Local friends, co-authors, enjoying the power of women’s fiction

Local friends, co-authors, enjoying the power of women’s fiction

Leigh Brown, left, and Vikki Corliss are best friends and co-authors of three women’s fiction books. (Breeze photo by Ethan Shorey)

CUMBERLAND – Vikki Corliss and Leigh Brown met by chance through their sons’ travel AAU baseball games a decade ago, the two striking up a conversation after Corliss saw Brown reading a book at a game one day.

Now friends and co-authors since 2009, the two have released their third title, “The Pendulum’s Truth,” as part of a partnership that has them both making a living through what has grown to a $24 billion women’s fiction industry.

Corliss, a long-time Cumberland resident, said she and Brown believe that readers of fiction are often more empathetic than others. Studies show that fiction readers often can and do imagine themselves into the stories they read. Connecting with the characters and the positions they find themselves in enables them to better understand and cooperate with people in the real world, say these two.

“At some unconscious level, I think this theory has shaped and honed our writing, too,” said Corliss. “From the start, we always inserted little bits of ourselves into our stories; a place that is special to us, a memorable experience, or someone who made a lasting impression. Avid readers ourselves, we would try to mimic the books we most enjoyed; how they made us feel, how they kept us interested.”

“Our stories are make-believe, but their relatability is real,” adds Brown, of Warwick. “They have a universal appeal that seems to strike a chord with our readers.”

These stories are inspired by real emotions and twists and turns of life.

“They’re not real people, but in some fashion they are real stories,” said Corliss.

The main character in women’s fiction is almost always a woman, with the story told around her life and challenges, but Corliss and Brown steer clear of the romance genre that’s also popular.

“It taps into our own real life, sometimes it’s our fantasies of how we want our life to be,” Corliss said.

Women’s fiction is commercial fiction about women’s issues, written primarily for a female readership, and accounts for 40 percent of adult popular fiction sold in the U.S.

Corliss and Brown are both dear friends and business partners. Brown is the finance person, uniquely combining that experience with a creative mind and interior design background, said Corliss, who has a background in marketing and uses that expertise to get their self-published books out to the widest audience possible.

Surveys show that women read more than men, and also buy more books than men, said Corliss, making this an industry ripe for the taking.

Both avid readers who enjoy many of the same authors, like Karen White or Elin Hilderbrand, “queen of the beach read,” they say they know what they like and write stories they would want to read themselves.

And while learning through nonfiction has value, the books these two write are for fun.

“Sometimes you want to come away learning something, to get a better education, but a lot of times you just want to be entertained,” said Brown.

Some readers might go on a bit of a journey of self-discovery, said Corliss, but the ultimate goal here is to provide a good read with some twists and turns that leave one feeling a bit unsettled at times.

“The Pendulum’s Truth” is the story of Ava Dell, a protagonist, with a twist. Like many people, Dell firmly believes that everything happens for a reason, but unlike her friends and family, she also believes she knows why it happens. She happily shares her insights with the people she loves, providing them guidance and affirmations until the day her awareness fails her. When tragedy results, Dell suddenly finds herself in a moral and emotional dilemma, according to a summary of the book.

Readers follow along as the choices Dell makes come back to bite her, said Brown and Corliss. It’s especially relatable because there’s no one who hasn’t made a mistake in life.

The Brown Corliss Books library also includes earlier titles, “Second Chances” and “The Pie Sisters.”

Corliss said she and Brown have grown together as friends and writers, learning to meld their distinct writing styles and spurring one another on if needed. With two writers on one book, with a person to bounce ideas off of, the writing is never going to stall due to writer’s block, said Corliss. Working together really pushes the story “to its better form” in a way that can’t be done with one writer, said Brown. Marathon brainstorming sessions flesh out the characters and make for a more complex and sharper storyline.