Special Interview with Native La Crosse Writer Danielle Trussoni

Author of “The Fortress: A Love Story”

Jess Witkins

Danielle Trussoni is an award-winning memoirist and internationally best-selling novelist. Her first book, “Falling Through the Earth,” captured her childhood spent on the north side of La Crosse and detailed her close but difficult relationship with her father. Her novels, “Angelology” and “Angelopolis,” have their own nod to the La Crosse area with research from Saint Rose Convent.

In her newest release, “The Fortress: A Love Story,” Trussoni’s memoir transports the reader to far-off places like superstitious Bulgaria and picturesque France. The book has been described as “A Year in Provence” meets “Eat Pray Love” by way of “The Shining,” and that’s rather an apt summary.

“The Fortress” is the story of Trussoni’s mad-dash romance with a mysterious and mesmerizing Bulgarian novelist. They marry and start their family life together. But what should have ended with happily ever after takes a turn for the worse, challenging the couple in numerous ways. In an effort to save their relationship, they move into a 13th century stone fortress in France, a place with its own tumultuous history including Knights Templar, hidden treasure, Nazis and ghosts.

At its core, “The Fortress” is a love story, but not the way you might think. As Trussoni’s relationship with her husband becomes more strained, she examines the choices she’s made and allows us to witness her journey with great candor. True to Trussoni’s voice, she does not paint herself to be only hero or only villain. She excels at portraying the deep complexities of humankind, how we each yield to our own darkness and light. 

The Interview  

Jess Witkins: This book is your examination of what love and baggage mean, literally (traveling across countries) and spiritually (how we connect and disconnect from people). What's the biggest impact you feel the French fortress had on you?

Danielle Trussoni: The fortress was where my marriage went to die. My ex-husband and I were married for seven years and were struggling to stay together when we decided to move to France. In my mind, this move would be the thing that saved us. We’d tried many other avenues, but nothing worked for us. Moving to France and finding a big old romantic house was a way for me to imagine that we could be happy again. Clearly, I needed to tell myself stories and to go to more and more extreme lengths to stay in an unhappy relationship.

JW: Your story is relatable because we all gravitate toward "fixing" things, whether it's a relationship or a habitat. You said you believed the walls of the fortress were so strong, they had to—they must—be able to fix your marriage. What do you feel this experience has taught you about relationships?

DT: In this story, the fortress is a literal home and a metaphor of the dream-turned-nightmare of my relationship with my ex-husband. The fortress was, in the beginning, a dream home, the kind of place that I’d imagined would make me content. That is quite similar to the way I felt about my ex-husband when we first met: He was so wonderful that I couldn’t imagine that we would ever be unhappy. But that isn’t the way it turned out. Not for the marriage, or for the fortress. This memoir is about coming to terms with illusion, especially in relationships.

JW: How has this whole ordeal impacted your thoughts on family?

DT: Family is extremely important to me, and I’m still someone who plans a lot of my time around my family. I have two children, and I am engaged to be married, which clearly points to the fact that I haven’t given up on the idea of having a close family structure. What is different, I suppose, is the need to make that family “perfect” and by that I mean, I do not feel compelled to create an image of my family that is different from what we really are. Nothing is perfect. Learning to accept that has changed my personal life enormously.

JW: How does this book differ from your others?

DT: The moment I received a printed copy of the book, with the incredible cover and the description of my story, I felt as though all the difficulties I’d had in the living of this story had amounted to something special. This story is so personal and so deeply and earnestly felt, that offering it up to readers feels like giving them a piece of myself.

Excerpt from “The Fortress: A Love Story,” by Danielle Trussoni

If I had been another woman, I might have been skeptical. But I wasn’t another woman. I was a woman ready to be swept away. I was a woman ready for her story to begin. As a writer, story was all that mattered. Rising action, dramatic complication, heroes and villains and dark plots. I believed I was the author of my life, that I controlled the narrative...”


“The Fortress: A Love Story” is set to release September 20.

Be the first to know by following Trussoni at: www.facebook.com/DanielleTrussoniWriter

Danielle is also available to phone in for book clubs. You can contact her about joining your book club at danielle@danielletrussoni.com. 


Jess Witkins  author

Jess Witkins is a writer, blogger, and sometimes funny. Her mission: making pathetic look cool since 1985. She can be found in the Coulee Region's many coffee shops and wordmongering at Jess Witkins's Happiness Project.