IT’S ONE OF US Origin Story
The germs of this story have been floating around in my brain for over a decade, sparked by one of those tragic-comedic life moments: my husband and I were in the middle of some rather grueling fertility treatments. One fateful day, he was locked alone in a room in the clinic with a magazine and Sweet Home Alabama blasting out of the speakers (not his first choice). That evening, as we laughed at the absurdity of our situation, he told me this had the makings of a novel…but I’m a thriller writer, and fertility is more of a women’s fiction story. I didn’t know how to marry the two until recently. Enter the complicated forensics of sibling DNA, the moral ambiguity of the sperm donation industry, and a killer on the loose, and poof, the story came together.
Olivia Bender was such a dream character to write. She came to my mind fully formed one day: a sad, lonely woman with sable hair in a cream cable knit sweater and rolled-up chinos, walking barefoot down a chilly beach, having just suffered a miscarriage. I had to know who she was. It turns out, she’s a dynamic architectural designer who owns her own firm, shares her gifts with the community, and is struggling with the same fertility issues my husband and I went through. She’s placed in an absolutely untenable position by the circumstances of the novel, and all I could think was: What would *I* do in this situation? How would I react? I think this book has a great philosophical core of uncertainty that I hope many, many readers will connect with. What would YOU do? How would YOU react? What would be YOUR path forward? Do you agree with how Olivia handles the situation, especially as it spins out of control? And what about the rest of the characters? We hear from all the people affected: The Husband. The Mother. The Daughter. The Brother. The Cops. The Murderer. I love books that force you to examine your own motivations and morality, while exploring the same in the characters, and this one will, for sure.
This story is certainly identifiable as one of mine, from the creepy opening to the high-stakes life and death struggle, the push and pull of a police investigation against the domestic backdrop, characters you want to root for, and characters you’ll love to hate. And of course, the Nashville setting. But I think this story has a different kind of nuance and tackles questions that are much closer to our realities than the more fantastical world of some of my other psychological thrillers. I think readers will see themselves reflected more in these characters than anything I’ve done previously. It’s not a scary, leave the lights on kind of thriller. It’s scary in a different kind of way. It’s quiet and insidious and morally complicated. And, if I’ve done my job correctly, completely addictive.
And there’s no denying this is, at its heart, a story of loss, specifically, the kind of loss that comes from infertility and miscarriage. When you’re in the throes of trying, and not succeeding, to have children, it feels like the world is caving in around your ears. I couldn’t write a book about what it’s like to have children, but I can write with some authenticity about what it’s like to lose them. And even more importantly, to survive those losses. Survive, and thrive. I am hoping to normalize the conversation around infertility and send a clear message that there is life on the other side of these tragedies. A joyful, wonderful, complete life.
I hope you love IT’S ONE OF US!
It’s One Of Us by J.T. Ellison
Everybody lies. Even the ones you think you know best of all . . .
Olivia Bender designs exquisite home interiors that satisfy the most demanding clients. But her own deepest desire can’t be fulfilled by marble counters or the perfect rug. She desperately wants to be a mother. Fertility treatments and IVF keep failing. And just when she feels she’s at her lowest point, the police deliver shocking news to Olivia and her husband, Park.
DNA results show that the prime suspect in a murder investigation is Park’s son. Olivia is relieved, knowing this is a mistake. Despite their desire, the Benders don’t have any children. Then comes the confession. Many years ago, Park donated sperm to a clinic. He has no idea how many times it was sold—or how many children he has sired.
As the murder investigation goes deeper, more terrible truths come to light. With every revelation, Olivia must face the unthinkable. The man she married has fathered a killer. But can she hold that against him when she keeps such dark secrets of her own?
This twisting, emotionally layered thriller explores the lies we tell to keep a marriage together–or break each other apart . . .