Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Wendy Corsi Staub--Suburban Noir

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!  

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?


  1. Most of the whole social media thing escapes me . . . I’m not good at keeping up a Facebook page, I don’t feel compelled to tell the world what I had for breakfast, and twitter is a mystery to me. It’s a frightening thing to consider how Internet postings can go so wrong and what teens think is okay to share can become their worst nightmare . . . and I really don’t think everyone understands that if you put it out there, it’s there forever . . . . Unfortunately, I haven’t got a clue when it comes to strategies for all this . . . .
    Wendy, I always enjoy your books and I’m looking forward to reading this trio of what I’m sure will be spine-tingling, hide-under-the-covers scary good stories . . . .

  2. I love Suburban Noir, Domestic Suspense, whatever you call it. If I have a go-to genre, I think that would be it.

    This trio of books sounds excellent. As a blogger (albeit a book blogger), I am particularly interested in Book Two.

    I have so far managed to avoid Facebook. It's looking more and more like I need to jump into that realm because of the continued popularity of my blog, but that would be the sole purpose. I just see no reason to venture into that minefield on a personal level.

    I completely agree with Deborah, to be a parent of a younger child in this new age of technology must make the already difficult job even more so. There sre just so many unknowns.

    Thanks for stopping by Wendi. I'm off to order this book (since somehow I missed it at Bouchercon) ;(

  3. As someone who stares at the little keyhole camera on my screen and wonders if anyone is looking back at me, these books sound right up my alley. Love suburban noir, though -- it's been around forever but now it's got a name. AKA domestic noir.

    I confess I love Facebook. Like you, Wendy, I revel in the conversations. Right now we're talking about orange (it's everywhere out there), free associating to the orange felt outfits I had to wear when I was on the Beverly hills High School drill team. Talk about pit reek.

  4. Kristopher, thanks for ordering--Harper put it in some of the B'Con bags so it was luck of the draw. I was signing ARCs at the opening reception (between sips of wine from a very large plastic cup, very necessary after that elevator line!) ;-)

  5. Joan, thanks for reading! As an author and adult, I'm much more interested in Facebook than Twitter, though I'm trying to get into tweeting, strictly for PR, though. Not as much fascinating info available to snoop through in 140 characters. As a mom to teenagers, I'm terrified of any and all social media.

  6. Hallie, doing a live chat later today at Book Trib and can't tell you how unnerved I've been about that keyhole camera ever since we did the trial run yesterday. Last night I felt as though the portal was still open and the world was watching me scarf down my crushed-peanut-covered caramel apple in my ratty pajamas. Tell me you didn't see, did you?!...No? Oh, well, of course, I was just kidding about that anyway. I'd never wear ratty pajamas and eat icky sticky stuff at my keyboard! I am a most dignified author!

  7. Loved loved LOVED The Good Sister!

  8. I can't get over the 80 books Wendy! Maybe you could give us all some tips on how to write faster?

    And I love your description of how you find Facebook a way to fill up your well rather than deplete it...

  9. Unfortunately, I love Facebook. It is quite a timewaster, but since one of my books has its own page, and I am theoretically connecting for business purposes, I can justify the time spent (well, almost!)

    Twitter, however, totally eludes me. WHY would I want to tweet? Why would I want to follow anyone? Eeek!

  10. My daughter is into technology but mostly for school, video games, NETFLIX, and Amazon Prime. We do monitor her viewing choices. She's too young for social media sites but it's just a matter of time. When the time comes, we will keep track of her surfing and/or accounts until she proves herself to be savvy, responsible and trustworthy.

    I'm constantly reminding her to be wary of strangers and not to go anywhere with anyone besides us(her dad and I) without asking for permission.

    I am very fond of social media and am active on several sites. But I use them mostly for sharing non-personal info and entering giveaways.

    Thanks for the giveaway. Your book sounds great :)

  11. Now, Wendy, this book sounds downright scary! And I can't wait to read it.

    Ive long been fascinated by the "but what if's"in everyday life without knowing it was a literary genre.

    I use Twitter for instant news updates (pssst, even the major news outlets often get it wrong)and political contacts. Facebook can be a definite time waster (I admit I posted this morning that I have a sinus infection - now who really cares?!!!) but it's a great way to follow authors so I thank you all for being there.

  12. I guess I'm backwards. I don't text or tweet, assuming they're not the same thing. I do check Facebook to see what some of my friends/family have been up to, but mainly to check on what has been posted by authors, like excerpts from new books or book sales for Nook or Kindle. I may comment once in a blue moon but I don't post anything myself. Your trio of new books is certainly relevant in this day and age Wendy. I'll look for them!

  13. I confess I love Facebook. But my rule is "Don't post anything--ever--you wouldn't want the whole world to see."

    I'm terrible at Twitter although I feel compelled to make the occasional stab at it for work reasons. Some people just have a knack for it--like having a knack for short stories, I think--and I'm not one of them...

    Kristopher, like you, I can't wait to see what kind of story Wendy has in mind about blogging! The internet dating thing is beyond scary...

    And Wendy, I too want to know how you can have written 80 books!!!!! We should have asked you to do a time management post:-)

  14. I love suburban noir or domestic suspense, as we used to call it. So glad to see you here, Wendy!

    When she was 17 and going through a rocky patch, my daughter met a guy on an internet bulletin board (which tells you how long ago this was), and he talked her into running away from home to meet him. The crudball was in his late 30s, and fortunately, she got cold feet before he could talk her into leaving the coffee shop and called us to come get her. I took a baseball bat with me and told the guy if he ever came near her again I'd use it first on his penis and then on his face. (This was back when they didn't have any laws that applied to the internet yet.) I still get chills, thinking of what might have happened to our girl.

    I think you've hit on some very topical subjects for your next books.

  15. First, the book sounds fascinating. I will add it to my TBR list, whether or not I win it.

    I am so thankful that my kids are in their latter twenties, and that we escaped the whole social media mess that teenagers deal with today. It's a challenge for parents that I don't envy. As a former educator (hmm, are you ever a former educator?), I see advantages to using online sources to engage students. But, as a parent, I see so many traps for teenagers in which to be ensnared in a bad way.

    What's funny is that I am the most socially media connected person in my family. I have a FaceBook personal page, a book FaceBook page (Bookaholics), a reading blog ( -- Jungle Reds you are mentioned from my Bouchercon report), and a Twitter account ( I have a tumblr account, but I haven't really figured that one out yet.

    One of the advantages for me with FB is reconnecting with friends from when I was growing up. Our 40th high school reunion last year was well attended due to so many connecting on FB. The main use of all these accounts is to promote my love of reading and reach out to those readers and authors that share that special world. The disadvantage is that my reading time is diminished by my time online.

  16. LOL I guess I did forget to mention that Facebook can also be a colossal time waster. I'll jump online to check a quick fact as I'm writing my book, become distracted by the Shiny Object that is Facebook, and an hour later...oops.

  17. Linda, your daughter's story is really scary--and good for you, Mama Bear! Glad it all turned out okay!

  18. The subject matter is timely for today's world. Looking forward to reading the trilogy.

  19. The subject matter is timely for today's world. Looking forward to reading the trilogy.

  20. Wendy, Wendy! xooxo Just got off a plane and running in... LOVED The Good Sister, and agree with Roberta/Lucy--HOW do you do it?

    Oh, Facebook. Are you kidding me? It's a treasure! A dangerous dangerous treasure.

    (I am imagining Hallie on the drill team (She actually did what someone told her?) . I was a majorette, however, the middle of the back row because I was SO AWFUL.)

  21. A majorette and a drill you guys (Hank and Hallie) weren't klutzes like me. I never did figure out how to turn a cartwheel. And somehow the boys never noticed my mean editing job on the school newspaper!

  22. I recently read an article about a new father who, once he and his wife picked out their child's name, registered her for a domain, signed up for email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. in an attempt to control her name on social media. Wow, I had a hard enough time picking a car seat. I think that by the time my little guy (due mid November) is old enough for all this, the Internet will have changed so much. Facebook might not exist anymore. I do have a Facebook account solely because it is the only way we know what is happening with my husband's siblings. None of them use the phone or even email anymore. I am careful about what I post. (Facebook land doesn't even know that I am pregnant) Yet so many don't realize that anything posted online stays forever. Just look at the young Spanish teacher in the news this morning whose students found pictures she posed for in Playboy during college. Things like that follow you forever.
    Thanks for the always relevant, always interesting posts!

    Melodie T

  23. Melody T, thanks very much! And that's an interesting story, although, like you, I suspect that by the time you and the parents of the little girl have to worry about social media, Facebook, Twitter, etc. will have morphed into something we can't yet imagine. Ten years ago, could we have imagined what Facebook would become?

    And does anyone even remember now what a big deal MySpace was?

  24. Melodie T, I bet that's the norm these days. Scary, but true. And Deb, I have a MYSPACE page and so do some of my characters. Darned if I can remember the passwords. Good think it didn't become the Next Big Thing after all...

  25. I had a GeoCities page. LOL

  26. What did I find on social media? Well, Wendy, I reconnected with my best friend's high school sweetheart (that is EX sweetheart, of course) and we ended up married! So, I guess you might say I found my happily ever after!

  27. Scary trailer!

    I never heard the genre name, suburban noir, before. I love it.

    When our two youngest children were ready for high school, we gave them the choice of a fun vacation or a new computer. They didn't hesitate. They wanted the computer. I was secretly happy. I wanted to go on vacation, but I thought they made a good choice.

    Back then most families shared a computer. Today everyone has to have their own. We ended up using it a lot together, reading and playing word games, and that peculiar combination called interactive fiction. There was no social media then, so this was a different way to engage one another as a family or with friends who came to visit.

    I love Facebook. I like connecting with my friends in a medium where we can have a group conversation of sorts. The advantages of technology make communication and most things I do easy and fun, although there are pitfalls. I am cautious about meeting people in person who I have met online. I make very few exceptions, but those few that I have felt safe with turned out well.

    Because of my disability, I live a very electronic life right now. I hope that will change in the near future. If it does—when it does—my online social life may change. That will be interesting to watch unfold. I wonder about that a lot, because I have so adapted to having to be fairly inactive most of the time that I have all new interests and activities than I did prior to my disability. At present I am just hopeful. That's good enough for now.

  28. One of our sons met his wife online. He had tickets to a concert he could not attend, so he listed them for sale on the company intranet. A woman from work emailed him and said she would come pick them up at his office. They realized quickly that she worked in the Tokyo office, while he was in the Silicon Valley. They had a good laugh and talked about music. They corresponded by email. He was transferred to the Tokyo office where they met and started dating. He was transferred back to California. They continued their romance online and by taking their vacations together, usually meeting halfway in Hawaii. After 11 years trying to decide how to make a marriage work, they got married.