One of the many great things about having a website devoted to crime fiction is being introduced to great books and authors I might otherwise have missed. One of those books is AWAKE, a delightfully clever thriller/mystery/romance mash-up that I really enjoyed reading.
I had the opportunity to chat with the author, Melanie Surani, about the book, her experience with creepy art galleries and where to find a good meal without breaking the bank in New York.
Melanie – AWAKE is about five strangers who wake to find themselves trapped in an abandoned art museum. They set out to free themselves – only to find that the illusion of death is sometimes worse than the real thing.
Steve – Interesting – While reading AWAKE I got the sense of a few different genres and it was hard for me to categorize. If you had to pick a single genre for the book, what would it be and why?
Melanie – We’ve been marketing it as a thriller, but that was a tricky one to land on. But the suspense stood out over the other sub-genres.
Steve – The primary setting of the art museum is a place many of might initially feel comfortable. But your rich description puts an entirely different spin on the museum idea. What was the inspiration for the museum in the story? Did it come to you all at once or did the setting evolve as you wrote the story?
Melanie – The story and setting definitely evolved over time. The setting came together when I visited Alexander McQueen’s Savage Beauty exhibit at the Met museum. The music, the lighting, the layout … the exhibit was creepy and I didn’t really like any of the pieces. But it stuck with me and seeped into the story.
Steve – The Met (the Metropolitan Museum of Art) is an amazing place, but as an occasional visitor to New York I always feel like I’m missing things when I visit. How cool is it to be able to visit whenever you like to see the new exhibits? Is this something you do on a regular basis?
Melanie – The Met is a wonderful place, and I really should be visiting more. But I have a kind of hate/hate relationship with the city (which is weird, I know, but the reasons are many) and I venture out of my apartment basically only for the day job and to buy groceries.
Steve – Josh and Sophia make for an unusual boy meets girl character study in the book. Did you have their complete story worked out before you began writing? If so, did it change as you were writing or did it stay true to your initial plan. If not, did the way their story develop surprise you?
Melanie – When I first started working on the story, the characters were totally different (including a few who were deleted). Josh and Sophia had nothing going on (Sophia had a little crush on him, but did nothing about it), and the first half of the book seemed flat. With every edit, the two of them got closer and closer until I had the beginnings of a romance novel going on. That was pretty surprising to me.
Steve – How interesting – Is this evolving storyline something that often happens when you write or is this unique to this book? If it is unique, did you find yourself fighting the way the story wanted to go?
Melanie – My stories usually change over time, so I’m cool with letting the characters do what they like. It’s a good way to keep me interested in the book while I’m writing it.
Steve – Do you write in the same place or do you move about the city?
Melanie – When I first moved to the city, I wrote in a lot of Starbucks locations. But now that I live in an area where any cafe/restaurant has a big “20 minutes while eating only!!!” sign, I tend to do my work at home.
Steve – Music plays a big part in AWAKE. Do you listen to music when you write? If so does what you listen to vary depending on what you’re writing?
Melanie – I listen to music all the time. For each project I do, the type of music I listen to varies a lot to keep the mood. I make playlists for each novel (which changes throughout, just like the plot!).
Steve – What’s your favorite under $20 dinner in New York?
Melanie – Mamoun’s Falafel House on MacDougal St. $3.50 for a falafel sandwich. I might be biased because I just went there for lunch and it was so good. Any time I’m in the area, I get something from them.
Steve – I’ve read that you love to travel. If you could live and write anywhere in the world, where would we find you?
Melanie – Edinburgh, for sure. In fact, I’m actively working on moving there. There’s so much literary history in that city that I feel like you have to be really hard not to find inspiration there.
Steve – Where can readers find you and your work online?
Melanie Surani is a blogger, hair stylist, and author with a heart for international travel. She grew up in Memphis, Tennessee before taking extended trips to Canada, Germany, and Philadelphia.
When she isn’t cutting hair, Melanie is thinking about ways to kill people (for mystery novels). DVDs of British comedies help keep her calm. She lives with her husband and cat in New York City, where she is hard at work on her next novel with Booktrope Publishing.
Melanie’s author page on Amazon