The Story Behind Mill Point Road by JK Ellem

01 Jul 2019

By JK Ellem

How a wrong turn down a back road in Washington County led a bestselling author to find inspiration for his next thriller book.

I was on vacation in September last year, driving through the Washington County countryside and fell in love with the rural scenery and picturesque towns. But a wrong turn led me down a back road and I was lost. I rounded a bend trying to find my way back to the main road when I happened upon a row of exclusive mansions perched high on a ridge in the distance. Immediately, my writer’s imagination kicked into gear. I pulled over, got out of my rental car and took a few photos of what was to become the genesis of my new mystery and suspense domestic thriller, Mill Point Road. I wasn’t looking for any inspiration for my next book at the time. It just happened. But I had nothing, no characters, no story, just a few photos and a street sign. I then spent the next few days in and around Hagerstown, scouting locations, taking more photos and making copious notes. At one point I was standing on the side of the road in a drainage ditch taking photos, thinking to myself this would be a great location to dump a body. The photo sparked an idea. The idea grew into an outline. The outline finally became the thriller book, Mill Point Road.

Mill Point Road, tells the story of Rebecca Cartwright, a recently widowed young woman who moves into an exclusive gated community in the town of Ravenwoood, looking for solitude and to escape the tragedies of her past. She soon befriends a group of women, her neighbors, who meet up for coffee on a regular basis at each other’s homes to share local news but to mainly gossip. On the surface, the women of Mill Point Road appear to live perfect lives, but it’s not long before Becca realizes that each woman is hiding a dark and sinister secret. On the surface, nothing is what it seems.

I have always been fascinated by gated communities and what they’ve come to symbolize. There is this misconception that if we surround ourselves with high walls, security gates and CCTV cameras that we will be safe. But it can be all an illusion, give us a false sense of being untouchable. There is a fragile divide between believing that you are insulated from the perils of crime and “bad things” happening to you, and the reality that inside such communities, danger and mayhem can touch you at any moment.

While the gated community of Mill Point Road doesn’t exist, a lot of the actual landmarks and points of interest in Washington County are in the book. Hagerstown, Williamsport and Boonsboro feature heavily.

Other characters in the story, include a veteran cop from New York City who has moved to Washington County for peace and quiet, and a brash, young police officer who has lived there all her life. It seems like an unlikely pairing, but I think it works because they are such polar opposites, and there is that generational gap to contend with. They each bring a different set of eyes, an alternate perspective to what is a heinous series of crimes. Together Richards and Perez try to hunt down the Eden Killer, an elusive, cunning serial killer whose victims are all young men named Adam all who lived in Washington County.

My books have a heavy dose of reality to them as well. When I can, I have to experience the places, locations, towns and streets that are in my books, make it real for my readers so they can immerse themselves too. It adds a certain authenticity to my stories, which I think is lost these days in fiction writing.

JK Ellem is the author of the new book Mill Point Road.

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