Friendship forged through fiction

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Leigh Brown and Victoria Corliss aren’t related, but they’ve become such good friends and symbiotic business partners that they might as well be.

The pair of literary ladies have gone from individual careers with growing families to teaming up to write self-published books full time, and recently released their co-authored third novel under the women’s fiction genre, “The Pendulum’s Truth,” which is available on Amazon and at select small bookstores.

On a sunny Friday afternoon sitting in the parlor of Brown’s home in the Old Buttonwoods neighborhood of Warwick, with the wind-churned waters of Greenwich Bay visible from her front window, the topics of the day were spiritualism and fate, being open to so-called “signs” that provide guidance in times of life’s intermittent chaos and what it takes to craft an original novel.

“I think there’s a little bit of both of us in each of our stories, but they’re not at all autobiographical,” Corliss said with a laugh. “We’re very clear about that because we don’t want to start causing any family issues.”

Brown and Corliss write adult fiction primarily targeted to women. The stories feature strong female characters who must navigate complex problems, not to mention grapple with the purposeful twists and turns that the authors enjoy implementing to keep the reader guessing. The books shy away from making grand, political statements and instead opt for something much less assuming.

“We’re both avid readers,” Corliss said. “We know what we think is a good story based on books that we’ve enjoyed ourselves and so that’s what we strive to write – a good story that somebody will enjoy so much that they keep turning the pages. It’s not about addressing any particular issues.”

Brown met Corliss as a result of their sons playing in the same traveling baseball league. Naturally, the two bonded over the mutual appreciation of a book. In 2009, they decided to tackle a shared bucket list item – writing a novel – together. Nine years later, they have three self-published titles authored under their names – “Second Chances,” “The Pie Sisters,” and “The Pendulum’s Truth.”

More than finding true friendship in their relationship, Brown and Corliss have found complementary partners in their new book business. Corliss has a background in marketing, enabling her to reach out and get publicity for new releases. Brown was a corporate financial analyst, a numbers person, giving her the ability to handle the fiscal side of their publishing.

Then there’s the actual writing. Brown and Corliss both author chapters throughout the book, first forming an outline and coming to an understanding of what plot points have to happen and roughly when they should happen. Each draws on their own personal experiences, yet the story emerges cohesive and focused.

The process of writing their third book has been a journey, one that found the two friends talking to many people searching for inspiration and finding a common thread between those talks – the seemingly universal curiosity for things beyond our comprehension, such as questions pertaining to fate, who we are and where we fit in with our surroundings.

“The premise is everything happens for a reason,” Brown said of their most recent book. “Our main character is a young woman who believes that everything happens for a reason, and that she knows why it happens. So, someone gives her a pendulum to channel this gift that she has. She becomes a believer and is giving advice to friends and family and it gets her into trouble. She spends the second half of the book trying to decide how much responsibility she needs to accept for herself and really determine what is important in life.”

Corliss mentioned how she believes that individuals may sometimes come across certain signs that can provide some kind of guidance or insight that may help you figure out certain aspects of your own life, provided you are open to the possibility of such signs. In her case, a sign came in the form of a praying mantis that almost collided with her head one day when she walked into her kitchen. Initially planning on squashing the large insect, Corliss stopped and thought it might be a sign of something.

She had been going through some stressful, challenging times in her life, and in many cultures seeing a praying mantis is a sign that you should collect yourself and refocus your energy into being more mindful. She helped the mantis outside on a dustpan and used the moment as an inspiration to bring calmness back into her chaotic life.

“Maybe somebody else goes, ‘Oh that’s nonsense.’ But to us, it was like, okay, how many praying mantises flop into your kitchen on any given day?” pondered Brown. “I think when you get older, there are signs everywhere if you’re willing to look for them.”

“I do believe that signs come to you when you need them, the problem is that we’re not always open to them,” agreed Corliss. “I’m sure I’ve seen so many more signs in my lifetime that I just have not been in tune to. This one literally almost hit me on the head as it was flying by and made me think I should take a second and think about it.”

“The Pendulum’s Truth” is available online and in bookstores such as Stillwater Books in Pawtucket and Pine Swamp Place in Cumberland. Corliss and Brown are already discussing the possibilities for their next book.

“We’re very lucky,” said Brown. “The friendship has grown and the writing has grown. We feel doubly blessed.”

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