Ghost Image hit another bench mark for me: my daughter loved it as much as I did. My daughter has very discerning taste in books, so if she loves something it moves to the top of my list. We even tried to visit some of the London locations in the book on our recent trip to London.
Ellen, you have everything in this book--Washington, London, rare books, the Founding Fathers, state-of-the-art botanical research, spies--and yet it all works so well! How did you come up with the premise for Ghost Image? And how did you make it all mesh together?
ELLEN CROSBY: Long before I began writing mysteries, I worked on Capitol Hill as the economic advisor to a U.S. senator. Economics is not the sexiest subject. How many people get excited
about the gross national product or the tax code? And because part of my job entailed writing speeches and the occasional newspaper column for my boss, it soon became clear that if I didn't find a way to make a rather dull and complicated subject more interesting, no one was going to pay attention to any of it. Later when I became the Moscow correspondent for ABC Radio News, I had the same light bulb moment: listeners back home in America didn't find Soviet politics, which have always been byzantine and convoluted, to be especially enthralling. Given a choice between me nattering about the latest round of nuclear arms negotiations or listening to Lionel Richie and Bruce Springsteen sing their new hits (these were the late '80s, people) well, you see where I'm going with this.
By the time I wrote my first mystery, I had learned a valuable lesson from years of explaining the foreign earned income exclusion and who was fighting whom in Nagorno-Karabakh: if I didn't grab my audience by the throat from the get-go, they'd find something else to read or do. Which is why I always spend a lot of time on what I hope is a compelling first sentence for each of my books, because I want you to keep reading. Nothing makes me happier than a grumpy letter from someone who writes that I kept them up past their bedtime because they had to read "just one more chapter." So here's the opening line of my new book: GHOST IMAGE, due out in April 21:
When the old prince dies, they're going to cut out his heart and bury it in a monastery in Hungary.
GHOST IMAGE is the second in a new series about Sophie Medina, a photojournalist who worked for a London-based news agency for many years before returning to Washington with her ex-spy husband. (That story was told in MULTIPLE EXPOSURE, the first book, which came out in trade paperback a few weeks ago).
Six months after the move to D.C., Sophie and Nick, her husband, are still trying to settle in to life in America. Nick is off to the Middle East on a trip for a potential new employer and Sophie, who is now freelancing, has reluctantly promised to photograph a high-profile wedding between an Austrian archduke and a senator's daughter as a favor to her old friend, Brother Kevin Boyle, a Franciscan friar and controversial environmentalist. But of course there's trouble in paradise, or more specifically at the engagement party, where the bride flirts with everyone but her finace, and Sophie overhears Brother Kevin, a holy man who took a vow of poverty, arguing with one of the wealthiest men in America.
The research for this book was pure fun--and that's from someone whose previous series was all about wine. The idea for the story came about several years ago after I heard an NPR book review of The Founding Gardeners by Andrea Wulf, which is the fascinating account of the Founding Fathers' passion. Actually, their obsession with agriculture and gardening and how it shaped the early history
|Millennium Seed Bank|
So, if I've done this right, your throat has been grabbed and you're intrigued. And don't you want to know if the old prince really did die? And what happened to his heart after they cut if out?
I hope so.
DEBS: My daughter and I didn't make it to the Savoy Grill, or the Chelsea Physic Garden, two of Ellen's London settings, on our
|Chelsea Physic Garden|
REDS and readers, what are your favorite books that have made you go straight to references to find out more about the subject??