What would you like to tell readers about yourself?
* When Melanie Surani isn't cutting hair, she's thinking about killing people (for mystery novels). She grew up in Memphis, TN before taking extended trips to Toronto, Canada, Eichstätt, Germany, and Philadelphia, PA. She lives with her husband and cat in New York City.
So, Melanie Surani, what/who inspired you to become a writer?
* Ultimately, my parents probably inspired me. From a very early age, I thought being a writer was as normal as learning to read. Even today, so many people I associate with are writers. But when I expressed this to someone, he just shook his head and said, "not everyone wants to do that."
* What inspired me more than anything else was my parents reading to me. It wasn't just bedtime stories when I was little, my dad read the classics to me and my sister. Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, Dracula, Sherlock Holmes, etc. And because I was homeschooled, I would read a chapter in a book to my mom in the morning, she would read something to me and my sister, and every night before bed, I was allowed to stay up an extra 45 minutes to read something of my own choosing. Books were everywhere, and writing became a natural way for me to express myself.
When did you attempt your first story? What length was it? What's become of it?
* My first story was in the first grade, called The Bad Carwash. It was the front and back of a piece of paper, and I have it in a notebook.
* I can't remember why I wrote it — maybe it was a school project, or maybe I thought I could write something like the books I was reading. All I know is that once I started writing, I felt like it was something I should have been doing already. That lightbulb of inspiration flashed on and never switched off.
How many stories did you complete before you sold your first?
* I probably had dozens finished before I sold anything. I was constantly writing something as a kid and teenager, which was bad news for my family because we only had one computer, and I was on it as much as I could be. But I also had a loose-leaf notebook I used to hand write things when I couldn't type.
What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you ever received?
* The best piece of advice is the quote from Toni Morrison: If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, you must be the one to write it.
* The worst was probably that I shouldn't write male main characters since I'm female.
The book you’re promoting, is it a stand-alone story or part of a series?
* Awake is stand-alone. I had thought about expanding the story into a sequel or series, but I love the way it is right now. There might be a loose end or two to inspire my readers into thinking what might come next. I wouldn't be opposed to reading some fan fiction, if someone wants to take a stab at it, but for now, my part is done.
What sparked the idea for the story/series?
* Awake came from a dream. I wrote a novel called Nocturne based on that dream, and it contained none of the same characters I ended up using, and very little of the existing plot.
* My main inspiration for what became Awake came from Madame Tussauds' Chamber of Horrors (and specifically the rumor Charles Dickens started that anyone who was able to spend the night there would win a cash prize) and the TV show LOST. While the novel isn't "based on" either of those things, they certainly inspired ideas. 1) Wouldn't it be cool to be locked in a museum and not know how to get out or why you're there? (Chamber of Horrors) 2) Wouldn't a novel that slowly revealed answers to mysteries be interesting? (LOST)
*** Now for some fun info… ***
Would you/have you own(ed) a snake or some other exotic pet?
* I've actively looked into buying a cheetah. After seeing a photo of Josephine Baker with a cheetah on a leash, I've wondered why anyone would keep such a dangerous animal with them. After a little research, though, I learned that cheetahs don't think of humans as a food source because we're bigger than they are, and if you raise them from cubs, it's possible to domesticate them.
* The downside is that they eat so much every day and need many acres of land to run, and you cannot litter train a cheetah. Much too expensive, and they're also endangered. Also, have you ever seen a tiny house cat flip out and attack something? A bigger one would do the same thing.
Which do you prefer: rain or sun & warm weather or cold weather?
* Probably rain. I grew up in Memphis, TN, where the summers get upwards of 100º, and now I live in New York City, where winters get down to 5º. I don't like either one. If I had to pick between hot and cold, I'd pick cold because I can always put something else on. If it's too hot, even if I walk around naked, my skin is still gonna feel like it's melting, and I'm gonna be in a bad mood.
* I'm about to move again, this time to Edinburgh. The temperature there is a moderate 50-60º in summer, 30º in winter, coupled with drizzle almost every day. That's seeming like a really good deal right about now, especially with the temperature climbing to 85º the past few days. It's difficult to walk to work and not stink when I get there.
If you could live anywhere in the universe, where would it be and why?
* I'd probably stick with Earth because I know people here.
* My dream right now is to move to Edinburgh, Scotland, and I'm putting the wheels in motion for that one, partly for the weather reason I mentioned in the previous question. Edinburgh is big on literature — so many writers have lived there and been inspired by the medieval architecture. It's really one of the most beautiful cities I've ever visited. It was clean, fun to explore (some streets are "upstairs" — it's really strange how the hills effect the landscape), and the people were so friendly. In New York, I'm lucky if I can get the cashier to tell me what my total is, in Edinburgh, the cashiers held little conversations with me. Nobody bumped me on the sidewalk, and people said "excuse me" when they wanted something I was blocking. I felt that old knot of anxiety loosen and disappear when I was there. Sure, it was a vacation, but I've visited other cities that didn't feel that way — places I would visit again, but wouldn't stay.
If you were stranded on a desert island and were only allowed to have five modern conveniences with you, what would they be?
* Air conditioning; a fully stocked and operational grocery store; a yacht, so I can leave said stranded island; wifi; my laptop
* As Josh and four others struggle to piece together their new reality, they discover the museum’s main building has been razed and the place is boarded with no obvious exit. Who left them in the museum and why? How can they escape? The only link that binds them together is a mysterious woman named Blair, who they each encountered before blacking out. Josh unexpectedly finds himself drawn to one of the other captives, a long-time fan named Sophia. Their attraction plunges the group into a dark pool of suspicion. When allegiances shift and pieces connect, the strangers are forced to reassess their situation. Is the real danger inside or outside of the museum?
* Suspenseful, romantic and filled with drama, Awake will keep you up all night.
* One of them might move.
* To get to the rest of the exhibits now, she either had to go through or turn around and catch it from the opposite direction. As she turned, though, an Employees Only sign caught her eye.
* The door opened with a creak. Sophia checked the costumes for any sign of life before ducking inside and slamming the door. She panted for a moment with her eyes shut. When she opened them a crack, the light hadn't come on. After waving her arms over her head, she threw the door open again with a hammering heart.
* Like so much topiary at the Overlook Hotel, she expected the mannequins to have clustered around the door. Of course, nothing had changed since she'd checked the gallery before. She eyed the figures again, before propping the door open and returning to the dim office.
* Unused items crammed the floor. A computer and phone sat on the single desk, files stacked on the floor. An empty closet in the back stood open, yawning darkness. Multiple metal signs leaned against a wall, notices pointing toward restrooms, galleries, a café, and the lobby.
* "Damn it," she whispered. Who the hell took all the signs down?
* Sophia picked up the phone, pressed the switch-hook, but no dial tone sounded.
* "Why…" Why leave the electricity on and cut the phones?
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