By J.T. Ellison
I say this all the time, but thank heavens for my book journals. There is nothing better than leafing through my old notebooks to find the impetus for my stories.
LIE TO ME is no different. It began, quite literally, in a Parisian café, in a humble travel-worn Moleskine, under the influence of champagne, as the story of a woman whose mother has deserted her. I was charmed by the neighborhood we were staying in, and affected by the roaming we did throughout the city. I took notes on every person I saw, scripted their conversations, imagined their lives. And then I went home, to Tennessee, and started to write.
The story quickly morphed into something very different, at once challenging and frightening. So much so, I sometimes wondered why I was writing it. You’ll understand when you read the opening line. I tried very hard to open the story a different way, but sometimes, characters insist on telling their tale their way, and the writer must simply sit back and allow them to take center stage, under a lone spotlight. This is LIE TO ME in a nutshell. The characters took over, and I was along for the ride.
But fear is a part of writing. Fear creates resistance, which keeps us from the page. It’s a truth well known among writers that the books you’re the most scared to write are the ones that will push you to the next level, that teach you how to be a better writer, that reach new readers. LIE TO ME was such a book. The fear, the resistance, were sky high, and so I knew I was on to something, and continued pushing until the story revealed itself. I even went back to Paris to write more, because sometimes you must honor your Muse when she gives you gifts. You’ll understand after you read it why this was so necessary to the process.
LIE TO ME is, at heart, a story of the ultimate betrayal. Of a marriage gone awry after the loss of a child. Two young, successful writers, Sutton and Ethan Montclair, the toast of the literary community, the perfect couple, lose their son to SIDS, and the aftermath of his death creates an untenable world for them. Unable to cope, Sutton leaves in the night, and Ethan finds a note on the counter that clearly states: Don’t look for me.
But is this the truth, or only one part of the story?
Sutton has seemingly left without her lifelines: her phone, her computer, her wallet. Has she left on her own? Or is her disappearance the result of something more sinister? Knowing he will be fingered for hurting his wife, Ethan delays calling the police, and when he finally does, his world falls apart.
And that’s as much as I can say about the story without revealing too much. A problem inherent to the domestic noir genre.
What is domestic noir? I define it thusly: a story of dark suspense in which the reader is misled along the way to the conclusion. The narrators are ordinary people to whom extraordinary events happen, and are oftentimes unreliable, which means the narrative’s mystery is even more obscured than normal. Twists happen in the story, turns in the narrative that set the reader off on a new path. The ending is often explosive and always surprising. It is not a new genre, though it has seen a resurgence of late.
By its very title, the reader will recognize LIE TO ME sits squarely in the domestic noir genre. It is a story of ordinary, if talented, people, who are overwhelmed by an extraordinary event. Even though this event happened in the past, their futures remain uncertain. Their pain is relatable, their actions understandable.
And yet… there is something else at play.
My goals with these types of stories is to take you to the very last line, to give as satisfying an ending as possible, with a few unexpected twists thrown in along the way. If I’ve done my job correctly, LIE TO ME will leave you breathless and turning the pages late into the night.
You’ll let me know, won’t you? And if you don’t like it, please, lie to me.
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Via: JT Ellison