DEBORAH CROMBIE: I had the pleasure at Bouchercon in Albany a few weeks ago of sitting at a signing table next to the very charming Wendy Corsi Staub. I've been a fan but our paths had never connected directly. Listening to her talk to readers about her new book, I found the subject so compelling that I asked her to tell us about it here on Jungle Red.
WENDY CORSI STAUB: I’ve been writing suburban noir for nearly two decades now. I didn’t know that until a few months ago, when I stumbled across magazine article about the astronomical success of Gillian Flynn’s terrific novel GONE GIRL and how it had spawned a “new” subgenre: twist-filled suspense novels about danger striking close to home. My books certainly fit that bill, though I’d always called them domestic psychological suspense; my publisher’s marketing team called them “Mom Jep” (moms-in-jeopardy). Whatever you call it, my forte is writing about ordinary people in the ordinary world that most of us inhabit; people who cross paths with life-threatening, extraordinary circumstances.
Whenever someone asks me whether I ever, after having published close to 80 novels, run out of ideas, the answer is “Of course not!” The follow-up question is, invariably, “Where do you get your ideas?”
The short answer: It’s complicated. The shorter answer: I’m nosy.
Most writers are. People fascinate us. People we know well, people we meet in passing, total strangers glimpsed from afar--what they say, what they do, where they go, how they think…
Every human encounter I make is fraught with “what if” possibilities. Snippets of overheard conversations, magazine articles, thrift shop postcards, Dateline episodes, the nightly news: all of the above have triggered ideas begging to be transformed into fiction.
A few years back, when my publicist encouraged me to set up a Facebook page for promotional purposes, I quickly realized that not only was it a great way to interact with readers and fellow authors, but I could also stay in touch with faraway family, reconnect with long lost friends--and tap into a whole new realm of people-watching.
Some people complain about the mundane status updates posted on Facebook. Not me. I’d found the motherload of ordinary people in ordinary settings, ripe for my twisted suburban noir scenarios. When someone’s status changes overnight from “in a relationship” to “it’s complicated,” my “what if” wheels start turning. I actually care what someone had for breakfast if it generates some fictional scenario in my writer’s brain. And I’m riveted by the intimate details people post for their Friends-with-a-capital-F (or, depending on their privacy settings, the whole world) to see.
For my latest three-book contract with HarperCollins, I proposed a trio of “suburban noir” novels linked by a social media theme and the common tagline: Do you know who’s really lurking behind a screenname?
The first book, THE GOOD SISTER, is about a fictionalized Facebook (aka “Peopleportal”); the upcoming THE PERFECT STRANGER is about blogging, and THE BLIND DATE is about internet matchmaking sites.
THE GOOD SISTER features a suburban mom, Jen, formerly the popular girl at her all-girls Catholic high school. Now her daughter is a freshman there, but shy, plump, and insecure, Carley is targeted by bullies. Jen feels helpless as her daughter seeks solace from an online friend, “Angel”--who isn’t who she claims to be.
THE GOOD SISTER explores the dangers of sharing personal information and trusting the wrong people online; the paradoxical isolation spawned by more means of staying “connected” than ever before; and the technology phenomenon that has alienated a generation of teenagers from their parents and from each other, as interpersonal communication is increasingly replaced by electronic communication via text messaging and social media.
Do you use social media? How? And what precautions do you take—or teach your children to take? One commenter will be randomly selected to win their choice of a print or e-book copy of THE GOOD SISTER.
DEBS: Here's a trailer--very creepy! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MH7VkwvKqOc
I find the premise of this book just terrifying. Thinking about teenagers and the internet makes me glad my own daughter is grown, but I wonder how I should deal with my fictional teenager. Like Wendy, I always want to know how parents of teenagers (and now even younger children) deal with their children's access to the internet.
Any strategies, REDS and readers?