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The Family Business

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Even if you've never heard of her, Sharon Baldacci's name probably sounds familiar. But the older sister of the international best-selling author of "Absolute Power," David, has never taken a ride on her brother's coattails.

At 25, after graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University in 1979, the elder Baldacci was forced to give up her career in journalism at a county paper when her eyesight, hearing and mobility became compromised by multiple sclerosis. Now living in Northumberland County, the 51-year-old mother of two is quick to laugh and mostly sees the glass as half-full.

Style talked with Sharon Baldacci about writing her first novel, "A Sundog Moment" and having a high-powered little brother.

How was the transition from journalism to fiction?

Baldacci: It was devastating to lose my little journalism career. When David let me read "Absolute Power," I said, "I don't have an imagination like that; it's too hard." I was exhausted most of the time. I finally started writing, and I got up to 250 pages of really bad fiction. And then I got the idea for "Sundog." It started as a play. I thought if I can't be in a play, I'll write one.

What is the central theme?

It's a book about when choices are taken away. It's a book about faith, but it's more than that: It's a way of engendering conversation and making people think. There's some people who get hit hard with something, and they look down and they can't get above it. But there's only so much you can do with bitter. I know, because I used to be like that.

What is a "sundog moment"?

It's a personal moment that surprises you. A tangible moment of hope that you can't explain. The sundogs play prominently in the book even though I can't see them. But it's OK; I can see rainbows. For a long time everything was black and white. It's incredible when you get something back that was taken away.

Were you ever worried that people would clump your writing with your brother's?

Not at all. We write so differently. We grew up on Alfred Hitchcock, the Three Investigators series and he loved that and he did Sherlock Holmes stuff and mysteries, and I was into other things -- journalism and news magazines.

What is it like having an international best seller as a brother?

David, the youngest, got all the energy in the family. He's all over the world, and we're like, can we take a nap? He's always going to be my baby brother. I'm still surprised when I have to look up to see him.

Are you working on anything new?

I'm sending my revised manuscript, "Reflected Light," out to different agents. I'm also working on a sequel to "Sundogs." The backdrop will be the Anglo-Episcopal split. I've been collecting other people's sundog moments. S

Sharon Baldacci will speak at the Hanover Festival of the Book Saturday, Aug. 4, 1:30-2 p.m. The festival runs 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m. at VFW Post 9808, 7168 Flag Lane in Mechanicsville. In addition to 50 authors from all over Virginia, there will be workshops on subjects from publishing to how to use animals as characters in novels. Also, there's a classic car show and a live performance by Hearts Afire. For more information, call 779-2660 or e-mail hanoverwriters@comcast.net.

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