RELEASE DATE: MARCH 19, 2019
Formats: Print, e-Book
Lily Machara is a wisecracking auto mechanic. She’s never cared for glitz or drama. But when Ryder Flynn, a rising star in the world of commercial art, adopts Lily as his muse after a random sighting, Lily discovers herself painted into his hot new pieces … and becomes America’s newest — anonymous — celebrity.
The only problem: The woman Ryder imagines isn’t the true Lily. Or is it?
Now, as Lily and Ryder give in to mutual curiosity and a budding romance, Lily’s life — secrets and all — fall victim to a pop culture with one question on its mind: Who is the woman in Ryder Flynn’s art?
In the spirit of Cyrano de Bergerac and Pretty Woman, MONA LISAS AND LITTLE WHITE LIES is a delightful new romantic comedy from John Herrick, bestselling author of Beautiful Mess.
Years ago, I had to get some work done on my car and leave it at the shop for the day. The individual working the front counter was a woman around 22 years old. At the risk of sounding sexist, you don’t find an overwhelming number of women working in auto shops. She was attractive and had a fun personality. She even gave me my shuttle ride to where I needed to go.
As soon as we parted ways, my mind filled with questions: Does she ever feel out of place as the only woman among men? Does her job define her? Does she view it as her permanent career, a source of genuine interest, or just as a way to pay the bills? How do the men interact with each other, particularly in terms of humor, and how does it make her feel? No doubt, she holds her own among them, so how does she do it?
That was more than a decade ago.
After stumbling upon my initial inspiration for Mona Lisas somewhere between 2004 and 2007, I returned to it here and there, tinkering with it as time progressed. There is a time for everything, and Mona Lisas’s time was fuzzy. I sketched its first scenes while planning From the Dead in 2008. A newly discovered love for the music of Rascal Flatts formed my personal soundtrack when I returned to the planning process in 2010. I wrote Mona Lisas’s first draft in 2011, and it proved the toughest manuscript to write. It’s one of my shorter novels, but it took the longest to write. When I approached burnout, I put the draft on hold. When I returned to it a year later, I discovered I had stopped a mere 15 pages from the end of the manuscript! It goes to prove we should never give up. Our breakthrough could be hours away.
By the time I tackled its final revision in 2016—immediately after finishing Beautiful Mess—technology had changed. By that time, MP3 downloads had not only overtaken CD purchases, but rendered them all but obsolete. But giving someone an MP3 album would be impersonal, so I needed to accommodate that technological change in Chapter 13!
The process was worth the wait. Mona Lisas, a novel which seemed out of place among my work when I first drafted it, has found its place as a successor to Beautiful Mess. Romantic comedies both, they possess a similar tone—but, as seems to have become the norm for my novels, characters hold their share of dark secrets.
The process was one of those daily grinds where, if you don’t feel like showing up, you show up anyway—but I love how the novel turned out. And to tackle the burnout, I made some changes in my life. I got creative with my writing schedule, reorganized my 24-hour day to maximize my moments of strength, and discovered a new, more satisfying process.
The Renaissance Cleveland Hotel, located in downtown Cleveland, served as my original inspiration for the hotel setting. However, I created a different floor plan for the novel. The last time I stepped foot there was in 1990, when it was owned by Stouffer.
Lily’s character came to me after dropping off my car for some work. The girl behind the counter looked 20 years old. She also shuttled me to where I needed to go next. I wondered how it must feel for her, surrounded by an otherwise all-male staff, and how she might have held her own. I also wondered if she was aware of her beauty or if she had grown immune to it during her career. The novel was born that day—but I wouldn’t write it until years later.
I tried to give Lily a strong sense of humor. It would become her defense mechanism on the job when she needed to stand her ground. In truth, though, it had served as her defense mechanism her entire life, protecting her from opening herself up to others.
Ryder’s art resembles much of the movie poster art that seemed to disappear after the 1980s. Some of the more recent examples include posters for Back to the Future, Beetlejuice, the Star Wars films, and James Bond films from the Roger Moore era.
When I started planning the novel in 2008 and wrote the first draft in 2011, MP3 use was on the rise, but CDs remained prevalent. By the time I made my final revision to the draft, CD purchases were all but obsolete—but Evan needed a tangible gift. So during the final rewrite, I needed to make an excuse for why Evan would tote around a CD. I don’t think technology has ever changed as fast as it does today.
Montelle Winery in Augusta, Missouri, served as the location inspiration for Lily and Evan’s afternoon date. It features a multi-tiered deck, occasional live entertainment, and has a sweeping view of the Missouri countryside, including a single road that winds around hills. The winery sits high above, and from that vantage point, you can see for a couple of miles. Gorgeous.
Despite being a native of St. Louis, I find minimal inspiration there. Perhaps I’ve spent so much time there, familiarity has washed away any dose of idealism for me. So I took advantage of this novel’s setting and tried to weave as much of Missouri into the book as possible, since I don’t foresee setting another story there. Hence locations like the rural winery, the Ozarks, and Hannibal, Missouri, which was Mark Twain’s home. The Hannibal chapters are my nod to a fellow writer from my home state.
I had to rewrite some of the location details in the Ozarks. The area had expanded and the road system had changed since I wrote the first draft years ago.
Mona Lisas is a romantic comedy, but it wouldn’t be a John Herrick novel without a dark side to the protagonist. Hence, the backstory to Lily’s love life, which, in her eyes, confirmed her own lack of beauty.
I’m gonna say it: Breakfast at Tiffany’s is one of my all-time favorite films. My mom lived in Manhattan in the mid-1960s, when the film took place. At only 19 years old, she was an independent, free-spirited, single woman living in the city, working as an airline attendant, making ends meet. She went on dates so she could eat. She spent half of her time in other locations due to her job. At her apartment, she had orange crates for furniture, a mattress on the floor, and a fur coat—a gift from her sister—for a blanket. With a chuckle, she says, “But we had a doorman.” Beyond the film’s complex characters and the gorgeous cinematography, the reason I love the film so much is because when I see it, I know that’s the way Manhattan looked when Mom lived there. It’s my comfort film—and a rare case in which the film is even better than the book.
Ryder rubbed his eyes. No wonder they felt so sore—one glance at his watch told him it was almost two in the morning. Although he could still hear well, the loud music seemed to have whittled his sensitivity to about 85 percent, as though he’d wrapped his eardrums in cotton.
After dinner, he’d allowed Chase to drag him to a nightclub, which was where Ryder had last seen his friend before returning to the hotel alone by way of a taxi. They would find each other before the art show opened that morning at ten o’clock. Chase might push his limits, but he was never late
Now, upon entering the hotel, he found the lobby empty except for a concierge at the front desk. The room’s silence rivaled that of a funeral parlor. Ryder made a beeline for the elevator bank and pushed the round button to hail a ride upstairs. With a glance around the corner, he found the doors to the art show shut and locked. He detected no pulsating rhythms, which meant the wedding reception had ended, as well.
Lily loved the jingle of car keys. She shook a set of them in her grip as she admired the fresh wax on her car, which glistened in the sunlight. A year ago, she had treated herself to a black Subaru Impreza, which contained a boxer engine, just like a Porsche. She could spend hours poring over the curves and horsepower of cars the way art enthusiasts might examine a Rembrandt. Gunning the engine of a nice car kindled in her a rush stronger than one caused by the first silky sip of espresso.
On her way up the wooden steps to her apartment that afternoon, she eyed her watch and discovered it was a little past five-thirty. Maybe she should eat that grilled chicken, the batch she had put in the fridge the other day, before it spoiled. Served cold on a homemade Caesar salad sounded like a dream.
When she reached the top of the stairs, she stopped in her tracks outside her apartment door. She thought she heard a—