Wednesdays with Writers: Jane Corry talks about her second novel, BLOOD SISTERS, how glass as art is both beautiful yet lethal, the bond of sisters, her love for her grandchildren & watercolors and so much more


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Three girls. Two sisters. One  dead. BLOOD SISTERS is a tangled web of adolescent deception looking from the present to the past with an eye toward justice. 

Having read–and enjoyed–Corry’s first book, MY HUSBAND’S WIFE (January 2017), I was super-excited to get my hands on this gorgeous book, BLOOD SISTERS (January 2018). The beginning few pages completely pulled me in: a woman in her early-mid 30’s who happens to teach stained glass at a local college.

BLOOD SISTERS is a slightly different kind of tale—one that is ripe with old secrets, sibling rivalry and justice.

BLOOD SISTERS is a split-perspective of two adult sisters in the present looking back at a horrific accident that left Kitty paralyzed with a traumatic brain injury (TBI), unable to speak, and aggressive/hostile at times. Kitty lives in an institution and has nearly every need tended to. Meanwhile, Alison is living in London with one eye over her shoulder: she’s waiting for the bottom to drop from an event that happened when the girls were teenagers. 

Just what happened? 

That story is unspooled as we dive into the past, told mostly from Alison’s POV.  

Corry also takes us inside a men’s prison, which is drawn from her own experience as a writer-in-residence at a prison herself. It’s quite eye-opening.

Please join us in conversation.

Leslie Lindsay:  Jane, welcome back. BLOOD SISTERS is a complex tale of sibling rivalry, emotional scars, deception, and the varying definition of ‘truth.’  I’m curious what inspired this tale? Was it a character? A situation? A place?

Jane Corry: All these subjects are part of my life. When you’ve worked in a prison for two days a week over three years, it’s hard to get it out of your head. This is strange really because I never wanted to go into a prison. However, I took the job as writer in residence after my first marriage ended. It showed me another world. BLOOD SISTERS depicts a different view because Alison – one of my main characters –  takes a job in prison just as I did. Lily in MY HUSBAND’S WIFE visits it occasionally to see her client but she doesn’t spend so much time inside.  

L.L.: Your first book, MY HUSBAND’S WIFE, focused on similar themes as BLOOD SISTERS: art and prison.  What prompted your return to these subjects?

Jane Corry: I started dabbling in watercolours as an adult. Looking back, I’d always been interested in the subject but there were so many good artists at school that I felt intimidated. Then I went to a class and found that I had a ‘loose style’. This helps me sketch scenes for my settings. I made Alison into an artist because I wanted her to have a job which was very expressive. But again, I use this theme in a different way from BLOOD SISTERS. This time, one of the paintings contains a clue in the plot. 

L.L.:  I have to say—stained glass! My grandfather was quite accomplished in the field and I’ve been writing about his art and process lately in a slightly fictionalized manner. It felt a bit surreptitious when I picked up BLOOD SISTERS and there it was on the first page. How did this medium work its way into the narrative?

Jane Corry: What a co-incidence! Stained glass was a real find of mine five years ago. I’d always loved the way that  light filters through coloured glass. I’d also had ‘Go To A Stained Glass Workshop’ on my ’to do’ list.  Then my second husband and I moved to the sea and I found myself in a community of artists. To  my delight, I discovered a nearby stained glass workshop and immediately decided that it would be a perfect job for a character. Glass can be beautiful and also lethal. 

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L.L.: There are a lot of institutions in BLOOD SISTERS. There’s the prison, the care facility where Kitty lives after her TBI (traumatic brain injury) and then school (and also the college where Alison teaches). In many cases, all of those settings are like living in a fish bowl. Can you expand on that?

Jane Corry: Fishbowl settings are  a great way to link characters together. My aim is to create two or three ‘communal landscapes’  which turn out to be connected – even though the reader doesn’t know it at the time. I spent some time doing research and treatment in a brain injury unit. I thought it would be depressing but in fact it was uplifting. I met some incredible patients and staff. They showed me it was possible to have a sense of humour in the face of adversity. 

L.L.: I’m so intrigued with your work in the prison system. I understand you are/were a writer-in-residence. Can you tell us what that entails and if you still do it?

Jane Corry: As a writer in residence, I helped men who had committed some terrible crimes to write novels, short stories, poems and letters home. They didn’t have to come to my classes – they were voluntary. So I had advertise my wares by putting up posters and pushing leaflets under cell doors. I didn’t have a guard looking after me and at first I was nervous. I was only threatened on a couple of occasions and each time the other men came to my rescue. I discovered a lot of talent and entered my men for national competitions which some of them won. This increased their self-esteem which in turn reduced the risk of re- offending. However  I found it emotionally exhausting. I was also a single mother at the time. I would have to pull off the road sometimes on the way home from the prison because I needed to close my eyes. I now do voluntary work by running occasional workshops in prisons and am also a judge for the Koestler Awards which gives prizes to writers and artists in prisons and mental institutions.

L.L.: What do you hope readers take away from BLOOD SISTERS?

Jane Corry: I hope readers will re-examine relationships – especially if they have a sister! There are so many issues at play here. But in the end, it’s a bond which is always there , however hard you try to ignore it. I also hope they will be intrigued and entertained by the twists and turns in the plot.

L.L.: What’s obsessing you these days? It doesn’t have to be literary.

Jane Corry: I’m obsessed by my grandchildren! I’m a fairly young grannie and am lucky enough to live round the corner from my daughter and her little family. There’s nothing like the wonder on young children’s faces when they see a leaf or a bird to make you value the every day miracles of life.

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L.L.: Jane, it’s been a pleasure! What question should I have asked, but forgot?

Jane Corry: You’ve done a great job with your questions, Leslie! I love being interviewed by you. However, you might be wondering if I’ve been to the United States.

The answer is yes. Each time , it’s been a pivotal part of my life. I visited New York with my first husband, shortly before our divorce after a long marriage. Then I went again with my youngest son – the year after the divorce – which was a big thing for me to do on my own. Later, I learned to enjoy my own company in Boston. I remember taking a trip round the harbour and wondering what the future would hold! And then I returned to New York three years ago with my second husband! We also went to Atlanta  to visit Margaret Mitchell’s house because I’ve always loved GONE WITH THE WIND. I’d love to come out to the USA again!

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For more information, to connect with the author via social media, or to purchase a copy of BLOOD SISTERS, please see: 

Order Links: 

Jane Corry_credit_Justine Stoddart (high res) - croppedABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jane Corry is a writer and journalist and has spent time as the writer in residence of a high-security prison for men—an experience that helped inspire the book. Jane has been a features writer for the following publications: The Times; The Daily Telegraph; The Daily Express; Woman’s Own; Good Housekeeping; Woman & Home and many others. She runs regular writing workshops and speaks at literary festivals worldwide, including The Women’s Fiction Festival in Matera, Italy. Until recently, she was a tutor in creative writing at Oxford University.

You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, via these websites: 

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[Cover and author image courtesy of Viking/Pamela Dorman Books and used with permission. All images retrieved 3.29.18.  NYC/Central Park retrieved from;  , Jane’s watercolors from her Instagram account; stained glass tree retrieved from ]

 

 

 

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