Six Things I Learned from When We Were Sisters

Yippee, it’s launch day for When We Were Sisters!

When We Were Sisters largerToday When We Were Sisters arrives at stores. Those of you who pre-ordered from online bookstores like Amazon or Barnes and Noble will probably find your copy in the mail or on your e-reader today.  I hope you enjoy it.

Would you like an autographed copy?

I have good news. I’ll be signing books at Bookstore One in Sarasota on Friday, June 3rd. If you can’t be there–and you will be missed–you can call the bookstore and order a copy for me to sign that night. They will charge postage, of course, but this is a great way to get a signed copy without flying all the way to Sarasota. Here’s the Bookstore One website with all the info. I’ll be signing between 6-7 PM.

So what did I learn?

I’m already hard at work on The Swallow’s Nest, next summer’s release. But as I write, the launch of Sisters is at the back of my mind. If you’ve read my novels you probably realize I’m one of those folks who sees a lesson in everything. So it’s no surprise that as each of my novels is published, I like to figure out what I learned from writing it.

For fun today, I’m going to share my Sisters list with you.

1–First person is more fun to write, but the book determines which point of view to use, not the author.

While I loved everything about writing my mystery series, Ministry is Murder, I loved it most because I could be directly in my amateur sleuth’s head. When the time came to write When We Were Sisters, I knew the story belonged to three characters, and I thought being directly in their thoughts would help give depth and insight. I took a chance and loved it. First person felt right from the first sentence to the last. I never had a doubt.

Fast forward? From the moment I began to plot The Swallow’s Nest, I was almost certain first person would be difficult if not impossible. As always I wrote my autobiographies in first to establish each character’s voice and personal story in my head. But when I tried the first chapter in first person–against my better judgment–it didn’t work. I rewrote it in third and it suddenly took off. Why? I’d be happy to tell you if I understood completely. I can tell you that not all the characters are going to be easy to sympathize with. A little distance will help.

2–Readers will bring their own experiences to your novel and like or dislike it for their own reasons.

Even though the book just came out I’ve already received some interesting reviews. As you’ll learn the story follows the lives of two foster sisters who have remained close in adulthood. But foster care and the welfare of children is a loaded subject. I’ve received several reviews that laud the even-handed way I explore the topic. I’ve received one that claims I’m on a soap box against the evils. Which is true? Readers bring their own life experiences, values and opinions to every book. Authors do, too. Here’s one of mine. I’m an adoptive parent, and my own daughter spent her early years in an orphanage. I will always be grateful to the nuns who took such excellent care of her. Good foster parents can’t be praised too highly.

3–Some things are worth fighting for.

I explored this subject in earlier blogs. I went to the mat to get a cover that I felt conveyed the story and drew in readers. (I got one.) But even though I was convinced my original title was great, I was disabused of that notion immediately. Luckily I saw my editor’s point. In the next weeks I tried to remain patient as my other “good ideas” were shot down. Then I came up with When We Were Sisters, and all of us liked it best anyway. I was smart to back off of one and continue to flog the other.

Psst. . . . Want to know the first title? Life After Love–from a Cher songMy editor said it sounded like a book about becoming a widow. I had to agree. When I told her next time I would write a book about a widow so I could use it, she said the title was still too depressing. And you know, she’s right.

4–Editors and trusted friends can spot what an author overlooks.

When I blogged last week I mentioned that my editor thought Cecilia might be the most interesting character in the book. Because she did I was more aware of Cecilia’s role in the story, and that definitely brought the book to life. I didn’t mention that after reading the final version my good friend author Diane Chamberlain suggested ramping up the tension in one spot. She was exactly right. Both times trusted pros gave valuable feedback. And let’s not forget my brilliant brainstorming buddies, who were in on this one from the beginning. I’ll be meeting with the group again in a week. Can’t wait!

5–Asking readers to help gets great results

This is the moment when I thank my Krewe of Review, a wonderful group of readers who gives me advice, reads my books and writes reviews to help other readers find them. And no, I do not tell them what to say.

6–There’s more than one way to promote a book.

While I’ll be doing tried and true book signings here in Sarasota and later in Palm Beach, I loved trying other things, most notably the When We Were Sisters playlist. I hope you’ve had a chance to listen.

Every book feels special, but some are harder to let go of than others. You know this as a reader, and I’ve learned it as an author. I’ll miss When We Were Sisters, but it helps to know it’s in good hands now. Enjoy, and let me know what you think.


  1. Elizabeth Brown on May 31, 2016 at 9:03 am

    My morning was made when I woke up and saw that When We Were Sisters had been delivered to my Kindle. I can’t wait to read it. That said, I didn’t realize that authors received less when purchased through a third party. I will now buy my books directly from the author. Thank you for being you.
    A longtime fan

    • Emilie Richards on May 31, 2016 at 3:31 pm

      Elizabeth, not to worry. Very few of us sell our novels directly. We use booksellers, who do take a cut, but it’s worth every penny to let them handle this. So use whoever you like best. You’re fine. So glad you got it on your Kindle. Let me know how you enjoy it.

  2. Marsha Markham on May 31, 2016 at 9:54 am

    This was so enjoyable to read. Glad you told what you had first named the book…When We Were Sisters is such a great title. 🙂
    I just posted my review on Amazon. It must be fun, when a book first comes out, to sit back and see how well it does. I think you’ve blown this one out of the park.
    I like the title Swallow’s Nest for the next one… hope it “flies”…

  3. Kathryn Trask on May 31, 2016 at 4:23 pm

    Congrats Emilie. An awesome day. You know I had first person (and even more present tense,) but you won me over, it really really worked in this one.

    • Emilie Richards on June 1, 2016 at 10:41 am

      So glad you read and liked it anyway. I used to feel the same way, but after reading so many mysteries, I began to like first. Present tense still takes some getting used to.

  4. Joni on May 31, 2016 at 9:57 pm

    Another great story!! Loved #5 on your blog!!
    Enjoy your summer at the lake house- some day I’ll have to drive up to see the beautiful scenery!!

    • Emilie Richards on June 1, 2016 at 10:40 am

      You would love the lake and the Victorian houses. It’s pretty wonderful at Chautauqua.

  5. Nancy Lepri on June 1, 2016 at 9:27 am

    Love your comments and realize how difficult it is to market and sell books. Used to be publishers used to do all the work, now the author has to do it in addition to writing a great book. But, once an author becomes known, I think a lot of the sales are due to previous novels as well as word of mouth. Luckily, your wonderful books have shown you to be an author people want to read. Kudos to you and keep those books coming.

    • Emilie Richards on June 1, 2016 at 10:39 am

      There’s really only so much we can do. I try to choose things I’ll enjoy, like the bios and the playlist. But in the end, you’re right. It’s the book that sells itself.

  6. Debbie Haupt on June 1, 2016 at 10:10 am

    Emilie I love reading your posts almost as much as I enjoy reading your books, almost 🙂
    I have never read a book of yours that I didn’t love, but I have to say that When We Were Sisters has to rate pretty high on the list of my favorites of yours. I especially love the way you handle the sometimes very difficult issues like the foster care system in this book and the homeless issue in the last of your Goddess books. You never fail to amaze me with your gracious and masterful storytelling. Brava for When We Were Sisters!

    • Emilie Richards on June 1, 2016 at 10:39 am

      Thank you so much, Debbie. I’m so glad you liked this one.

  7. carole walters on June 2, 2016 at 11:32 am


    • Emilie Richards on June 3, 2016 at 8:04 am

      I am so glad you enjoyed it, Carole. Thanks for letting me know.

  8. Sandra Brown (not the author!) on February 3, 2017 at 4:03 pm

    Hi Emily:

    I’m on page 180. I am so drawn into this book. I was not familiar with you as an author. I just now put the book down to see what reviews are out there. The way the storyline unfolds, the characters, the dialogue, it all just flows with such natural authenticity. You have a real gift for dialogue and expressing the characters’ thoughts and emotions so honestly and clearly that it is pure pleasure. Just resonates. Honestly, I was not expecting this calibre of writing. I am surprised that reviewers from more widely read papers have not written reviews on this book. Up to this point, it is a genuine find. So human, no false notes. Not black or white, just complex intelligent people struggling to deal with their baggage. Bravo. How the documentary process unwinds is also fun.
    Thanks, now on to page 181……

    I wish I had connections to the literary world. I’d used a megaphone to spread the word.

    • Emilie Richards on February 8, 2017 at 4:44 pm

      Wow, what a fabulous comment. Thank you so much. And darn, if you were that OTHER Sandra Brown, you would have those connections. 🙂 But thank you so much. I hope you enjoyed the rest of the book just as much.

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