Versailles mother-daughter duo write novels from very different perspectives

Novelists Heather Sunseri,  left, and her 15-year-old daughter Maggie at their home on Monday May 18, 2014  in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff
Novelists Heather Sunseri, left, and her 15-year-old daughter Maggie at their home on Monday May 18, 2014 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff Herald-Leader

VERSAILLES — Heather Sunseri never saw herself as a writer until she was a certified public accountant and a long-married mother of two.

Then one day, the writing bug hit her.

"So many people say they've written all their lives," Sunseri said. "I was not one of those people."

She wrote a first book "that will never see the light of day."

The second book she wrote, while not yet published, is now being re-worked for publication.

Her third book launched her Mindspeak series. Mindspeak ($12.60, paperback) combines dystopia, science fiction and romance, featuring a group of cloned individuals who discover that they have additional powers because their genetic material was altered.

That epiphanic moment about being a writer happened much earlier for her 15-year-old daughter, Maggie.

Even as a child, Maggie knew that, fascinated by words and stories as she was, they would be her life.

Heather Sunseri grew up in Bourbon County, earned her accounting degree from the University of Kentucky and worked at accounting companies including Dean, Dorton & Ford, Potter & Company and Blue & Co. She worked in tax accounting and with horse farms.

"This (writing) is just another business," Heather Sunseri, 43, said. "One of my specialties was small business. ... I tackled it like I would an industry for any client."

In the Mindspeak series, Heather Sunseri said, she explores "all these consequences of playing with science" as seen in the lives of young people who find they have been born with extra, and very specific, gifts.

In the first book, Mindspeak, the young characters "all start on this self-discovery."

The books for the Sunseris, mother and daughter, are all self-published.

Heather is now a full-time writer, and, she said that between hard-copy sales and online downloads, she is "making more as a novelist than I was as a CPA."

Now, Sunseri's business model is to have two book series cooking at the same time. The book Emerge ($14 print, $3.99 Amazon Kindle) starts her second dystopian romance series, which follows life after a highly contagious virus wipes out most of the world's population.

Nonetheless, she thought long and hard before stepping away from accounting to be a full-time writer.

"A lot of planning went into it before I left," Heather Sunseri said. "I'm not a huge risk-taker. ... But I knew I couldn't take this to the next level unless I did."

She added: "And Maggie is making more than she ever did as a soccer referee, a job she's held for 5 years."

Maggie Sunseri is a sophomore at Woodford County High School. She described her literary influences as including the Harry Potter series — "I gobbled up the seventh" — and Lois Duncan (I Know What You Did Last Summer, Gallows Hill). Maggie Sunseri's debut novel, Awaken, was inspired by George Orwell's 1984 and Lois Lowry's The Giver.

She began writing the book as a summer project when she was 14 and by the end of August was close to finished. By October it was completed.

Mike Sunseri, a Kentucky Legislative Research Commission photographer and public information specialist, is married to Heather and the father of Maggie and the Sunseris' younger child, Robert. The family also includes an ebullient golden retriever and a reticent cat.

Maggie Sunseri's Awaken ($3.99, Amazon Kindle) follows the life of a girl who loses a year's worth of memories and, as she tries to recover them, discovers the truth about her society and government.

"She's starting to remember who she is," Maggie Sunseri said.

While the novel leaves itself open to a sequel, it doesn't end with questions hanging in the air, Maggie Sunseri said: "It wraps up nicely. There are no cliffhangers."

The mother-daughter writing duo said they have contrasting styles. Heather Sunseri is more action-oriented in her plotting, while Maggie Sunseri describes her work as more literary and character-driven.

The mother and daughter, who look a great deal alike, attribute their different writing styles to disparate life experiences.

"Your world view comes through in your writing," Heather Sunseri said.