I’ve just read a new blog post here by Betty Webb, acclaimed fellow Poisoned Pen Press author, who wrote something personal she has never told before.
It’s a fascinating story that relates to the books Betty writes, but I thought, oh, dear, I have nothing that dramatic to tell today, or ever.
In fact, I am in limbo. My next mystery novel, Brooklyn Legacies, is complete, in the hands of the publisher but not out until December. I have no cover yet, or pr material or any ARC’s to offer as a gift. It is too soon to pre-order. The (next) next one, after that, is just a gleam in the author’s eyes, a fun first chapter and some scrawled pages of notes. And It’s been awhile since the last one, Brooklyn Wars. Life got in the way, and the Legacies story itself took some wrestling to get into shape. Maybe I can just tell a little about where the December book came from.
All of my books are about different Brooklyn neighborhoods. My protagonist is an urban historian who researches and writes about changing Brooklyn. That gives me a good excuse to have her stumble upon old and new mysteries and questions no one wants answered. After writing four, I realized I had overlooked Brooklyn Heights even though I actually lived when I was just getting to know New York. That’s surprising, because it is a natural for my kind of book, with a rich history and both old and current conflicts. (Conflict is where we find plots) It was New York ’s first suburb and first official historic district. It is both dramatically beautiful and charmingly quaint. When I lived there, in an attic at the top of a townhouse, I had a sliver of a view of Brooklyn Bridge, a witchcraft shop down the street in one direction and Truman Capote’s old home in the other. There was a Jehovah’s Witness dorm across the street. How had I overlooked this as a setting?
But my attic apartment was a whole lifetime ago. What did I remember? And was any of it accurate, anyway? I went over there for a few note-taking walks. I did some extensive library research, catching up on politics I ignored when young and on what has happened since. I interviewed someone who was deeply involved in the epic civic battles between preservationists, real state developers and city planners. The famous and scary Robert Moses was involved. Somehow, that would become the perfect background for my book..
I was disconcerted to find out that it didn’t. A lot has happened since then. Now the largest landholder was a religious organization. Huge tracts were being sold, bringing unknown changes. And there were secret tunnels connecting many buildings. That was news to me and fascinating to a writer of mysteries. And that witchcraft shop was long gone but well remembered. Was there a way to slip it in? I certainly found wonderful material I could not fit it into the book and turned some of it into stories. (People really did sell the Brooklyn Bridge – repeatedly – and there was once a house there shared by Carson McCullers, WH Auden, Benjamin Britten and Gypsy Rose Lee. )
Did I succeed in turning this material into a book? A mystery? That will be up to readers to decide. I will be back here when Brooklyn Legacies is much closer to being out in the world. Today is really step one in the birth announcement process. “It’s a book!” Many thanks to PJ Nunn for inviting me to start here.
Triss Stein is a small–town girl from New York farm country who has spent most of her adult life in Brooklyn. She writes mysteries about different Brooklyn neighborhoods and their unique histories, in her ever-fascinating, ever-changing, ever-challenging adopted home. In the next book, Brooklyn Legacies, murder gets in the way of heroine Erica Donato’s efforts to understand historic Brooklyn Heights’ clashing cultures and seismic current changes.