New York Times bestseller Wendy Corsi Staub, a Katonah resident, has authored more than 75 books. She also writes women's fiction under the pseudonym Wendy Markham and her titles have appeared on the USA Today, Barnes and Noble Top Ten, and Bookscan bestseller lists. She recently concluded a new suspense trilogy with the release of SHADOWKILLER coming in Feb. 2013.
She kicks off a national book tour with her publisher, Harper Collins, and fellow author, Alison Gaylin, at Little Joe's on February 6 at 7 p.m.
Patch: Your latest book—and a few previous novels—are set in a fictionalized Katonah. What makes this area an attractive setting?
Wendy Corsi Staub: Yes, I’ve visited a fictionalized Katonah for my psychological suspense novels—and the women's fiction novels I've written as Wendy Markham. The bucolic suburban backdrop for a thriller always seems to strike a chord with my readers. There’s something truly unsettling about the idea of danger striking close to home, particularly in the kind of picture-perfect town where people escape to raise their families a safe distance from what may be perceived as the big, bad city. Readers can identify with my characters, because they recognize their own lives in them. Setting plays a big role in that.
Patch: The trailer for this book is downright chilling! Where do you draw inspiration from for this genre, or what motivates you to write suspense/thrillers? Do you like scary movies?
WCS: Thank you—I’m really proud of the trailer. For inspiration—from the time I was a kid, I’ve always appreciated a good slap your forehead in the end whodunnit. I like plots in which things that aren’t what they seem, in which villains are masked behind familiar faces. I read a lot of nonfiction, and I’m a news junkie. I draw inspiration from real life, and from my dark imagination. Twists and turns, blindsides and well-masked villains are some of the trademark elements of my suspense fiction. I have readers and booksellers who have hung in there with me over a twenty-year career and nearly eighty books. Where would I be without them? So I work hard with every new book to deliver what they expect and deserve. Most days, that’s my purest, simplest motivation. I like scary movies as long as they aren’t mindless slasher films. They have to be well-written and have a good twist. Orphan, The Sixth Sense, Primal Fear—I always love a good blindside. But at this point, for me, those are few and far between: I’m hard to fool because I plot this stuff for a living and I can usually see a “twist” coming from a mile away.
Patch: Congratulations on being named a finalist for the Mary Higgins Clark award! What does the recognition mean to you, and when will you find out if you've won?
WCS: Thank you! For me, it’s particularly meaningful. When I was in sixth grade, I graduated from Nancy Drew to Mary Higgins Clark’s “Where Are the Children,” which was making the rounds of our Junior High Study Hall. I was immediately hooked on the fast-paced plot and domestic setting, and went on to read every MHC book I could get my hands on. From there, I springboarded to other mystery and suspense authors, becoming a huge fan of the genre—studying it, really, because I realized that these were the kinds of books I wanted to write one day. (I had already decided, in third grade, that I’d become an author when I grew up.) Imagine my shock when, back in 2011, Mystery Writers of America released their list of Edgar Award nominees and I found myself a finalist for the Mary Higgins Clark Award. A highlight of my career was having the lovely, gracious Mary herself—my childhood idol—tell me that she’d read and enjoyed my work. To have received this nomination a second time, two years later, is an incredible honor and thrill. The award is presented by Simon and Schuster in conjunction with Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Week Symposium held every spring in New York City. Mary personally announces the winner at a special reception the night before the Edgar Awards gala, which this year will occur in May.
Patch: What do you do when you're not writing? Do you enjoy life in Northern Westchester?
WCS: Our firstborn was a baby when my husband and I chose Katonah. We wanted to live just a stone’s throw from the city, but wanted our kids to enjoy a true small town upbringing—not just a transient, bedroom community atmosphere—and that’s Katonah. We have a close network of friends and neighbors in town whom we consider family—celebrating birthdays, holidays and milestones together for many years now. I’ve been on the giving and receiving end of support in a crisis, and I know that it’s just how people are in this town. Our boys have gone through the local public schools—now, our oldest is about to graduate from John Jay! I love that this is the kind of town you don’t ever have to leave in order to go about your daily business; we’ve always done most of our shopping and dining at locally owned businesses. Since the kids were little, we’ve spent a few afternoons in the library as a family every month, sometimes researching or studying but often just sitting and reading. Most afternoons, I take a break from writing to take a walk through town and up into the hilly trails in the park, and in the summer, I swim laps in the pool there. I love my life here. Katonah is home, and I wouldn’t live anywhere else.
You can read more about Wendy Corsi Staub, visit her author website at www.wendycorsistaub.com, follow her on twitter or facebook
or meet other readers at www.wendycorsistaubcommunity.com.