"All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel Mother." - Abraham Lincoln
There are few relationships as complex and weighty as the one between mother and daughter. She can be your best friend, your biggest supporter, your toughest critic and your sounding board. Daughters grow up watching their mothers work, either at home or in an office. Some choose to break off and do things in a completely different style than their mother, hoping to forge their own unique path through life. Others find themselves so inspired by their mother's actions that they want to follow in her steps.
Never is the mother-daughter relationship more beautifully explored than through literature. So what happens when mother or daughter is a successful writer and the other has followed in those footsteps? What's the life of mother-daughter writers like and how does that change the landscape of such an intense relationship?
In Lisa Scottoline and her daughter Francesca Serritella's most recent collaboration, Best Friends, Occasional Enemies: The Lighter Side of Life as a Mother and Daughter, the duo reflects on a relationship that defines them and discusses the lessons they learn from each other.
"I tell her, if it makes you cringe to tell it, then that's exactly what you should write about, because then you're a voice for others. And it doesn't get better than that," says Scottoline. "I was encouraging of Francesca's writing. That's a mother's job, in my opinion - love, encourage, and overfeed. She's a more lyrical writer than I am, and almost poetic. I'm a car-chase kind of girl, and in some ways, I've learned from her."
Could there be a better stamp of endorsement than from one's own mother, who happens to be a New York Times Bestseller?
"Although I admire my mother's writing enormously, I'm careful not to turn her into my editor. The world will provide me with plenty of critics but I only get one mom. So I try to protect her role as mom and cheerleader," notes Serritella.
Another famous mother-daughter duo are the puzzle solvers, Mary Higgins Clark and her daughter, Carol Higgins Clark.
"The advice she gave me about writing was to just do it! Get it down. Don't edit yourself. There will be editing done later. The hardest part for writers is starting, then worrying if what they're writing is any good - that can be paralyzing for people who want to write," says Carol. "Before I started writing I learned about the publishing industry by watching my mother's career."
When the duo collaborated on their first book, Deck the Halls, they wrote it side by side.
"My mother and I would sit and write every word together. It was a lot of fun," says Carol. "Writing is fulfilling, but it can be lonely. That's why the experience of collaborating with my mother has been so wonderful. I get to spend time with her doing what we both love to do."
Mary is often asked if she encouraged her daughter to pursue a career in writing. "I was more than encouraging. I was delighted to learn that Carol was writing a book! It's always strange that anyone would think that I could not be anything but pleased. If a doctor's child decides to become a doctor, everyone thinks it's wonderful. Why not the same for an author?" says Mary.
Another recent collaboration project between mother and daughter comes from the prolific bestseller Jodi Picoult and her sixteen-year-old daughter, Samantha van Leer. The two are collaborating on a young adult novel, Between the Lines, which will be released in July.
"I was making up stories before I could even write," explains Samantha. "I never really thought about publishing them - even though it is what my mom does for a living. When I came up with the idea for this book and my mom asked me if I wanted to write it with her, I was excited. It was sort of like we were having the same dream and seeing exactly the same images in our heads, so that when we were writing we were telepathic."
Samantha, who is still unsure if a writing career is something she wants to pursue, has full support from her mother.
"She is a much better writer than I ever was at her age. I know she's going to be blown away by the power her words have had on some readers when she meets them on tour this summer."
As supportive as Picoult is of her daughter pursuing her passions, she's still a protective mother.
"I am very happily acting as a Tiger Mom during this process, to make sure that the publishing industry doesn't chew her up and spit her out the way it does to some writers."
Not all mother-daughter writers collaborate. Some choose to explore different literary paths but still seek the counsel of their family member. Hilma Wolitzer, author of nine novels including the most recent, An Available Man, credits her daughter Meg Wolitzer with keeping her own passion burning.
"I did encourage Meg to write because she showed such an early gift for it. I might have gotten her started, but she often keeps me going." Although the two don't collaborate on the page, they work together in other ways, "We exchange actual work more than ideas, and comment honestly and constructively on each other's drafts. To paraphrase E.B. White, it is not often that someone comes along who is a dear daughter, a true friend and a good writer. Meg is all three," Hilma says.
In certain circumstances, it is the daughter who inspires the mother. In the case of Jeanne Ray and Ann Patchett, it was Ann who found her literary voice first and urged her mother to do the same.
"Ann, who always believed she would become a writer, also always believed I WAS a writer. She read the poems or short stories I wrote for pleasure, and seemed to have complete faith that I could write. Ann mentored and encouraged me all the way. She still does," explains Ray whose latest book Calling Invisible Women comes out this month.
Patchett goes into further detail, "I was my mother's personal trainer. I barked at her a lot. I was very encouraging of her having a career in publishing."
When asked what kind of advice Patchett provided her mother, she said, "To stay on top of all the details and don't ever just think someone else will get things done. I felt very protective of her and I still do. My mother's a real sweetheart. Nobody wants to see their mom get anything but great reviews."
A mother-daughter publishing duo whose entire family has been involved in the publishing industry is Carolyn See and her daughter, Lisa See.
"Our whole family is and has been involved in writing. My life partner, John Espey, was a meticulous novelist; my dad wrote and published 73 volumes of hard core pornography. It was only natural that my two daughters, Lisa See and Clara Sturak, would write as soon as they could hold a pen (or pencil). I really didn't have to encourage them; it was just something we did, either separately or together," says Carolyn See. "I want to say that I'm in awe, not just of Lisa's success, but of the elegant quality of her writing. Her prose is terrific. I'd take her books with me to a desert island, and never get tired of reading them."
Lisa is equally as smitten with her mother's writing.
"I wouldn't have become a writer, if not for my mom. And I wouldn't have become the writer I became without my mom's influence and support," says Lisa.
They have never collaborated on a published project together, but Lisa has been working alongside her mom since childhood.
"I've been reading my mom's manuscripts since I was twelve or thirteen. I honestly don't know what I could have offered her back then in terms of helpful criticism, but that process was like an apprenticeship for me. My mom is one of five people who read the manuscript for my new novel. I trust her completely. She doesn't have a personal, professional, or business agenda. She just loves me, and she's a great writer and critic."
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