Interview: Triss Stein

Please welcome Triss Stein, author of the Erica Donato mystery series.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
Uninterrupted writing time- and the writing goes well; a sunny day; a walk where there are flowers blooming (Am I looking for spring? Oh, yes).  Alternatively, a day in London, doing anything at all, with no cell phone and no responsibilities.Brooklyn Graves 2

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?
My grown daughters would say it is a big, heavy “grandma” purse. Also, I am a sucker for beautiful textiles and have a vast collection of scarves. Naturally, as I am a NY woman (!) I wear black a lot because it always looks right, but brightened up with colorful accessories. I don’t have a signature meal – I like to cook and make all kinds of things – but guests can always count on there being dessert, often baked.

Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.
Honestly, I can’t answer this. Mostly it was other books that made me want to write some. The real answer might be membership in Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America. I learned a lot that was so useful and I learned to take myself seriously.

Do you listen to music when you write?
Only when I am doing something boring like spell-checking. Otherwise it distracts me, and I find I am not focused on the writing or the music.

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
M &M’s because of their colors. Stained glass comes into this book quite a bit.

What made you interested in writing this particular story?
Long ago, news stories about theft at neglected old cemeteries caught my eye. It seemed like the background for an interesting mystery. Then, I live not far from Green-Wood, a famous beautiful and historic cemetery, not at all neglected, but worth writing about. And so I started thinking about who, and why and how could I put Erica, my main character and historian in training, in that setting.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
I am always writing about family and about history in some way. And Brooklyn neighborhoods! That is what the series is all about. I know I will never run out of Brooklyn stories.

Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today?
She was a Brooklyn neighborhood girl, married young to her high school sweetheart, mother of a toddler and expecting a life right there. When her husband is killed by a drunk driver, she had to remake her life. A return to college for some extra credits led her to graduate school and an almost-PhD in urban history, and a different world, a different life altogether. She likes it but sometimes finds it an imperfect fit. She is curious and stubborn, has a good heart, loves her daughter, has a touchy relationship with her father, is too busy with work/school/parenting to have much time for a social life. (Her now teen daughter disagrees.)

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
I am stumped by this question.

If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
I would start with Donald Westlake; I think he’d be a lot of fun (I never met him but did hear him speak.) And Ross Thomas. I admire his books and think he was a guy with a whole lot of interesting secrets. A lot of the writers I know are great fun, but I’m not so sure about the great ones from the past. So I’d choose fictional characters instead, and start with Peter Wimsey, Harriet Vane ( we could talk about writing!) and Phryne Fisher. Let’s include Spenser so Phryne would have someone to flirt with.

What’s next for you?
I am working on a new book about Erica and crime in Brooklyn, past and present. This one is about Brownsville, where I worked many years ago, and about the mob which was active there in the 20’s and ’30s. It was and is a tough neighborhood; I think this will be a tougher book.

Come find me on my website  or on Facebook. I have an Author page at Triss Stein. I also blog on the 4th of the month with other Poisoned Pen Press authors  and twice a month irregularly with author friends at Women of Mystery


Triss Stein is a small–town girl from New York state’s dairy country who has spent most of her adult life living and working in New York city. This gives her the useful double vision of a stranger and a resident for writing mysteries about Brooklyn, her ever-fascinating, ever-changing, ever-challenging adopted home. Brooklyn Graves will be out from Poisoned Pen Press in March and is second in the series, after Brooklyn Bones.
Triss is also the co-chair of Mystery Writers of America/New York chapter library committee.


9 thoughts on “Interview: Triss Stein”

  1. Good morning, everyone. I’ll be happy to answer questions or respond to comments. I must be away from the computer for a few hours in mid-day but will pick up again when I get back. Triss


  2. Theft at neglected old cemeteries. Intriguing. My husband was born in Brooklyn, raised in the Bronx. NYC is still the heartbeat of the world.


  3. Well, the cemeteries have hooked me, too! And the history angle. I’m looking forward to checking out your books! Is London one of your favorite places to visit? Thanks for sharing!


    1. Hi, Sue; Thanks for chiming in. Yes, London is one of my favorite places. I’ve been there a lot of times, just by lucky chance, and actually have traveled all over England. Luck changed and it had been about 13 or 14 years, when a vacation in Ireland meant connecting through Heathrow and I said to my husband ( who has no interest in in England at all, silly man) “You know, I could take a few extra days on my own…”


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