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Monday 17 August 2015

ℚ Awake - Melanie Surani

Today we have the pleasure of meeting up with author to talk about Awake (, Booktrope, 224 pages) a Thriller.

Author Q&A | Trailer | Synopsis | Teaser | About the Author | Giveaway & Tour Stops

Melanie Surani, welcome to BooksChatter and thank you for joining us today.

What was the inspiration for Awake?

"My inspiration oddly enough came in a dream.  I don’t remember the whole thing right now (which is a plus-point on your end!), but it involved me getting a job in an out-of-the way area, and finding out workers (including myself) weren’t allowed to leave once we started.  We lived in the building.  And then my friend made a pass at me – but hey, it was a dream.  Consequently, this might be the only dream I’ve ever remembered so well.

I wrote the story while I was still living with my parents, so I had to have been 19 or 20.  It was going to be part historical fiction, part modern technology (if only I had known what SteamPunk was back then, because that’s basically what it was), part fantasy.  And they all had Celtic names, because … because.

Not to quote the whole story right here, but one of the main characters goes away on work and doesn’t return.  Everyone gets worried and sets out to find him (through the magical woods, of course, where they get attacked by differently-ruled vampires, attacked by wild cats, and helped by a race of friendly faeries who change sizes and communicate through touch).  The characters eventually find their way to the big city, where they stop to rest in a museum full of realistically carved sculptures.  One of those sculptures is the friend they’d been looking for, but the question they ask the curator just makes her suspicious and angry, so she imprisons them with her other workers.  The characters learn that the sculptures in the exhibits are the bodies of former workers (a’la the movie Anatomie starring Franka Potente), and they hatch a plan to escape.

I put the story away for a few years.  The only people who read it gave me mixed reviews (my mom and dad kept fixating on not knowing what year the story was set).  But it kept nagging me until I got the manuscript back out.  It was good, but it needed something.  When I saw the show LOST, inspiration struck.  I was starting the book in the wrong place, and the wrong time.  So I turned the novel into a kind of “locked room” mystery and a million edits later, it became the AWAKE you know and love today."
I have not seen Anatomie (*gone on my list*), but that also reminds me of the 2005 version of House of Wax - that was creepy.

How much of yourself is reflected in this book, and how?

"I put myself in my books more than I think I do because every time my mom reads something of mine, she points out something she recognizes about me.

Consciously, I like to use old work experiences (because I’ve had so many different jobs, they’re great for characters).  Little pieces of friends and family get recycled, and I always think I’m being so sly they won’t notice.  Maybe they don’t.

But so much of what I write in my books is what I can’t say out loud to anyone else.  I’m either afraid of someone’s reaction, or it just isn’t something a good person says.  So I’ll have my character make a statement (“I think we should eat babies!” * not really something I think or have ever used in a book) and have another character respond in an appropriately negative way.  But here’s the fun part – some of the questionable statements you might read came straight from my head, and some of them I heard other people say and thought, “what kind of person says something like that?” and I think of a situation where someone might say it.  Other stuff is 100% fabrication."
The first thing that draws me to a book is its cover.  Can you tell us about your cover for Awake - why you chose that concept and who the artist is.
"The cover for AWAKE is fantastic.  Ashley Ruggirello was the designer, and we spent far too much time making sure everything was perfect, then starting over.  The creative process is tricky, but she was a total pro.

I liked the idea of an empty museum for the cover, because it best represented what you get from the story first off.  Usually museums are bustling places, but this one is perhaps after hours, perhaps abandoned.

The cover image is almost exactly what I had in mind as I was writing the story.  Plain walls, weird lighting, and the art still hanging there. "
Why should we read Awake and what sets it apart from the rest?  What makes your book unique?
"I’ve tried to find a book like AWAKE for a while now.  It’s not a murder mystery or a cozy or a police procedural.  Usually that’s what I find when I look for a mystery novel.  I wanted something creepier.  Something more focused on the characters.  I wasn’t concerned with genre when I wrote the novel, not concerned with length.  I just let it be what it was, and I let it entertain me.  That would be what sets it apart: it doesn’t try to be any one thing, but has elements of different genres in it.  Consequently, that makes the book difficult to market, and it’s difficult to please readers who think they’re getting one straight thing."
Can you tell us something quirky about Awake, its story and characters?
"First off, Sophia’s name changed multiple times throughout the writing.  She was the trickiest character to get right.  Either she was too bouncy and my beta readers thought she was on drugs, or she was too mousy and not contributing, or she was a straight-up nymphomaniac.  So I started fresh, renamed her, and tried again.

There were a lot of characters who didn’t make it to the final novel.  I had imagined fifty or sixty people being locked in the museum, but the idea was far too unwieldy for me to control.

I will say that Josh, the main character, was based on a musician I have a crush on.  I won’t say who (and the name has been changed!) but I imagined him throughout the novel."
Who would you recommend Awake to and what should readers be aware of (any warnings or disclaimers)?
"AWAKE would be rated R as a movie for language, sex, and violence.  Recommended for people who like thrillers and mysteries, and who don’t mind trusting me a little while before they know what’s really going on.  People with more delicate constitutions and people who need their answers right away would be frustrated and upset up until the very last sentence."
If you could / wished to turn Awake into a movie, who would be your dream team?
"I would need the whole J.J. Abrams, Carlton Cuse, and Damon Lindelof as my production team [see the TV series Lost].

For actors, Kit Harington would be a great Josh, and Shah Rukh Khan is the only one who can be Ajay. And if I can have Aubrey Plaza as Blair, the rest can be open audition.

For location, I need a big, decorated studio for the museum, and the creepiest forest in the United States.  The rest on location in New York City."
What do you like to write and read about?  Do you stick to a particular genre or do you like to explore different ones?
"I like to play around.  I think that’s why AWAKE is such a mishmash of genres.  Generally I still with Mystery as my base so that I know how the story will end.  But throughout, if I need to install some romance, I will, and if I need to break up the tension with a little comedy, I’ll do that too.  I often get annoyed when I read because a character will have a love interest try to get her attention, but all she can focus on is the case.  This piece of evidence in this case and that’s all there is in the story.  In a book like that, I have to put it down after a chapter or two because I need a break.

So when I write, I have to keep my own attention.  I start with a mystery, yes, but character drama and romance and stupid, crazy stuff is always going to be involved as well."
What is your writing process?
"I like to think I have a strict regimen, but writing first thing in the morning with my breakfast doesn’t always work out.  So I take notes on the subway, write during down time at work, and write during TV time when I get home.  When inspiration strikes, I write as much as I can.  Other times, I trudge through and do my best.

I also try to participate in NaNoWriMo every year because it keeps me planning for the next book.  Honestly, if it weren’t for National Novel Writing Month, I probably wouldn’t still be writing.  From them, I learned to just get it on the page and worry about making it good later.  Once I did that, I was able to finish a novel (as opposed to writing half of it over years, not knowing how to end the thing, and abandoning the story)."
What is in store next?
"My next book is a re-release of a self-published novel called The Silent Treatment.  This will be the first in a trilogy.  I’m also writing a modern re-telling of a classic german expressionist silent horror movie, along with a few other pieces that may or may not die before completion. Writing has been my love for my entire life, so I always have lots of new things brewing."
We look forward to that!  In fact, The Silent Treatment was published last week and is now available for purchase for only £1.99!  Just click on the cover to have a sneak preview of the first two chapters.

Preparing this feature I had a look at your social media pages, and it would appear that we share a love of all things feline - put it this way... my dream would be to go and work in New Zeland with the Lion Man!  Anyway, I found some pictures of your gorgeous Pour Chat, and they were simply too good not to share! ;-)

Awake - available NOW!

UK: purchase from purchase from Nook UK purchase from iTunes UK find on Goodreads
US: purchase from purchase from Barnes & Noble purchase from iTunes US


Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thanks for hosting!

Melanie Surani said...

Awww! Pour Chat made it to the blog! This was such a great post. Thank you for having me on!

BooksChatter said...

Hello Melanie, thank you for popping by! Pour Chat is lovely!
And I cannot wait to read Awake!

Anonymous said...

Very informative interview!