A Q&A with Stefanie Pintoff
1. The Detective Ziele series is set in the early 1900s. What draws you to this time period?
I’ve always loved New York City – and I find no period in the city’s history to be more exciting than the turn of the 20th century. It was a time of unparalleled change and growth that’s been tremendous fun for me to explore and incorporate into my writing. As more people prospered, the city's culture adapted: people became interested in food, and so new restaurants sprang up; their demand for new homes led to a real estate explosion that pushed the city northward, helped along by the first underground subway; and they frequented a growing variety of shows, concerts, and entertainment halls. But still, the city remained marked by vice, corruption, and colorful con artists exploiting it all.
2. What was your inspiration for creating Detective Ziele?
I took one true fact from the life of someone close to me – about how his father waged a losing battle with a gambling habit – and gave this burden to Simon Ziele. I considered how his father's shortcomings would have first limited Ziele, but then fundamentally shaped him. He became someone smarter, more resilient, and more motivated by a sense of fairness than he might otherwise have become.
3. How and when did you start writing?
I guess I’ve been laying the foundation of my writing career for well over a decade, but I didn’t start writing until recently. I've always been an avid reader, particularly of mysteries, but I didn’t write one myself until I became a mom. I quickly discovered that my previous careers as an attorney and teacher did not provide me as much personal fulfillment – or as much flexibility in raising a young family – as writing did. What both previous careers did give me, however, was an invaluable exposure to theories of criminology, law, ethics and turn- of-the-century culture and history. So, I took the leap that all first time writers do, and entered the result - my first novel - in the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writer's of America First Crime Novel Competition. When it won, I found myself with a brand new career.
4. What do we have to look forward from you next?
The next Detective Ziele novel, tentatively titled Versed in Murder, will be out in 2010. Ziele will enter the seamy underside of Times Square to search for a killer who targets the actresses of the Great White Way. And yes, Ziele will once again find himself paired in an uneasy alliance with noted criminologist Alistair Sinclair as they track down a murderer as brilliant as he is ruthless.