In Staub’s The Other Family (Morrow, Jan.), the Howell family moves from California to a brownstone in Brooklyn. Bad things soon start to happen.
What’s your affinity for Brooklyn?
I love that it’s vast and diverse and edgy; that its neighborhoods are so distinct and maintain a strong sense of community. I’m also drawn to its dichotomy. There are gleaming skyscrapers and centuries-old row houses; factories and picturesque beaches. It’s rich in historic lore and the latest hipster trends. It’s populated by everyone from working-class immigrants to wealthy celebrities.
Stacy, the Howells’ eldest daughter, is a true crime aficionado. Why do you think people are still fascinated by true crime stories, and particularly those that took place so long ago?
If you were engrossed in a mystery novel only to discover that the last chapter was missing, you’d have a hard time putting it aside without knowing what happened. An unsolved crime feeds that same sense of curiosity, accompanied by an open-ended invitation to play detective with the facts. That’s especially true of a notorious historic crime where the killer is ever elusive yet long dead. That’s appealing in this era of pervasive news—bad news—we often perceive as hitting precariously close to home, courtesy of media and social media. Certainly it’s human nature to be captivated by any dramatic turn of events, but when time and distance separate us from those events, there’s a measure of safety and perhaps of control.
What helped inspire the family down the street?
Heather and Jules and their kids are a contemporary family—characters who reflect the world we live in and the matter-of-fact heterogeneity that I tend to embrace in my life and in my fiction. Because preconception is a key theme in this novel, they—especially Jules—reflect my own experiences with meeting people around the neighborhood, becoming friends, and months—or years—later finding out that the yoga instructor has an Oscar on her mantel or the homeroom mom spent years in rehab. How well do we really know the people we see every day?
You’ve fostered dogs/cats for animal rescue organizations. Is this why the Howells’ pug has such a presence in The Other Family?
I often write pets into my novels, and my own have cameos in quite a few. The Howells’ Kato exists only in my head, but I adore that lovable, lazy little dog. He plays an important role in this plot, quite literally unearthing a key clue.