Q&A With Danielle Trussoni

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Q&A With Danielle Trussoni 

My latest Q&A is with New York Times Bestselling author of the Angelology series, The Ancestor and the beginning of her new series The Puzzle Master series. The first book being in that series titled The Puzzle Master. Danielle has written two memoirs The Fortress & Falling Through The Earth. 


Q: Danielle would you like to tell the readers of the blog and I a little bit about The Puzzle Master? How did you come up with the idea for the book? 

A: The Puzzle Master is about an ingenious puzzle solver who is called to a prison to solve an enigmatic cipher. The novel revolves around Mike Brink, the puzzle master of the book’s title. When we meet him, he is a world renowned puzzle solver, thirty-two years old, and has been called to a women’s prison to help decode a mysterious cipher that one of the prisoners drew. Brink has won multiple World Championships, is a puzzle constructor for The New York Times, and has abilities that few people in the world have. But he wasn’t always this way. When he was a teenager, he was an extremely promising football player, one who was expected to play professional football. But a traumatic brain injury changed all of that, and he developed something called Acquired Savant Syndrome, an actual disorder that leaves the brain changed. In Mike Brink’s case, he’s left with an incredible ability to solve complex mathematical problems, puzzles, and every kind of conundrum. So this is a character that was once very physical, and is now almost entirely cerebral. He’s also someone whose brain is incredibly overwhelming, and who struggles to communicate and connect with other people. Mike Brink becomes involved with the woman who drew the cipher, Jess Price, who was convicted of killing her boyfriend five years before. While Mike Brink, is the hero of the novel, I actually began with Jess Price and her story, which unfolds in a 19th century mansion in upstate New York. Her story was interesting to me because I wanted to explore the cipher, and its history, one that moves through 19th century Prague, and goes all the way back to the 13th century and the Jewish Mystic, Abraham Abulafia, who created it.

Q: How many books do you plan on writing in The Puzzle Master series?

A: I am currently writing The Puzzle Box, the next book in this series, and I have a third one planned, but beyond that, I’m not sure how many books there will be in this series. I guess that is up to readers– if they buy the books, I’ll keep writing them.

Q: Danielle I saw on your website that you wanted to write ever since you were a little girl. Who in your family and friends were your biggest supporters of your goal and saw your talent?

A: What a great question! I was really different from everyone in my family. I began to write as a kid mainly because I spent so much time reading, and found books to be utterly magical and transformative. To be honest, I didn’t have much support for my writing until I was an adult, when I went to college and enrolled in my first creative writing courses. I spent a lot of time writing and wondering if what I wanted to do was something that I could do professionally. It took a long time for me to see that my writing was viable, and that I was good enough to have my book published and read. 

Q: When creating characters for your fiction books, do you use bits and pieces of real people you know? 

A: Not really, no. But in The Puzzle Master, there is a character– Ann Marie Richard– who is based almost entirely on a real person, someone I interviewed while doing research. I changed the name slightly, and of course the personal details are different, but I thought the person was so perfect for the book that I based the character on her.

Q: Where is your favorite writing spot or spots where you plot, write and edit your work?

A: I live in San Miguel de Allende Mexico, which is 6600 feet up in the mountains. There is lots of sun, and the temperature is moderate all year round, and so my writing environment is pretty perfect. I have an office that is only for writing, and I work every day (except Sunday, which I usually take off). I love closing the door and staying in my office for long stretches at a time, and finds that the best way to write a novel is to totally submerge myself in the process. 

Q: Does Hollywood have the rights to your work? The entertainment industry needs new ideas badly. 

A: The Puzzle Master has not been optioned yet. As there are strikes happening, it may not be the best time. But I think that Mike Brink would make an exciting hero for a television series. 

Q: On your website I saw that you are a columnist that writes in the Gothic & Horror column of The New York Times Book Review. What is it like writing for a famous publication like that? It sounds so exciting! 

A: I wrote for The New York Times Book Review for five years and have recently stepped away from my column. It was a great opportunity for me, as I read so much, and very widely. I discovered authors I hadn’t read before, and also got used to reading and reviewing on a schedule.  Ultimately it became too much for me to keep up with reviewing and write fiction the way I want to, and so I left my column. 

Q: Do you prefer writing fiction or non-fiction the most and why?

A: Fiction! Although I have, as you mentioned earlier, written memoir. I know that many novelists use their lives as fodder for their fiction, but I always felt that it made more sense to go directly to memoir if I wanted to write about my life. Fiction is a purely imaginative (sometimes wildly so!) place for me, and that makes it very freeing to write. Every day at my desk is an adventure when I’m writing fiction. 

Q: What’s it like having a podcast and what advice would you give to those who would want to start one?

A: I started a podcast in 2017 and it ran until 2019. It was called WRITERLY, and it was about all the aspects of writing that I didn’t learn as a MFA student in creative writing. Basically, I was curious about the business side of writing, and how a writer could sustain a career writing fiction. I had two different co-hosts: Walter Kirn and Panio Gianopolous, both of whom were excellent. It was great fun to talk about all kinds of writing situations– how editing happens, how to get an agent, what a contract looks like, etc. What I didn’t bank on was how much work it would be to sustain alone. My husband, who is a film person, was doing all the editing for me, but other than that, I was running the whole show. I decided I wanted to have more time to write and closed it down.