Guest blogger Rachel Abbott published her debut, Only the Innocent, in 2011. It raced up the U.K. charts and quickly hit the #1 spot in the Amazon Kindle chart and remained there for four weeks. This best-selling novel is now available for the first time in the U.S.
Like most people who work hard, I had dreams of an alternative life. I loved my job,
but as founder and managing director of an interactive media company, it did
absorb my every waking moment. It was only in those minutes just before sleep
when I could fantasize about a life filled with sunshine (I was living in the
north west of England at the time--famous for its rain), with time to write "the
book"--the one that had been lurking at the back of my mind for years.
The first time I talked about my aspirations to become a writer was as far back as
1994. We had friends round for dinner, and we chatted about the three things
that we would most love to do if we didn’t have to work. My three were: buy a
house in Italy, write a book, and live by the sea. Somebody asked me what my
book would be about, and I suddenly realized that an idea that had been
rattling around in my head for a long time. I wanted to pose the question--what set of circumstances could be so bad
that a woman would have no other option than to commit murder?
And so the idea of Only the Innocent was born. Of course, I still had no time to write, but I did have time to think. Over the years, the idea developed and the
characters became clear in my mind--but work still dominated my life, and what
free time I had was spent with family.
The new millennium brought lots of changes, and the dreams edged closer. I sold my company in 2000, and my husband and I immediately set off to Italy to try to find a home there. We fell in love with
an old monastery that was a total ruin. It had been home to just four monks
until the 18th century, and they had worked the land, picked the
olives, and prayed in the small chapel that adjoins the house. Some say that
the oldest monk still sings at night to ward off the devil! I’ve never heard
him, I have to admit, but the atmosphere of peace that envelopes the house is
Sixty percent of the house had to be built
from the ground up, but to exactly
the same style as before-- same stone, same sized windows, same style of roof. It’s
in a beautiful area of Italy--Le Marche--and we can see the sea, even though
it’s 40 miles away!
During the restoration I continued to work for
five years to support the spiraling building costs, but for the last couple of
years I commuted nearly every weekend because I just couldn’t stay away from
We finally made the permanent move to Italy in
2006, but it still took me a few years to get 'round to writing my book. My
nephew asked if he could hold his wedding in the chapel in the grounds of the
house, and the whole "wedding in Italy" idea just snowballed. Everybody wanted
to get married at our house! I suddenly found I was spending my days booking
caterers, florists and liaising (in Italian!) with the local mayor who had to
perform the ceremonies.
Meanwhile, we had decided to restore a second
property very close to the first one, but much smaller. It gave us somewhere to
live while renting the larger one out for all the festivities! In the end,
though, it felt as if we had swapped one job for another and finally we decided
to take things easy. No more weddings!
That was, of course, until I decided that the time had come for me to write my
book. And since then, life has changed yet again.
Due to Only
the Innocent’s amazing success in the U.K., I now write full time, and I’m loving
every minute of it. My second book is almost complete too, and in order to
write the third--which is partly based in Alderney in the Channel Islands--we
have taken a property there for a few months. And even better--the house is just 50 meters from the sea!