Kristina Riggle was inspired to write Vivian in Red (Polis, Sept.), a multigenerational story with a family mystery, after her agent urged her to expand her horizons from the usual short time-line focus on a particular family or small town. “I love writing about families so much that I thought, one way I could meet my agent’s challenge would be to take on a family and make it across generations,” she says. “And to make it interesting I would take on a family legacy that would have some cloud over it.”

After doing a certain amount of brainstorming, Riggle decided to focus on Tin Pan Alley and the heyday of popular music. Asked why she chose that particular time in history, she says, “Part of it was a function of the era because I wanted to talk about that age of Broadway before rock and roll, when song writers still had a lot of sway. I also did not want this to be a war book, so I had to pick a time between the wars. And I wanted my characters to plausibly be alive and kicking in a relatively contemporary time so that’s how I landed at the mid 1930s and 1999.”

One of the biggest challenges Riggle had was to write lyrics because her main character, Milo Short, is a lyricist. “For one thing, I knew so little about songwriting, I didn’t even know which Gershwin brother was the lyricist, so I had to teach myself quite a lot. It’s Ira, by the way. I learned as much as I could about the lyrics of the day. It was an intimidating task at first because I thought, gosh, I’m treading in the footsteps of such legends. But then I thought, it’s my book, I can have the confidence to pull this off, and I ended up having such a good time writing them.”

The author already has five paperback novels and one digital novella under her belt. She notes that there are similar themes in all of her writing. “One common thread through all of my fiction is about the complexity of personal relationships, including within families. Readers of my previous work will definitely recognize that in the new book as well.”

Riggle has a number of firsts here at Book Expo. The Michigan writer is at BEA for the first time. Her previous books have been paperback, so she’s debuting her first hardcover book, and her publisher, Polis Books, is also at Book Expo for the first time.

Riggle signs ARCs in the Autographing Area today, at Table 13, 11–11:30 a.m.

This article appeared in the May 12, 2016 edition of PW BEA Show Daily.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the name of Kristina Riggle's publisher. It is Polis, not Polaris.