters. Is there any part of you in your characters and what they would be?
A: My background and training is as an actress. I studied the Stanislavski method which is all about putting yourself into the character, imagining it is you—“AS IF” you were born under those circumstances, as that person. The writer cannot separate himself from his characters, but his characters will often behave in ways the writer would never dare. I guess I am like a lot of my female characters in my books thus far—middle class, well-intentioned, flawed, struggling, yearning human being. My sense of humor comes through in my books as well I’m afraid.
Q: What is your most favorite part about this book?
A: I’ve always wished I had a talent at painting. I liked being in Lacey’s art studio surrounded by her paints, and her works, and living the world of a visual artist for awhile. I also liked following Monica’s journey toward possible healing.
Q: What struggles have you had on the road to being published?
A: It’s definitely a rollercoaster ride. The minute you get excited about one aspect, such as a book coming out, you are inundated with worries. Will it sell, how much time and money should I spend promoting it, what will the reviews be like, etc. And then it’s on to the next book. The biggest struggle is that even for a published author, unless you are a best-seller, or have a movie deal, you are still struggling to make a living. I could not survive without my interpreting job, so my biggest challenge lies in trying to balance writing full-time with working part-time.
Q: What has been the best part about being published?
A: Knowing that there are people all around the world reading your books. My first two were translated into six languages. It’s gratifying to see your books in print, and thrilling that others are willing to invest some of their time to enter the world you’ve created. It’s always great to get an email from a reader letting me know they liked one of my books.
Q: What do you want readers to remember and carry with them after reading your novel?
A: I think there are a lot of people out there who still have misconceptions about deafness, simple things like the people I meet who are surprised that deaf people can drive. It would be nice if readers come away with the understanding that deaf people can do everything but hear. That said, not all deaf people are alike or think alike, or believe in the same things, or even consider themselves a part of Deaf Culture. My character is a work of fiction. That said, as a sign language interpreter, I still get asked a lot of questions, some funny, some surprising about people’s understanding, or lack thereof, of deafness. I think the real barriers that exist are our attitudes and ignorance, not the physical condition of not being able to hear. If you think someone can’t do something, or make assumptions about their limitations, that in itself can be very damaging and oppressive.
Q: Do you have plans to write another book?
A: I am currently writing, The Pub Across the Pond, about an American woman who, after swearing off all Irish men, wins a pub in Ireland. It will be released in the Fall of 2011.
Thank you, Mary Carter, for sharing your book and characters with us today. It has been a pleasure.
Thank you! The pleasure was all mine.
About the Author:
MARY CARTER is a freelance writer and novelist. My Sister’s Voice is her fourth novel with Kensington. Her other works include: She’ll Take It, Accidentally Engaged, Sunnyside Blues, and The Honeymoon House in the best selling anthology Almost Home. She is a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, and the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, which is part of the Rochester Institute of Technology. She has just completed A Very Maui Christmas, a new novella for Kensington that will be included in Holiday Magic, a Christmas of 2010 anthology. She is currently working on a new novel, The Pub Across the Pond, about an American woman who swears off all Irish men only to learn she’s won a pub in Ireland. Readers are welcome to visit her at marycarterbooks.com.
Read the Excerpt!
It was here, in the City of Brotherly Love, at twenty-eight years of age, that Lacey Gears first discovered she had a sister. An identical twin. Of course it wasn’t true. A joke, a hoax, a prank. As if. It was completely ridiculous, and although she of all people appreciated a good—Gotcha!— she didn’t have time for games today. She had to buy an anniversary gift for her boyfriend Alan, then race off to paint a chubby Chihuahua and its anorexic owner. An identical twin. Funny, ha-ha.
The hoax came by way of her red mailbox. She wasn’t going to open the mail, she usually waited until the end of the day to sift through it, preferably with a glass of wine, for a single bill could depress her all day long. But as she jogged down her front steps, she caught sight of the mailman wheeling his pregnant bag down the sidewalk. He had just passed her house, when he caught her eye. He made a dramatic stop, and waved his arms at her as if she were an Airbus coming in for a landing instead of a 5’6 slip of a girl. He jabbed his finger at her mailbox, then patted his large stomach, and then once again jabbed his finger at her mailbox with an exaggerated wag of his head and a silly smile. Lacey had to laugh. She gave him a slight shrug held her hands out like, Can-I-help-it-if-I’m-so-popular?
He winked, blew her a kiss, and then pointed at her mailbox again. She caught his kiss, pretended to swoon, and blew him a kiss of his own. By now they had an unappreciative audience. The woman who lived next door was standing in the middle of her walkway, hands on hips, glaring at the mailman. She was a large white woman in a small red bathrobe. He gave Lacey one last wave, one last jab at the mailbox. Oh, why not. If it would make him happy, she could spare a few seconds to open it. Lacey waved goodbye to him and hello to the woman in the red bathrobe. Only one wave was returned. She turned her attention to the mailbox.
He wasn’t kidding. It was stuffed. She had to use both hands to get a grip on it, and exert considerable effort. She managed to yank out the entire pile, but she moved too fast, causing the precarious mound to shift and slide through her hands. As the mail swan dived the steps, she bent at the knees and lowered herself, as if she’d rather let it take her down than give up. She finally, got a rein on the loose bits, and nervous she was wasting time, she began to flip through the day’s offerings.
Bills: AT&T, Time Warner; Catalogues: Macy’s, Deaf Digest, Galluadet University; Advertisements: Chow Chow’s Chinese restaurant, 20 percent off carpet cleaning, Jiffy Lube. Waste of time. Lacey stuffed the mail back in the box, and was about to close the lid when she spotted it a white envelope, sticking out of one of the catalogues. She’d almost missed it. She pulled it out and stared at it.
No address, no stamp, no postmark. Just her name typed across the front, looking as if it had been pecked out on a typewriter from the Jurassic Period. An anonymous letter with its mouth taped shut; a ransom note. For a split-second she was worried someone had kidnapped her dog. She glanced up at the window to her bedroom, and to her relief spotted her puggle, Rookie. His nose was smashed up against the windowpane she’d spent hours cleaning, drool running down and forming Spittle Lake, brown eyes pleading: How can you leave me? She air-kissed her dog an obscene amount of times, then once again turned her attention back to the envelope.
Mysterious letter in hand, she jogged down the steps to the curb where her Harley Sportser 883 was parked, slung her leg over her motorcycle, and perched comfortably in the custom-made leather seat. She soothed herself in her fun-house reflection elongated in the bike’s polished chrome, detailed in Red Hot Sunglo and Smokey Gold. A feeling of peace settled over her. When she was on her bike she felt sexy and confident, something every woman deserved to feel. Some days she wished she could figure out how to stay on it 24/7.
She’d bought the bike after selling her first piece of abstract art, a kaleidoscope of hands coming together in slow motion, bought by PSD, the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf, where as a little girl Lacey had longed to go. At least a piece of her was there now, hanging on the walls as a reminder to Deaf children that they could be anything, achieve anything, do everything but hear. It sold for a decent amount of money, leaving her feeling giddy and slightly guilty as if she had gotten away with something. She bought the Harley as quick as she could, in case they turned around and asked for the money back. Alan said it was proof she could stop painting pet-and-owner portraits and focus solely on what she wanted to paint. But despite her luck with the one sale, the only paintings she was doing besides the portraits were ones she didn’t want to share with the world. Not just yet. And for the most part she liked her job. She had to admit, she usually liked the pets a little more than the people, but even most of them weren’t so bad. She turned her attention back to the envelope, peeled the edge up, and slid her finger across the inside-top. The envelope sliced into her finger, cutting a thin line across her delicate skin. A drop of blood sprouted and seeped onto the envelope. She jerked her hand back, as a slip of white paper slid out of the envelope like an escaped prisoner, and fluttered to the ground.
Lacey hopped off the bike, and chased the paper down the sidewalk. It stayed just enough ahead of her to make her look like an idiot chasing it. A slight breeze picked it up and lifted it into the air. It hovered mid-stream, like a mini-magic-carpet. Make a wish, Lacey thought. She reached out and caught it before it sunk to the ground. After all this fuss, it had better be good.
You have a twin sister. Her name is Monica. Go to Benjamin Books. Look at the poster in the window.
Lacey looked up the street, convinced the mailman was standing by with another wink and a laugh. He wasn’t. He was way up the street, his cart parked in the middle of the sidewalk, his bag now slung over his shoulder, thwapping into the side of his leg with each long stride up the steps in front of him. Bathrobe-woman was nowhere in sight either. For all Lacey knew she only came out once a day to wither away civil servicemen with a single look.
You have a twin sister. . . .