Wendy Corsi Staub ♥ New York

Another sleepless night…NYT bestselling author Wendy Corsi Staub‘s newest psychological thriller will not only keep you up at night, but also keep you guessing till the end as she takes you on a dark, twisty journey on the flipside of normal. Wendy joins us to talk about NIGHTWATCHER, the first book in her New York trilogy (Harper, August 28, 2012).

“In memory of the thousands of innocent souls lost on September 11, 2001, and in honor of my beloved New York, the greatest city in the world.” NIGHTWATCHER Dedication

Krista: Why did you choose New York City on September 11, 2001 for NIGHTWATCHER’s setting?

Wendy: The initial premise came to me within a day or two of the attacks, when I heard on the local NYC news that crime was drastically down all over the city—robberies, assaults, murders, etc., were all but nonexistent as people came together in an unprecedented way. But there was absolutely no way I was going to write about it when it was all so raw.  I promised myself that I would wait at least a decade to revisit the plot, and that is exactly what I did.

Krista: “Anything is possible” is the optimistic philosophy of NIGHTWATCHER’s 24-year-old protagonist Allison Taylor, a Midwestern transplant working as a style editor for a NYC fashion magazine. After the attacks on the Twin Towers, these words take on a more ominous tone as her world view shifts. How did 9/11 change your view of the world?

Wendy: New York is my world—I fell in love with this city on my first visit with a school group at thirteen, moved here out of college, and have lived here (now in the suburbs) for over twenty-five years. In fact, I once worked in one of the twin towers. So in a way, I’ve found myself thinking, “there but for the grace of God…”  On that  particular morning, my husband was headed for a meeting in a building adjacent to the WTC, and I was on my way to meet my editor, who worked in the Woolworth building a few blocks north. The planes struck before I left home, and before my husband left his midtown office, so we were safe. But on that ordinary morning, thousands just like us, people who were going about their daily business, people who never dreamed that they were in the path of a deadly terror attack, lost their lives. For me, the random luck people experienced on that day—good and bad—drove home the cliché about living every moment to the fullest because you just never know.

But one of my favorite things about New York—and New Yorkers, and Americans, really—is a resilient, gutsy spirit. After the initial period of jitters and fear, I was, like most New Yorkers, determined to proceed with life as I knew it. If the first responders and the people who escaped those burning towers and the people who lost loved ones could get up in the morning and start a new day, the rest of us had no choice, did we? Of course we don’t—we can’t—ever forget, but we can—and must—go on with business as usual, living wholeheartedly and taking elevators to high floors and boarding planes without hesitation.

Krista: The serial killer in this book is called the Nightwatcher which sounds scary and threatening in the context of the novel, but I remember another nightwatcher in those months after 9/11: the US Military. The constant drone of fighter jets circling Washington, especially at night, brought me a sense of safety. Did you think about the duality inherent in the term Nightwatcher when you chose it for the first story of your new trilogy?

Wendy: I’d love to be able to say yes, of course, that’s absolutely it. But to be honest, I had originally entitled the book NIGHTCRAWLER. The sales team vetoed it at the eleventh hour and I needed a new title, pronto. I was brainstorming with my husband as we were driving somewhere that day, and our then-thirteen-year-old piped up from the back seat, “How about NIGHTWATCHER?” It was perfect. It was also too late to give him official credit in the book, so I’m proudly doing so here. And of course, it works well on so many levels, particularly the one you cite.

Krista: In your thrillers, you peel back the public façade of families to examine the ugly underbelly of private dysfunction and illness. What is it about families that interests you as a writer?

Wendy: Most of us have a family of some sort; most of us have someone who means the world to us, someone we would stop at nothing to protect. Nearly all parents, for example, have a powerful primal instinct to keep their children safe from harm. And nearly all of us feel safest when we are at home. That theme works its way into all my thrillers—danger crossing that sacred threshold, violating the safe haven, threatening all that my characters hold dear. Thus, the walls come down: my readers find it possible to step into my characters’ shoes, and to think “this could happen to me.”

Krista: NYT bestselling author Lisa Jackson wrote, “If you like Mary Higgins Clark, you’ll love Wendy Corsi Staub!” I read recently that MHC has her own profit line on Simon & Schuster’s operating budget. How does it feel to be compared to the grande dame of the psychological thriller?

Wendy: That was a pinch-me moment, to be sure—Mary Higgins Clark wrote the first two thrillers I ever read, in sixth grade: WHERE ARE THE CHILDREN and A STRANGER IS WATCHING. I already knew I wanted to become an author at that point, but had never read a suspense novel. Thanks to her, I was instantly hooked on the genre, and went on to devour every book she wrote. Flash forward a couple of decades, when, as a New York Times bestselling author myself, I was a finalist at last year’s MWA Edgars for the Simon & Schuster Mary Higgins Clark award. I had met Mary a few times at that point, always briefly at industry events, and had found her to be a gracious class act. But on awards night, we really got a chance to talk.

I got to tell her what an inspiration she had been since my childhood, and she told me that she had read LIVE TO TELL and found it “absolutely terrific.” THAT was probably the biggest pinch-me moment of my life—and there’s photo evidence! 

Krista: I read on wendycorsistaubcommunity.com that you hate—I mean strongly dislike—chocolate. For real? So what is your guilty pleasure?

Wendy: Believe me, I have too many to count. A sweet tooth just doesn’t happen to be one of them, and chocolate, in particular, gives me a headache and makes me nauseous. Ugh. Other than that, name your poison: Wine? Coffee? Salty-crunchy anything? Rare red meat? Sushi, Chinese food, Italian…Bring it on!

Krista: Tell us a bit about the next two novels of the NIGHTWATCHER trilogy: SLEEPWALKER and SHADOWKILLER. When they will be published?

Wendy: The very last scene of NIGHTWATCHER is a twist that opens the door to SLEEPWALKER’s plot, and the same is true of the final twist in SLEEPWALKER, which leads into SHADOWKILLER. Like NIGHTWATCHER and my other thrillers, these books feature elements my readers have come to expect from me: villains hiding in plain sight, multiple viewpoints, and of course, plenty of surprises.

SLEEPWALKER goes on sale just weeks after NIGHTWATCHER, on September 25. The novel opens on the ten-year anniversary of the September 11th attacks. Allison is now a happily married mom living in the suburbs, but the shadows of the past are never far off. A new series of murders bear striking similarity to the NIGHTWATCHER—same MO, same signature–but he can’t have committed them. Only a few people know the details of the original crimes: most notably Allison—and her husband, who has been sleepwalking lately with no memory of his nighttime escapades. Because this book was set in a real time frame of fall 2011, and was written before those months came to pass, I found myself having to rewrite the book to reflect reality: Osama Bin Laden had been killed, an earthquake and hurricane had struck New York, a suburban blizzard canceled Halloween. All of those events served to enhance my plot—particularly the storm-related power outages!—but by the time I had rewritten for the third or fourth time last fall to reflect reality (a major part of the plot unfolds around Halloween), I was praying for an uneventful November, both in real life and fiction!

SHADOWKILLER comes out a few months after the first two books, on January 27, and is written in two parts. The first half flashes back to the year 2000, when we meet our main characters in the “past” and follow the paths that led their lives to collide for better or worse. Seemingly minor plot points from NIGHTWATCHER and SLEEPWALKER will now catapult into the action, and there are some twists that will have careful readers slapping their heads in the old “I never saw that coming—but I should have!” The second half of the novel picks up in 2012, with Allison and her family picking up the pieces from the SLEEPWALKER plot.

Now it’s your turn to ask Wendy questions about her new trilogy. What was the first suspense novel you ever read? Wendy is giving away an autographed copy of NIGHTWATCHER to one lucky commenter. Check back on Thursday to see if it’s you!

Please take a moment to remember….

About Krista Hall

Author of RWA Golden Heart ® Award for BROKEN PLACES

Posted on September 11, 2012, in Author Interview, Krista Hall and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 42 Comments.

  1. Wendy, thanks for joining us today! My first suspense novels were Daphne DuMaurier’s REBECCA and then THE JAMAICA INN. I was hooked after that!

    • Just recently on the Antique Roadshow, the son of the owners of the real Jamaica Inn brought the signed copy of the book the author had gifted to his parents with apologies for setting her mystery there. LOL. He showed all these great photos of the place — it was wonderful to see. I have to say, my first suspense/mystery was Nancy Drew! I’ll be yours was, too, Krista.

  2. Wow, what a riveting interview! Great job, Krista and Wendy!

    I, like everyone else, cannot forget 9/11. I lived only a few blocks from the Pentagon and could see it burning from my apartment window. It was like a horror film come to life.

    Thanks so much for coming by Wendy! I will definitely be buying this book.

    Kudos to your son, for the perfect title!


  3. Wendy, it was such a joy to meet you in Anaheim this year. You made a newbie author feel like a million bucks. Thanks for being on Kiss and Thrill with us today and for sharing your feelings about New York and your 9-11 inspired series. The books sound wonderful. I’d like to also offer my warmest wishes and cyber hugs to you and our entire country today as we remember all the amazing sacrifices so many people made on this day in 2001. Never forget, America.

  4. My grandma had the entire collection of Agatha Christie Hercule Poirot mysteries, so I’ve read them all (in a couple of languages, too!). I’m pretty sure I started with the classic MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS.

    I’d just moved to North America a couple of weeks before Sept. 11 and had just started at my new school. I had a free period when the planes hit & heard people talking about it, and someone immediately dragged a TV into the library so we could watch the news. I wasn’t even stateside, and it was surreal!

    • My son’s senior year English elective is Mystery and Detective Fiction (and yes, he already told me I can’t audit the class). He read MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS for his summer reading. His teacher highly recommends the movie, too. Have you seen it, Cris?

      Those were dark days eleven years ago. I remember taking my kids to the 1st National Book Festival on the Capitol grounds the Sunday before 9/11. It was such a sparkling day, festive tents bookmarked by the Capitol and the Supreme Court, authors and readers milling around. That day has always stood out in my mind as the last time invulnerability was just something I expected in the same way that I knew the sun would rise in the east and set in the west. Today as I drove along Constitution Avenue, past the Capitol, the White House, and the memorials, I remember the bravery and courage and strength of Americans and our friends around the world.

    • Cris, my 17 year-old son discovered Agatha Christie while browsing and waiting for me to sign in a Joseph Beth Bookstore while in the midst of a 3-week book tour in August, and by the time we’d completed the tour, he’d read 3 or 4 of her mysteries and was hooked!

  5. Wendy, thank you so much for joining us today! I cheered when I read the MHC wrote the first thrillers you ever read, because she was my first too–THE CRADLE WILL FALL, when I was in 7th grade. I read Dean Koontz WHISPERS around the same time and my love of reading–and writing–was born that year.

    Living in the Pacific NW, we are so far removed from what happened in NY, D.C. and Pennsylvania, but we felt the shock, the horror, and the grief. There was something comforting about seeing American flags everywhere–an acknowledgement that the sun may be shining, the air may not be filled with smoke, but things are not normal. And there was also the message that we’re all in this together, united in grief. So I’m sitting here this morning with my coffee, waiting for the sun to rise so I can hang my flag out front and remember and honor those who lost their lives that day.

  6. Good morning!
    Great questions, Krista, and I love the photos and emblems you chose in honor of today.

    My older brother worked at the Pentagon then, so it was a long series of heart-in-your-throat hours before he was able to call me to tell the family he was OK.

    I’d been driving to work and listening to the BBC News hour on the radio, so I heard about the attack on America from the British!

    In fact, they were interviewing a NY witness (over the phone) when the second plane hit and I distinctly recall exactly where I was on a specific road as the BBS newscaster was ARGUING with the witness that a second plane HAD in fact hit the second tower!

    The witness kept saying, “no, I saw it too and it passed on by. Only one tower is hit.”

    And the newscaster said, “but we’re watching it on TV as we’re speaking to you. It crashed.”

    Whew. What a horrific day.

    ANYWAY! Welcome, Wendy- I think it’s bold and fabulous that you are creating a series where the setting, mind-set and chaos of that day becomes part of the thriller plot. Looking forward to reading all of them!

    It’s amazing to think back to that time when we all pulled together and stopped the political, religious and race in-fighting and just became Americans…wondering who the heck Al Queda was and how to even pronounce their name. I’m intrigued to read your novels and be sent back to that horrific, but genuinely patriotic time.

    My first mystery series was The Bobbsie Twins (am I seriously dating myself??) and first Agatha was “And Then There Were None.”
    Scared the bejeezus outta me!

  7. I can’t wait to read your newest release, Wendy! And I still remember how terrified I was after I read The Cradle Will Fall. I was in middle school and was too scared to walk to school in the dark. My parents gave me a hard time until my dad read the book. He ended driving me to school almost all year!

  8. Thanks for being with us today, Wendy! I’m always impressed when someone can create a plot twist that wraps up a story but launches a new possibility.

    I guess some of my first suspense books were Nancy Drew. I always forget about those somehow. I was also hooked on Mary Stewart long before I knew what romantic suspense was.

    We were living on base in Ohio on 9/11. Despite our distance from NY and DC (where we live now), the impact was more noticeable because the base went to threat level Delta and completely shut down. Once the base re-opened the next day (only the far back gate for days, a constant reminder that something was wrong), they started checking ID cards for everyone entering and they’ve never stopped.

    Hugs to everyone on this sad anniversary.

  9. Hi Wendy! Thank you so much for joining us today! Your new series sounds fascinating and I can’t wait to read it! I too would say my first mystery was Nancy Drew, followed by Agatha Christie. Along with the sad memories of 9/11 I have some very poignant ones. I’m a pediatrician and I was at work that morning. Our sick patients still needed to be seen, so we didn’t close the office. That morning, we handed out crayons and paper for the kids, and the majority drew pictures of the towers, planes attacking, American flags, and more. We displayed the pictures in our office for months, and I still have each one of those drawings, and a piece of history through the eyes of our children.
    Great interview, Krista!

    • Carey, my oldest had long been fascinated with the Twin Towers at 7 years old then (he’s now in his fourth year of high school architecture) and when he found out what had happened, he was devastated. He went straight to the playroom and emerged hours later with towers made of Lego. Plunking them on the coffee table, he announced, “No one is going to knock these down!”

  10. Nice interview. I think it was an Elizabeth Lowell book.

  11. I remember reading The Moon Spinners by Mary Stewart as a young teen. I then read all her books. Loved them. I then found Nancy Drew. 😉

  12. My earliest suspense reads would be the Fear Street series by R.L. Stine. The combination of suspense and horror really pulled me in. Also, Pursuit by Karen Robards is one othe books that hooked me to the suspense genre.

  13. Wendy, all the best with your exciting new trilogy! Thanks so much for hanging out with us today (and Brody, too)

  14. My first suspense novel was Breath of Scandal by Sandra Brown. After that suspense became my fave genre.
    Nightwatcher sounds very promising to me since my heart still aches when I think about 9/11. Reading the blurb made me think of other horrible events that might have happend at the same time if not near the time of the 9/11 tragedy.

  15. Congrats on the release! It sounds great. My first suspense was Cold Fire by Dean Koontz.

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