Monday, March 8, 2010


By Wendy Corsi Staub

New York, New York—there’s no place like it in the world. I moved here almost twenty-five years ago, fresh out of college, my heart set on becoming an author. All writers are dreamers, and dreams do come true. Particularly here in the Big Apple, where a little girl from a small town 450 miles away became a New York Times bestselling author.

After setting my last few novels some distance from my suburban New York home, I chose a local backdrop for my latest thriller. LIVE TO TELL (Avon Books, March 2010) opens with a harrowing chase through Manhattan that culminates at Grand Central Terminal, the gateway to Westchester County, where I—and, not coincidentally, my heroine Lauren Walsh—happen to live.

As much as I enjoy traveling to research my distant settings, it was a pleasure to recreate a world I inhabit in real life. My heroine is a stay-at-home-mom whose charming old house—a perpetual fixer-upper—shares a zip code with multi-million dollar estates in Glenhaven Park, a fictionalized version of my own suburban town, and one my loyal readers will recognize from several of my earlier novels.

Lauren Walsh buys groceries at the A&P, shops at Ann Taylor in the mall in White Plains, battles traffic on I-684 and the Saw Mill River Parkway. Her ex-husband commutes via MetroNorth to Manhattan, where his path fatefully intersects that of gubernatorial candidate Garvey Quinn, a man who will stop at nothing to shroud his own deadly secret.

Familiar as I am with the streets and avenues of Manhattan, I found myself visiting and revisiting city blocks to make sure I had the details just right. The opening chase scene winds from the west side to Grand Central, with a pivotal foray through Bryant Park, one of my favorite spots in the city. I’ve spent many hours there over the years and yet, when it came time to propel my character through the park, I had to personally trace his path several times to make sure the timing and pit stops along the way were accurate and realistic.

Because the Lost & Found Department at Grand Central Terminal is a springboard for the suspense plot, I spent some time interviewing the people who work there, which was fascinating. People leave all kinds of interesting on trains—and many of them sit, catalogued and unclaimed, in the Lost & Found’s meticulously organized storage area. I learned how things work behind the scenes and what could and could not plausibly take place in terms of retrieving a lost item.

In my plot, Lauren’s ex—distracted by his new girlfriend and now clueless to Lauren’s domestic juggling act and the needs of his separation-scarred children—retrieves the wrong lost stuffed animal for his youngest daughter, Sadie. Now the Walshes are unwittingly in possession of incriminating evidence hidden inside the toy, opening the door to a deadly game of cat-and-mouse that unfolds on the teeming streets of Manhattan and in bucolic Westchester backyards.

I love metropolitan New York—in fiction and in real life. Whenever I use it as a setting, the city tends to come alive as a character, spinning the plot with endless possibilities. Things happen here that wouldn’t be believable anywhere else in the world. I worked hard, when writing LIVE TO TELL, to capture New York’s unique blend of intimacy and anonymity that serves this book’s premise so well.

How about you? What’s your favorite setting to write—and read—about?

Visit my websites, and to read an excerpt of LIVE TO TELL, which received a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly. Beginning March 8th, visitors to my community website can join me for a daily readalong to learn the story-behind-the-story! ♥


  1. Great post Wendy. I love reading and writing about New York. There is something so much fun about the familiar and then adding a twist to it.

  2. I also love reading and writing about familiar spots in New York. Most people love when they recognize favorite places. I too write about my neighborhood. Staten Island has a lot of interesting places for chases and suspense. I look forward to reading "Live to Tell"!

  3. As a Westchester resident, I love when I can identify my local landmarks in books and movies!

    -- Terri
    Hudson Valley RWA

  4. I write a great deal about Texas. I love the open spaces that stretch onward. I live in the middle of Manhattan and can't write New York "right" Perhaps one day, I'll be able to capture the Big Apple's essence on paper.