Today thelisas pop quiz up-and-coming contemporary fiction author Melanie Surani on work, play and the whereabouts of Rocky & Bullwinkle.
Thelisas: Tell us the process of writing and publishing your recent short suspense, The Morning After.
Melanie: The Morning After took years to write. When I started, I hadn’t developed a method of how to get through a story–it was more a haphazard “let’s see where this goes,” and ended up going nowhere. After deserting the story for a long time, I got it back out as something to do while an acquaintance was studying. She gave me a spark of an idea that pulled the whole story together, and I finished it at about 20,000 words (not an easy sell). After unsuccessfully trying to market a novella, I shaved it down to a short story, attracted the attention of Untreed Reads, and became their #3 bestseller for December.
Thelisas: Congratulations! Is this your first published piece? Do you have anything else in the works?
Melanie: I had 2 other (very) short stories published in little online ‘zines, but this is the first one I’ll be paid for. My next big project is a mystery series about a woman battling past demons, a new love, and lots of danger and excitement. Since it’s also a bit shorter than a traditional novel, I will probably pursue self-publishing.
Thelisas: We know your creativity isn’t limited to writing, as you have a background in art and are currently pursuing a cosmetology career in New York City. What other hidden talents do you have?
Melanie: The cosmetology career is well underway! Graduated with honors at Arrojo Cosmetology, and was hired by the owner to work in his professional salon in the same building. Other hidden talents might include getting strange animals to approach me, sneaking up on people and/or disappearing (like a ninja), and imitating accents.
Thelisas: Then perhaps you know of the squirrel and moose, comrade? Do tell about your adventures in globe-trotting. Having lived in a variety of locales gives you a unique perspective that is certainly reflected in your stories. There’s even a rumor you’ve become a German citizen – what’s up with that?
Melanie: I guess I get bored easily, so for the past decade, I’ve put myself in some interesting situations. I went to Germany for a month with college (language course), and fell in love with the country. A year later, I went to Canada and fell in love with a boy. Since then, I’ve lived in Toronto, Memphis, Philadelphia, and New York with plans of visiting Europe and Turkey soon. Part of “traveling” when I’m unable to go anywhere involves trying new cuisine and rocking out to European/Indian/etc music on my iPod.
And the rumors are true! I just received my German passport — through some lucky sequences of events in my family history, I’ve been German my whole life without realizing it. If I had known, I wouldn’t have left the country when I went with my class, and then wouldn’t have met my husband … so it’s better this way.
Thelisas: Indeed. In the spirit of thinking big (film right acquisitions to our perspective novels): Favorite movie of all time and why?
Melanie: I love a lot of movies, but I always go back to Metropolis from 1926. It was never an ordinary movie for me. The first copy I saw was a poorly presented public domain DVD I bought for about $5. The plot didn’t make a whole lot of sense, but the visuals were a real treat. After some research, I found out that after its release, the film was truncated, and the plot veered into some strange territory because it did so poorly at the box office. So, I tracked down the novel it was based off of, and it was a whole new experience. The characters made sense, missing scenes put others into perspective, and most of all, it was how the movie was supposed to have been seen (the director’s wife wrote the novel at the same time the movie was being made).
Throughout the years, pieces of “missing” scenes have been found in various film museums around the world and plugged back where they belong. Now that the film has been restored to almost its full length (and with the correct plot), I feel like it hasn’t just been a nice movie, but something lovely I witnessed being rebuilt.
On the complete other side of the spectrum, I also liked Office Space because for about a decade of my life, I felt exactly like the main character: banging my head against the wall because I hated my job (but every time the copy machine said “PC LOAD LETTER” I had to chuckle).
Thelisas: We’ve had a sneak preview of your novel in progress and it incorporates some aspects of both of those themes. (Readers should know that Melanie was “silent when silent wasn’t cool.” That is to say before the movie “The Artist” made a splash on the academy award nomination list.)
Thanks, Melanie, for introducing yourself and your work. We wish you much success in all your many ventures. Happy travels – don’t forget to write!