Where did you come up with the idea for this book?
Tara and Sky are introduced as Marnie’s daughters in The Christmas Cookie Club. In that novel each had a pregnancy fraught with tensions about the child. I wanted to know how they would fare given their personalities with toddlers and deal with the antagonisms between them. I also am fascinated by life’s tricks of fate, and so gave them one to struggle with.
Did you take any real life experiences as inspiration for any scenes in this book?
Much of Gift for my Sister is my unlived fantasies, but I didn’t realize that until after I’d finished a draft. I always wanted a sister. Writing in each of their voices, it felt like I had two. I love music of all kinds and wonder what it would be like to be a performer. Writers are so isolated; musicians work as part of a team. So Tara is a rap artist. I got to write concert scenes and, as Tara, create with others.
For A Gift for My Sister, I knew I wanted a road trip from L.A. to Ann Arbor. And so I took a road trip, writing copious notes along the way. In this case, life followed art.
Allie’s story about the Jewish and Nazi sisters is a fictionalized version of events in my family.
All you have to do is be black or drive with a black person, and some version of the driving-while-black scene will occur. Variations of this incident have happened to me many times. It would be funny if it weren’t so tragic.
How did you develop the family dynamic for this book?
I’ve been a psychotherapist for many years; family dynamics are in my very bones. I set up the conflict between the sisters, and the situation with their Mom in The Christmas Cookie Club and just let it flow. I realized that I had a family of two fatherless daughters. Fathers are so important to women and determine so much about their adult ability to trust in intimacy. Tara struggles with trusting Aaron’s love. For Sky, loss is especially hard given her father’s early death.
Which character did you enjoy writing most? Who was the most difficult?
I loved all these characters so I enjoyed writing about each of them. I loved writing in two different voices, as two different people. But if I had to choose one it would be Tara. Again, because it was so fun being her: rebellious, impetuous, unconventional, artistically obsessed and passionate. And again, I got to be a rap star. How cool is that?
None of them…
Are you a plotter or pantser?
I develop what I call the dream of the book. This includes what I imagine and hope to do in the story, its themes, the conflicts each character has, a timeline, and a sketchy outline for the plot. This dream was crammed with quotes from the Book of Job. When I start, I have an idea of the beginning and the end. (usually)
Once I start writing, I let my characters talk to me. They do lead me—sometimes in amazing directions. Writing is like dreaming; it’s partly a function of the unconscious. We never know absolutely everything that is there, so we’re surprised by our own stories.
What is your writing space like?
During most of the year, I write at my desktop, the spacious counter cluttered with handwritten ideas, books, a frame of revolving digital photos of my family, and a vertical file crammed with important pending items many of which are long over due, and a horizontal file with stamps, scale, catalogues, old stories. Behind me, books are piled two, sometimes three deep.
As soon as it gets warm, I move my laptop into an unheated screened porch. It juts out over the forest so oak and aspen trees surround it. In fact, spring, summer and fall, I pretty much live in this one room.
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. I’ve read a lot of fabulous books this past year, but I love ‘trans-lit’, being able to flit over time and space with a connected theme or bizarrely connected characters to tell a story in different voices.
If you could step into the life of any of your characters who would it be and why?
I got to do that while writing the book.
What are you working on next?
Sorry. I’m very reluctant to talk about a project when it’s between the dream and the reality of a draft!
Thanks for stopping by Ann!
Hardcover: 288 Pages
Genre: Adult Contemporary
Purchase Links: Hardcover | Kindle | Nook | Indie Bound
Ann Pearlman's Website | Blog | Twitter
From Goodreads. Ann Pearlman's The Christmas Cookie Club enthralled readers everywhere with a heartwarming and touching story about the power of female friendship. Now, in A Gift for My Sister, she once again explores the depth of the human heart, and this time it’s through the eyes of two sisters. Tara and Sky share a mother, but aside from that they seem to differ in almost every way. When a series of tragedies strikes, they must somehow come together in the face of heartbreak, dashed hopes, and demons of the past. The journey they embark on forces each woman to take a walk in the other’s shoes and examine what sisterhood really means to them. It’s a long road to understanding, and everyone who knows them hopes these two sisters can find a way back to each other.