Friday, September 8, 2023

Q&A with Wendy Corsi Staub


Photo by Patti Looney Photography



Wendy Corsi Staub is the author of the new novel Windfall. Her many other novels include The Other Family. She lives in the New York City suburbs.


Q: What inspired you to write Windfall, and how did you create your cast of characters?


A: When money is tight--as it is for many people at one time or another--we fantasize about a windfall that would solve everything. That's how the book was born. I particularly wanted to explore the theme of women facing financial issues that leave them feeling powerless and overwhelmed.


My three main characters, Leila, J.J., and Molly, are the "September girls"-- former college roommates who reunite at a girls' getaway Labor Day weekend in Vegas to celebrate their 40th birthdays.


They chose Vegas because they're all in dire straits, dealing with job loss and pay inequity, unexpected pregnancy, divorce and custody issues, juggling motherhood and work. When they fail to get lucky in the casinos, they chip in for a lottery ticket and win a billion dollars. But before they can claim it, the friend holding the ticket goes missing.


Q: The writer E.A. Aymar said of the book, "Windfall is an examination of four scarred women, and how the dreamlike opportunity for them to escape the unique, richly layered complications of their lives is hardly an escape at all." What do you think of that description?


A: It reflects a truth I discovered in my research about sudden wealth--and one that's reflected in the book's epigraph, a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson: Money often costs too much.


I learned that the first rule when you come into a vast fortune is not to tell anyone--in part because now you're a target, and ordinary people don't have security measures in place to protect themselves and their loved ones. Not just from the friends, family, and total strangers who will come out of the woodwork looking for a handout, but from predators who will kill for that kind of money.


My three main characters hire a sudden wealth consultant to help them navigate their win--which is something people should consider in real life!


Q: In our previous Q&A, you discussed the importance of setting in your writing--can you talk about how you created the mansion where this novel is set?


A: I love old houses--in real life, and in fiction--the books I read, the books I write. Old houses have a past, and secrets--elements that lend themselves very effectively to mystery/suspense novels.


This house is actually called Windfall, a 1920s-era mansion on the California coast. It's reportedly cursed, due to tragedies that befell generations of former residents, and it's notorious for being the last place an enigmatic Oscar-winning actress was seen alive before she vanished 25 years ago.


Now it's owned by Shea Daniels, the sudden wealth consultant, who brings our three lottery winners to Windfall to provide guidance--financial and otherwise.


It serves as a locked-room mystery setting here, because the Santa Anas are blowing and wildfires are encroaching, cutting off the mansion from the outside world, physically and electronically. It's an atmospheric setting, and a harrowing one.


Q: What do you think the novel says about friendship?


A: I wanted to explore the inevitable impact this kind of money would have on relationships--in this case, on friendship. My main characters are former roommates who once knew each other intimately and assume they still do, though they haven't seen each other in years.


During their girls' getaway, they did indeed pick up where they left off, falling into old patterns -- Leila is the control freak who likes making the group decisions, J.J. is the introspective one who finds it hard to share personal details, and Molly is the southern sweetheart who smooths over disagreements.


As 40-year old women, they discover common ground in motherhood and bond anew over shared financial hardships and shattered marriages and dreams.


Then they win the lottery, and they're trapped together at Windfall, and Leila disappears. Did she run off with the ticket, or is she a victim of foul play? How well do you really know someone? Even your best friend?


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I'm writing the sixth book in my Lily Dale Mystery series, which will be released next summer, with a seventh under contract.


And I've just sold a new psychological suspense trilogy set at a Hudson Valley gilded age mansion that later became a "lunatic asylum" before being abandoned and falling to ruins. It has dual timelines and of course, unsolved murders and disappearances, past and present.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I love staying in touch with my readers, and booksellers and librarians--I'm so grateful to them for all the support over the years! They can find me on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter/X, and they can subscribe to my newsletter or email me via my website at


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Wendy Corsi Staub.

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