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Ex-besties feud over a messy wedding in 'You're Invited'

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

If Amaya, a Sri Lankan woman living in Los Angeles, is surprised to find out - via Instagram, of course - that her former best friend Kaavi is engaged, she's even more surprised to find out that it's to her college ex-boyfriend. Messy, messy, messy. She's stunned when she actually gets invited to the lavish, over-the-top affair. But she's also determined to keep the wedding from happening by any means necessary. "You're Invited" is the second thriller from Amanda Jayatissa, who joins us now from Colombo, Sri Lanka. Hello.

AMANDA JAYATISSA: Hi, Ayesha. Thank you so much for having me on the show.

RASCOE: I'm glad that you're here. So, let's - this story starts with Amaya at the wedding, which is a multiday affair. Can you read us just like that first paragraph of the book?

JAYATISSA: Sure thing.

(Reading) I woke up with bruised knuckles and blood under my fingernails, more rested than I had been in years. I guess this is who I am now - the kind of person who would finally get a good night's sleep after attacking someone else, the kind of woman who would fly halfway around the world to stop my ex-best friend from marrying my ex-boyfriend. If that's one too many exes for you, well, it certainly is for me. But I'm also the kind of woman who does whatever it takes. So here I am.

RASCOE: This is not a spoiler. This is the first page of the book. But it's not looking great for Amaya, right?

JAYATISSA: No, no, it most certainly is not.

RASCOE: (Laughter) So tell us more about Amaya. She's this upper-class Sri Lankan woman living in the United States. She's in a rough space.

JAYATISSA: Yes, that's right. When we meet Amaya, it's been five years since she's spoken to her best friend. She's pretty much cut ties with most people back home. And she's living in LA. She has opened a little spice shop. She is not doing as well as she could be. But she's also doing this thing where she's keeping tabs on her old friend through Instagram, and she does it through these anonymous accounts, but she likes to know...

RASCOE: And multiple ones - let's be clear, Amanda.

JAYATISSA: (Laughter).

RASCOE: This is not one Finsta, which is a fake Insta. She has, like, four or five.

JAYATISSA: All right. OK.

RASCOE: And she comments. Like, go, girl.

JAYATISSA: Yeah. Yeah. So she's a little beyond those of us that just keep track of our high school friends. No, no. She's definitely got some issues, and she definitely longs to be a part of her friend's life, even from a distance. So when she gets this news, she gets down to business.

RASCOE: The person who is the ex-best friend is Kaavi. Tell us about her because the thing about Amaya watching her is that on social media, Kaavi is now, like, perfect, right?

JAYATISSA: Mmm hmm. I actually got the idea for Kaavi a couple of years ago when I was at dinner with my husband. The next table over were a couple. And because this is Colombo, everybody knows everybody, and the woman was quite famous. And the two of them spent the entire dinner not speaking two words to each other. They were on their phones the entire evening. When I went home, I remember I got on Instagram. And I think because we were at the same restaurant, one of her photos popped up, one of those really lovey-dovey selfies...

RASCOE: (Laughter).

JAYATISSA: ...And this message about, you know, how lucky she is and how she has this perfect life and how she's so thankful for this amazing relationship with this wonderful man. And that really, really stuck with me because I was like, that is not what I saw. You know, I saw something totally different. So I really drew on that a little bit when I was writing about Kaavi. She was a lot of fun to write, not going to lie (laughter).

RASCOE: Yes. You know, apart from Amaya and Kaavi, the other main character in this book is really Sri Lankan high society. And you mentioned, like, how everyone knows everyone. Both women grew up in Colombo 07. Talk to us about what that means and what that culture is like.

JAYATISSA: So Colombo 07 is very much a little bubble on its own. Think sort of 90210 but a little - lot smaller, obviously, because Sri Lanka is a very small country. But it's a very claustrophobic sort of society where everybody knows everyone. Everyone's in everyone's business. And they live a life far, far removed from the rest of the country, very much with their own rules. They just deal with things very differently from everyone else. So it was very interesting for me because I grew up relatively privileged but definitely not, you know, Kaavindi Fonseka-level privilege.

RASCOE: OK, so you weren't - you're not a Colombo 07 girl?

JAYATISSA: No, I am not.

RASCOE: OK.

JAYATISSA: But I was very lucky to attend very good schools in - here in Colombo. So I had a lot of friends who were from that sort of society. It's very interesting for me, even now, Ayesha, because I don't know if you know, but Sri Lanka is going through kind of an economic crisis at the moment. It's...

RASCOE: Yes. Yes. For - you know, for the audience, Colombo, Sri Lanka is going through, you know, really devastating inflation. And then there's, like, a political crisis. There are food and fuel shortages. Just a few weeks ago, we talked to someone who was, you know, reporting from the lines for fuel, which people stand in for days.

JAYATISSA: Yeah, exactly. It's just a very, very tough time for the country in general. But you wouldn't know it if you were to, you know, get on Instagram and look at, you know, some of the posts from people within this community. Sometimes you'd go online on a Friday night and you'd notice that everyone's out partying and doing their thing. And I remember turning to my husband and saying, like, how do they have fuel to get there? Because currently, there is no fuel in the country. It's a wild time, essentially.

RASCOE: You write books, but you also - you own cookie stores, which seems like a very wholesome job for someone who writes, like, thrillers. Like...

JAYATISSA: Uh-huh. Yeah, especially because I remember we got a shipment in the other day, and it came in this really large box. And I was staring at this box for a while. And my brother-in-law, actually, was helping out that day. He, like, looked at me, and he's like, what are you doing? And I was like, you think a dead body could fit in that box?

RASCOE: (Laughter).

JAYATISSA: And he's like, you have problems. Just bake some cookies and stop thinking about murder.

RASCOE: So what is harder? Is it running the cookie stores or writing thrillers?

JAYATISSA: Oh, writing thrillers is easy.

RASCOE: Oh, that's easy? That's the easy part? Oh, wow.

JAYATISSA: No, let me take that back. It's not that it's easy. It's just that I really, really love doing it. I also - really, to be honest, I've really enjoyed introducing parts of my culture and parts of my country to readers, especially in the U.S. because, you know, not very many people know much about Sri Lanka, let alone Sri Lankan weddings. So that's been really fun. And the response that I've gotten from readers has been really nice also. When it comes to the cookies, I definitely enjoy eating them more than I enjoy anything else. And get this - I only came up with one recipe. Can you guess which one it is?

RASCOE: Which one?

JAYATISSA: The red velvet cookie.

RASCOE: Oh, OK.

JAYATISSA: The one red...

RASCOE: The red...

JAYATISSA: ...Bloody-looking cookie.

RASCOE: (Laughter) The red velvet murder cookie. That, like - you should do some little cross-branding right here.

JAYATISSA: Yeah. The murder cookie.

(LAUGHTER)

RASCOE: Amanda Jayatissa - her latest thriller is "You're Invited." Thank you so much for joining us.

JAYATISSA: Oh, thank you so much for having me, Ayesha. I hope I didn't scare you off with the murder cookie.

(SOUNDBITE OF WRECKING DJ SONG, "CRAZY IN LOVE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.