This Oak Hill Journalist Turned Novelist Puts Her Thrillers in Virginia’s Wine Country


Ellen Crosby, an Oak Hill resident who writes books that combine mysteries with stories set in and around Virginia’s wine country, says her favorite adult drink isn’t local wine, but champagne. Real French champagne. She and her husband, who is French, lived in Europe for many years and visited Champagne frequently. She will not name a specific label, leaving the choice to her husband.

So far, his books have included two mysteries starring international photojournalist Sophie Medina (Crosby is working on the third); Moscow nights, a stand-alone; and 12 books in the Wine Country series. (The last is bitter roots). The New England native’s experience includes time as an economist for a US senator, a reporter in Moscow for ABC Radio News when she lived in Europe, and a freelance journalist for the Washington Post once she and her family returned to the United States. They settled in northern Virginia because of their sons’ beautiful countryside and educational system.

Although his books include a lot of reality, the plots are fiction. (There is a fictional plot about Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis buying paintings when she spent her freshman year in France.) Virginia; that would be the spark that would interest me intellectually. There is always a historical aspect that would happen in the past that remains tied to present times,” including the effects of climate change on the local wine industry. Her wine research is extensive, and she frequently chooses the brains of Lucie Morton (Virginia Wineries Association Lifetime Achievement Award winner, winemaker, ampelographer, rootstock expert, author, historian, educator), the person Crosby considers to be “the best expert in the world”. She can look at a vine leaf and identify the grape.

If you haven’t read any of his books, rest assured that you don’t have to read them in order. Yes, that might make a little more sense, but Crosby includes enough context for you to realize that in the current books, winery owner and amateur sleuth Lucie Montgomery is engaged and about to be married. “I like to make it fresh, but familiar enough for new people to get it.”

Crosby says she doesn’t have an “idea store” for plot ideas, but she always has a notebook. “I listen, read the newspaper. I read an article about a place in England where they collect seeds before they disappear, and I thought to myself, “What if? » » This was the basis of his second book on Sophie Medina.

“I’m a planner, so I’ll have a rough draft, do some more research, and then someone will tell me something I didn’t know that hits a spot. When a book comes due, I do a few months of research, then I start writing 1,000 words a day. I’ll have several drafts. Before the pandemic, she was visiting research places. “What are the sounds you hear? You can’t get that on Google. It’s a mix of writing and research. I know where I need to be. If it’s April and the book is due in November, I know where I’m supposed to be, so I don’t stay up late at night trying to meet a deadline.

This story originally appeared in our August issue. For more stories like this, subscribe to our monthly magazine.


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