Backstory Serial — The Origin Story

Backstory Serial is a ground-breaking experiment in friendship and creativity. A couple of years ago, at the height of COVID when we were all still in lockdown, a small group of us came together via Zoom, ostensibly to work on knitting projects together. We knew each other only by reputation and written work (including books and even tweets), but quickly bonded while texting, talking, and knitting (although to be honest, some of us didn’t really knit at all).

As often happens, crazy work schedules, the difficulty of keeping track of time (what we started calling COVID-induced-temporal-dislocation), and all of the other stressors and complications of life during and after lockdown made it hard for us to stay in touch consistently.


“Why don’t we write a screenplay for a Hallmark movie together?” one of us suggested in the group chat. Some of us (ahem, Mary) had never even seen a Hallmark movie but it was much less about the screenplay than it was about having an excuse to meet more often. 

Nothing came of this plan for a while but the seed was planted and the movie we referred to as Grounds for Divorce, is now a new romance novel called The Italian Lesson which takes place mainly in Tuscany in the fictional village of Calabresi. And it fell to the one of us (Mary), who had never read a romance novel either, to do the writing. And Jen who has read a modest amount to edit.

In addition to the story, E. Jean Carroll, who has actually read stacks and stacks of romance novels—is consulting. (E. Jean calls this “Cheerleading.”) And you will be hearing from E. Jean from time to time replying to your comments.

E. Jean Carroll—enough said.

One to three installments of a chapter will be released every week, and over the months, the entire story will have been told. 

But that will not the end of our story. Soon after The Italian Lesson comes to its conclusion, we will begin serializing a brand-new book. But here’s the twist—will it be a sequel? An entirely new romance novel? Or will it be a murder mystery, a fantasy, or a corporate crime thriller? Subscribers will be the first to find out. So, join us today at Backstory Serial and you will never miss a cliff-hanger!

Mary and Jen very seriously at work.



Anybody who visits Backstory Serial will have access to the first two chapters of The Italian Lesson. You can see these in serialized form or read those all in one place here: Chapters 1 & 2 of The Italian Lesson

If you choose to become a paid subscriber, you will have access to everything outlined below.

  • Access to the entirety of The Italian Lesson which will be published in several installments each week.

  • Commenting privileges.

    • As we’ve already mentioned a couple of times (but will mention again because it’s so flipping cool), if you become a paid subscriber you will have the ability to post comments about any of the published posts, and E. Jean, knitter, old crone, and proprietor of the phenomenal newsletter Ask E. Jeanwill respond from time to time to your comments.


Occasional special features including

  • A Taste of Calabresi: illustrated recipes of all of the amazing Italian food our characters eat, prepare, and savor.

  • Knit One: A showcase of the hand-knit scarves, sweaters, gloves, and hats our characters make themselves at the local yarn store Maglia Uno,

  • Character Study: Once in a while we will take a deep dive into the lives of your favorite characters and follow their adventures outside the scope of the novel.

  • All things Calabresi—the Tuscan hill town in which our story largely transpires. 



Backstory Serial is a politics-free zone. What we’re doing here is entirely outside of the scope of what we all do for our (many) day jobs. That’s one of the reasons the idea for this project persisted for so long. And it’s one of the many reasons we finally made it happen.

The main reason we made it happen, of course, was our desire to spend more time together. We want to nurture a broader community here based on a shared love of reading, creativity, and fun.


This is a place for everybody. Mutual respect is key to keeping things harmonious and positive.

Let’s do a little world-building together, shall we?



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How three friends came together to write a romance novel