Scared to Death by Wendy Corsi Staub

By Paula L. Tutman

FDR was wrong when he said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Or was he?

Perhaps that answer can be found in Bestselling author, Wendy Corsi Staub’s new thriller, SCARED TO DEATH, just released by Avon Books.  The book is the second installment of her thriller trilogy and is available just in time for holiday reading.

Wendy writes about the stuff every parent fears.  Things like when a mother tells her child the monsters outside her window are all in her head even though she knows full well there are monsters out there–waiting to pounce and steal and destroy lives.  In SCARED TO DEATH, Wendy takes that fear and exploits it to create a psychological thriller that will have you wondering what’s real and what’s really imagined.

Note to self, “This is only fiction!  This is only fiction!”

Wendy explains, ” As a suspense novelist, I’ve always been interested in the concept of fear. It’s a powerful thing; it can motivate or cripple a person, depending on character and circumstances. Frightened women are stock characters in horror movies, but I wanted to create a heroine who has shown tremendous courage in the face of trauma, and survived; a woman whose courage is then tested by a vengeful predator whose primary weapon is fear-and whose primary goal is, basically, to scare her to death.”

The two pivotal characters were members of the chorus in Staub’s previous novel, but they’ve graduated to top billing in the new book.  SCARED TO DEATH picks up where LIVE TO TELL leaves off.  A frightened insecure mother, struggling to live through the kidnapping and murder of her adopted son finds the will to exist in the gift of a new child.  But when you’ve already lost one child it’s hard to feel safe ever again–particularly when that child was never really yours to begin with.

Meanwhile the birth mother of the kidnapped child is dealing with her own sense of loss, betrayal and untenable circumstances–living a family shame out loud for all to see and judge and devour.

These two lives will become inextricably tied together in this complex thriller that will make you afraid to close your eyes, lest you miss something.  “SCARED TO DEATH is very much written in the same vein as my previous thrillers,” says Wendy.  “It’s a domestic psychological suspense novel with plenty of cliffhangers and twists; a multiple viewpoint whodunit where the villain, while he/she may be hiding in plain sight, remains masked until the end.”

The book takes you inside the terrifying pressure to live a normal life when you can’t possibly do that.  It creates the need to fight against your greatest instinct to inhibit your child against everything you’re afraid of because you know fear is a disease that disables for life.

Note to self, “This is only fiction!  This is only fiction!”

If you’re a Staub devotee you’ve met many of the characters before, but Wendy continues, “The key, as always, is keeping it fresh by coming up with a strong premise, creating compelling characters, and letting them take over.”

The characters have indeed come to life and taken over in many ways.  The back story of the story is that the novel series was never supposed to be a trilogy, but the characters pulled a Pinocchio on the author and breathed life into their own existence.  They are so vivid because Wendy has masterfully created them.  In the conversations they have with themselves you feel your own heart clench with uncertainty and doubt.  When the characters feel paranoia you fight the urge to peek out your own window to check for footprints in the snow.  And when the fear is founded you chastise yourself for not seeing it coming.  And in the real world, money doesn’t talk it screams.  So when readers clamored for more, enthralled in these characters, enveloped in their lives, Staub couldn’t let them go away, not yet.  “I was already under contract for another book with Harper,(Avon books is an imprint of HarperCollins), but it was going to be a standalone. Instead, I came home and rewrote the ending of SCARED TO DEATH to allow for another sequel, creating my first adult suspense trilogy. It wasn’t a major rewrite, but one very important detail had to be changed-which I will keep to myself, because of course it leads to the major twist in Book Three, HELL TO PAY.”

Wendy Corsi Staub has written more than seventy books under her own name as well as the pseudonym,  Wendy Markham.   But if you’re a Staub virgin you’ll be delighted at how she’s able to tug at your insides with a well placed word, or pulsating image she’s crafted with her phrases.  She says her writing process is easy.  The truth of the matter is, Wendy Corsi Staub is a watcher–a connoisseur of the minutia of other people’s lives–she devours ‘people Mcnuggets’ and air-jacks ambient conversations to feed her thirst for the cool stuff that makes fiction believable, “Real life, mostly,” she confesses.  “I watch the news, watch people, read newspapers and magazines, eavesdrop, lurk on strangers’ Facebook pages… I’m fascinated by people’s private lives, by ordinary people plunged into extraordinary circumstances and how they react. People I know, or strangers in the news, celebrities, politicians… they’re all potential characters to me. Everyone has secrets, and everyone has someone, or something, they would kill to protect. Most of my books are built around that concept.”

In fact, Wendy is quick to tell you, she loves to hear from readers.  Perhaps not just for the accolades but I get the sense to glean some small detail in their lives that might be expanded and animated.  “Anything can happen at any time. That’s what my books are about. That’s what life is about. You just never know what’s around the corner or on the next page. That’s what makes it all so exciting-and scary-and worthwhile.”

What’s next for Wendy Corsi Staub?  She’s cooking ’em up faster than she can serve them.  The final installment of her current trilogy, HELL TO PAY, is due out in the fall of 2011.  While celebrating the release of SCARED TO DEATH she found time to take, NIGHTCRAWLER, a new thriller trilogy out of the oven and she’s waiting to hear from readers on Facebook or at  corsistaub@aol.com.

A word of caution, however, before you read, SCARED TO DEATH.   Be brave.  You’ll feel what it’s like to live in spite of your fear to do so.  But your true take-away will be that you can run as fast as you can, but when you’re afraid you’ll never get away.

Paula Tutman

Paula L. Tutman is an Emmy Award winning journalist and award winning author of the murder mystery series, Deadline!

Tutman is currently a working broadcast journalist at the NBC affiliate in Detroit. She has some 30 years in the news business, obviously beginning her career when she was six...no, make that three. Using her background as a former police reporter, she weaves real life stories and experiences into compelling mystery thrillers. She's just completed her third novel, Local Noose and hopes to find representation for it soon

Visit Paula at: www.paulaltutman.com.
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