Thursday, August 10, 2017

Interview with Triss Stein

How many books have you published?

Brooklyn Wars is the fourth in this series, which began in 2013 with Brooklyn Bones. In the mid-90’s, I published two books mysteries with a publisher
which dropped their mystery line just after I turned in a third. I’ve had two separate writing careers.

How did you become interested in writing?
I was an intense bookworm from an early age; I didn’t see the point in playing if I could read! I think I've wanted to become someone who made books from the time I realized actual people were involved. It is no accident that three of my favorite characters were Jo March, Betsy Ray and Laura Ingalls, little girls who grew up to be writers. It took me a long time to figure out how to do that, though.

What is a day in the life of an author like? Do you write a certain number of words, do you write in the morning or evening, etc?
I am retired from day jobs. A perfect working day now begins early. I go straight to my tiny upstairs office. I write at least two and up to four or five pages before I break for breakfast. For the first draft, they don’t have to be good pages. They just have to be written, to revise and polish later. After breakfast, I write more or edit. After lunch, I do house chores, errands and writing-related chores that are not really writing. How often does this actually happen? The days I don’t start by getting involved with urgent e-mails, I resist malingering on Facebook, have no morning exercise class or medical appointment, there are no grandkids activities? Ah, not as often as I would like! But I do try hard to write, edit, spellcheck and so on - do something!- every day, to keep the wheels turning.

Do you plot the entire book first, then write or plot as you go?
When I was a student and teachers asked for an outline before the final paper was due, I had to write the whole darn paper and then outline it. So that tells that I am a person who finds out what I think by writing it. I start a book with a setting (very important in my series) and some characters (a few ongoing and a few new ones I need for the story) and a general idea of what will happen. Very general. That’s it. With every new book I vowed the next one would be outlined. This winging it was too inefficient, had too many wasted hours staring at the screen with no idea of what comes next, too much rewriting. In life I am a rather organized  person. What I have learned is that the wasted hours aren’t really wasted, and the ideas grow out of the (not so pointless) musing. The truth is, I lose interest as soon as I start outlining. I want to be surprised by the story too.

Do you use real people and places as models for your books?
I would never use real people, though there is often a bit of someone in some characters, and Erica, my heroine, was inspired partly by a few people I have known. However, I always use real places. Each book is set in a different neighborhood of Brooklyn, and I have had a lot of fun researching their histories and including some real locations. I always add a note at the end to tell what was real, what was guessed at, and what was completely invented. 

Who is your favorite author?
I could never answer that for mysteries. I know too many writers and I read too much. How can I pick a favorite? I’ve already mentioned three favorite childhood characters, though, and the authors are (of course!) Louisa May Alcott, Maud Hart Lovelace and Laure Ingalls Wilder. And I will add that one of my most loved adult writers has been Penelope Lively. Reading some of her books I have thought, not “I wish I could write a book that good,” but “I wish I could write exactly that book.” That’s how deeply she speaks to me.

How do you promote your books?
I try to create a voice for myself on Facebook. I was a member of two group blogs, now ended and wrote three times a month.  I blog as a guest on some terrific blogs when I have a new book out, and I have found that offering a giveaway is a great way to get readers/responses (in other words, attention) And I have spiffy new website where I will start regular blogging again. There is also a signup for an (eventual) newsletter. I go to some of the conventions - Malice Domestic and Bouchercon, - when I can and I have wonderful time meeting people, appearing on panels and - I hope!- making friends for my books. Does any of this have results? Hard to be sure. 

Triss Stein's newest book is Brooklyn Wars. 

For reviews of Triss Stein's Brooklyn Bones and Brooklyn Graves, click here.


Sandy Cody said...

Nice interview. We have a lot in common, especially same favorite early authors. Good luck.

Cathi Stoler said...

Great interview.