We are delighted to welcome New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than 25 novels and the EMMY award winning co-host of the literary TV show, A Word on Words, J.T. Ellison. With millions of books in print, her novels have been published in 25 countries. Here J.T. tells us where she got the inspiration to write her new thriller, HER DARK LIES, described as one featuring a mystery, a ruined wedding dress and troubling shadows hovering over what should be a lovely wedding in an idyllic setting.
by J.T. Ellison
For those who know me, it’s not a surprise that my latest novel is set off the coast of Italy. My family is Italian and live in the Piedmont region, so any excuse to visit, I find.
Our last trip to visit family was a bit of a disaster. We went to Italy to celebrate my major milestone birthday. It was my parents, my husband and myself, my brother, and one of my nephews.
It rained, almost every day. We all caught terrible colds. We tend to migrate around when we travel, in order to see and experience as much as possible, and there were six of us (sometimes eight) in a rented van (nicknamed, appropriately, Van Go) barreling around the Italian Alps, sneezing and coughing, and, well, arguing. If you’ve ever been sick on vacation, you understand. It’s ten thousand times worse when you’re not at home. Being overseas, it is one heck of a challenge.
Como was our last stop, and we planned to be there three days before flying home. Traffic was awful, the roads so narrow we nearly scraped off the mirror a few times. Add in the sneezing, coughing, shouting — in Italian and English — by the time we alighted on the shores of Lake Como, everyone was primed for murder.
Thankfully, we found some excellent codeine-laced cough drops and soldiered through. There was good wine, of course. Our room had a beautiful terrace that overlooked the lake, and miracle of all miracles, when we woke, the sun was shining. My birthday had arrived, and finally, things were looking up.
I’d lost my voice at that point (a decennial tradition) but this was my first time on Lake Como, so I packed up a box of tissues and we caught the ferry. We toured around on the lake all day, disembarking at the various towns, gobbling down risottos and Prosecco. Eventually, we simply sat in our seats on the ferry’s top deck and motored around the lake. It was a wonderful day.
Spirits restored, we settled in for a special birthday dinner. As the wine arrived, a yacht pulled up to the dock on Comacina, Como’s sole island.
A wedding party emerged, disappearing into the island’s heart. It’s become something of a family joke — it never fails, no matter where we are, we run into a wedding. We could hear the makings of a grand party going on. As we were served dessert, fireworks began. I was wildly impressed that my husband had managed fireworks for my birthday, but quickly found out it was a Comacina wedding tradition.
We all had a good laugh, and I knew immediately I had to find a way to write this into a book. The setting, the yacht, the wedding, the fireworks. Murderous intentions. A novel was born.
Comacina has a number of legends surrounding it, which piqued my interest to do more research in the area. But to achieve my vision for the novel, I also needed crashing waves, extreme isolation, and a sheer cliff face, so I married Comacina with Capri for the cliffs and grottos, set it off even farther west where no one can reach it easily, and put a grand fortress on the cliff. Only later did I realize I’d put my fictional Isle Isola smack dab in the Tyrrhenian Sea between the Scylla and Charybdis. So fitting.
Being on an island in the middle of the sea, only accessibly by yacht, hydrofoil, or helicopter, during the stormy season, amped up the isolation needed to make HER DARK LIES the ultimate gothic thriller. Its roots are as Italian as I am. I can’t wait to go back to Italy and see what sparks for me next!
This new thriller will be our March 9. In the meantime, you can visit J.T.’s website here! Thanks, J.T. for being a guest here on Rogue Women Writers.