Jen: Today is the last day of our anniversary celebration and we’re excited to welcome Wendy Corsi Staub to the blog. Wendy, will you share a short bio with us?
Wendy: New York Times bestseller Wendy Corsi Staub is the award-winning author of more than seventy-five published novels and has sold more than four million books worldwide. Under her own name, Wendy achieved New York Times bestselling status with her single title psychological suspense novels. Those novels and the women’s fiction she writes under the pseudonym Wendy Markham also frequently appeared on the USA Today, Barnes and Noble Top Ten, and Bookscan bestseller lists.
Wendy grew up in a large, close-knit family in rural southwestern New York State and decided she wanted to become an author while in third grade. She worked in two independent bookstores during college, then moved alone to New York City at 21 to pursue her dream. After stints as a book editor for a Manhattan publishing house and an account coordinator for a major advertising agency, she sold her first novel, the supernatural young adult thriller SUMMER LIGHTNING. Early in her writing career, she published in various genres including suspense, horror, historical and contemporary romance, television and movie tie-in, and biography. She also co-authored a mystery series with the late New York City mayor Ed Koch and has ghost-written for a number of bestselling authors and celebrities.
Wendy now lives in the New York City suburbs with her husband of twenty years and their two children. A 1986 graduate of the State University of New York at Fredonia, she proudly delivered the keynote commencement address at her alma mater in May 2008, was a featured speaker at the 2011 Academic convocation, and is serving a three-year appointment to the Dean’s Advisory Council for the College of Arts and Sciences.
Jen: With almost 80 books in your booklist, how do you continue to find fresh ideas?
Wendy: There’s never any shortage of fresh ideas—they seem to pop up on a daily basis, and at any given time, I’ve got quite a few simmering in the back of my mind. The problem is finding time to write them. I only work on one book at a time, and right now I’ve got deadlines lined up into late next year!
Jen: Several of your books center around perfect lives suddenly torn apart by a secret or an act of terror. What makes these storylines work for you?
Wendy: To me, there’s nothing more frightening than danger crossing the sacred boundaries of your safe haven—your home, your small town, your inner circle of family and friends. My characters aren’t super heroes or undercover agents or (usually) even cops or detectives. They don’t expect to find themselves in peril on a daily basis. They’re ordinary people who are doing exactly what they’re supposed to do, exactly what most of us are doing on any given day: waking up in their own bed, going about their daily business on familiar territory, with their guard down, of course, and then—boom. They cross paths with the wrong person at the wrong time, or they realize that someone or something isn’t who or what they appear to be… That’s terrifying because it’s unexpected, and there’s no sense of control. The “it can happen to you” element allows my readers to relate to my characters and step into their shoes as the plot unfolds, so the stakes feel ever higher.
Jen: Your newest release, The Perfect Stranger, incorporates social media as part of the storyline. What kind of research did you have to do for this book?
Wendy: My sister in law is a breast cancer survivor/blogger, so I read her blog and borrowed from it (with her permission) for my book, and spent a lot of time reading other blogs and getting to know the online cancer support community. I also visited various settings that are featured in the book, not just Alabama, but Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Kentucky, and Boston/Rhode Island. When it comes to my books, I really work hard to get the details right, and that includes making the backdrop as authentic as possible.
Jen: You are well known as an accomplished thriller writer, but you also write under Wendy Markham. Which persona do you plan to develop over the next two years?
Wendy: I’ve been trying to find my way back to Wendy Markham, my women’s fiction pseudonym, for a few years now–but I’ve been too swamped with back-to-back deadlines for the suspense and mystery novels I write under my own name. Upcoming releases: the third book in my social networking trilogy, THE BLACK WIDOW is a standalone set in the world of online dating and will be published by HarperCollins on February 24. I’m also under contract with Harper for a new trilogy set in a fictionalized Hudson Valley town, Mundy’s Landing, with a notoriously bloody past that stretches back to the first settlers. I just finished writing the first book, tentatively entitled BLOOD RED, and it will be published sometime next year.
Jen: What is the connection between Cold Hearted and The Perfect Stranger?
Wendy: COLD HEARTED is an e-novella prequel that introduces a key character in THE PERFECT STRANGER and is set a decade before the novel begins. It exists because my readers are always asking me to “write faster,” and I saw the novella as a way to provide them with something to read while they’re waiting for my next major release. COLD HEARTED does lay the groundwork for THE PERFECT STRANGER, but I was careful not to cheat readers with an open-ended “teaser” or give them anything less than a satisfying, substantial, self-contained story. While my character Jenna Coeur’s novella plotline has resolution, readers will certainly be wondering what happens to her after the curtain comes down, and THE PERFECT STRANGER will satisfy that.
Jen: What books are on your summer reading list?
Wendy: As a rule, I don’t read novels when I’m writing them, so I spent most of the summer reading nonfiction, as usual—I love biography, historical, procedural, and true crime. I just started Vernon Benjamin’s hefty (2 pounds!) THE HISTORY OF THE HUDSON RIVER VALLEY: FROM WILDERNESS TO CIVIL WAR, part of my research for the Mundy’s Landing trilogy. And I’ve read my way through a wide array of true crime novels because I’m judging the MWA Edgars this year in that category.