It’s a journey that has led her to her dream ... by producing some nightmarish, spine-tingling page-turners.
Inspired by a true story, Coon Rapids’ Jennifer DeVries has turned in her second novel in thriller “Sister Lost,” released at the end of 2021 under the pen name Brenda Lyne.
“I’ve known from a very early age that I wanted to be a writer — specifically, a novelist,” DeVries said. “But I ended up not taking that path back in college, opting instead to follow a business career that would allow me to write in some capacity. It’s a compromise that has served me well, allowed me to make a decent living and support my family, but I never felt truly fulfilled. In 2018 I decided it was time to start doing what I knew I was meant to do. I took a short story class at The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, and I haven’t stopped writing since. I no longer spend time restlessly wondering what I want to be when I grow up. I’m finally doing it, finally feeling fulfilled, and I couldn’t be happier.”
“Sister Lost” was inspired by a true story of a toddler killed by her mother and hidden in a closet for 20 years.
“The story captivated me, and I wondered what it must have been like to live in that house, to be the girl’s haunted mother, and to be the twin brother she left behind,” DeVries said. “I was inspired to use those questions as the foundation for a fictional novel.
“‘Sister Lost’ and my first novel, ‘Charlie’s Mirror,’ both rolled around in my head for a solid two decades. The Latanisha Carmichael story hit the news back in 1999, and I finally sat down and put words to paper after I finished writing ‘Charlie’s Mirror’ in 2019. The actual writing process was similar, but it felt a little easier with ‘Sister Lost’ because I’d done it once already. I also felt a little braver with ‘Sister Lost,’ a bit more empowered to do and say things I might not have the first time around. That’s held true for my third book as well, which is currently underway.”
The novel follows Minneapolis single mother Lexie Novak as she and her 4-year-old daughter Ava build their new life after living under the thumb of Lexie’s manipulative and emotionally distant mother.
The back cover puts it this way:
As soon as Lexie and Ava move into their new house on Washburn Avenue, the strange phenomena begin. Ava, normally a bright and happy girl, sleepwalks and throws violent tantrums. Lexie suffers from terrible nightmares, raging heartburn and debilitating headaches.
With the help of neighbor Ryan Laughlin, Lexie and Ava must race to uncover the house’s tragic history and find the source of the strange phenomena before they become its next victims. Can they figure out who’s haunting the House on Washburn Avenue and reunite a dying man with his long-lost twin sister before it’s too late?
“I know they will enjoy Ava, the 4-year-old daughter of the book’s main character Lexie,” DeVries said. “She is a breath of fresh air, and probably my favorite character that I’ve written so far. I think readers will like the process that Lexie goes through to uncover the history of her house, and they may even get a little thrill and chill from the antics of Melissa Ann, another 4-year-old girl whose short life was cut tragically short. From a thematic perspective, I hope they appreciate how Lexie overcomes challenges in her life to grow and evolve as a person throughout the story.”
DeVries is one of several local authors who will be featured at the upcoming Anoka County Library Local Author Fair at Northtown Library Feb. 12. Her novels can be found at major book retailers.