Triss Stein is a small–town girl from New York farm country who has spent most of her adult life in New York the city. This gives her the useful double vision of a stranger and a resident for writing mysteries about Brooklyn neighborhoods in her ever-fascinating, ever-changing, ever-challenging adopted home. The third, Brooklyn Secrets, will be out from Poisoned Pen Press on December 1, 2015. In it, Erica find herself immersed in the old and new stories of tough Brownsville, and the choices its young people make.
There is a public relations question in this post, but I am starting with the New York Times arriving on my steep front steps every morning. I still like to spread the real paper out and read it over breakfast. On November 1 I was greeted with a substantial article on the reinvention of the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
Why should I care, you may ask? Because my work-in-progress Brooklyn mystery is about that very subject. I am writing a mystery series about Brooklyn’s diverse and changing neighborhoods and they include some history, too. The Navy Yard has a fascinating back story, and a current story of decay and renewal. There are lots of ways to set crime stories, and human stories, old and new, against that background. So there I am, about one third in, and there it is in the news.
This has happens to me a lot, sometimes just after the book comes out. In the first in the series, Brooklyn Bones, a not-so-old body is found behind a wall in a very old house. A few months after it was released, my inbox was flooded by friends sending me the same news item: the body of a long-missing woman was found walled up in a cellar, in her husband’s home, after he died. The law officers always thought he killed her, but could never prove it. And he got away with it.
The second book, Brooklyn Graves, is partly about a forgotten and hidden Tiffany window. Sure enough, not long after the book came out, a lost Tiffany window was found walled up in closet in a historic Brooklyn high school.
On December 1, the new book, Brooklyn Secrets, launches, and it is about a neighborhood called Brownsville, definitely not part of hip, happening chic Brooklyn (Even in Paris, they say it’s chic these days) It is one of the lowest income, highest crime districts in the city. And I worked there for a while, a lifetime ago, and never forgot it. And it has an interesting history of organized crime activity, back in the day. Is it obvious where I am going? There was at least a story a week about Brownsville struggles this month alone.
It is always fun to send these articles to my editors –the Brownsville ones more heartbreaking than fun – as support for the idea that I am writing about topics people want to read. Sometimes it’s a little spooky, too. Am I really so connected to this time and place, I can foresee events? (Just joking. I don’t actually believe that, though I do appreciate the proof that maybe I am on to something. )
And here, finally, is the public relations question: how can I use these moments, these news items, these connections, to generate more attention for my books? (In a perfect world, authors would not have to think about any of this. We do not live in that world.) I write mysteries, so my goal is storytelling, entertainment if you will, but they are all about something beyond that. The best stories always are. Memory, how the place and the past creates the present, how some things don’t change and some things should. In Brooklyn Secrets, that would be crime and desperation and also the hopes and dreams of young people. Only the faces and the accents change.
Readers, have you any good ideas? Something that worked to connect your writing to the bigger picture? Something that might work and is worth a discussion?