Interview: Melanie Surani

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Melanie Surani whose debut novel The Silent Treatment was released last year.  It’s the first in a series.  The second is Exchange in Eichstätt, and Melanie is putting the finishing touching on it right now. In the second book, Kat–the protagonist from The Silent Treatment–travels to Germany on a college-sponsored trip.

“Without giving too much away about the ending of The Silent Treatment, I’ll just say that she runs into someone very important to her, but barely has time to process how she feels about this meeting before the person is kidnapped,” she told me.

Melanie lived in Germany for a month so was familiar with the area in which she placed Exchange in Eichstätt, but she said, “It would have been so much better if I’d been able to return for inspiration.”

She’s always loved stories.  From the time she was very young, her parents read to her–books like The HobbitDracula, and Sherlock Holmes. 

“My first attempts at writing were straight-up plagiarism,” she admitted. “When people who loved me told me that wasn’t right and I should write my own stories, I graduated to fan fiction. Star Trek: The Next Generation, anyone?”

“What did you want to be when you grew up?” I asked.

“I wanted to be so many things, which is why I think having a ‘real job’ is so difficult for me. Very early on, I wanted to be a writer, but that soon turned into being a grade school teacher, an actor, a singer (that didn’t stop until my late teens). Now I still want to be a ‘famous writer’, but my biggest career dream is to be a stylist/sculptor at Madame Tussauds in London.”

She hadn’t given much thought to hair as an artform until recently when she needed to stop being an office assistant.

“Cutting hair is a lot like sculpture. The angle at which you cut the hair makes a huge difference about what it’s going to look like when it drops down to its natural position,” she said.

She’s currently trying to learn as much as she can about hair cutting and styling.

“I would love to be able to do a big Marie Antoinette updo,” she told me. “I’m betting it needs a lot of non-hair filling in the middle…The hairdressing profession takes a lot of concentration — but a good kind. It occupies the mind the same way drawing or writing does for me: it takes me deep down into almost a meditative state where all I can think about is what I’m doing, how I’m going to get to the end result from what I’ve got to start with. When I’m done and the client is smiling, I feel really good about what I do and can’t wait till I can do it again.”

Outside her home, Melanie’s favorite place to write is the concourse under Rockefeller Center.

“There’s a Starbucks there (along with many other eateries), wi-fi, bathrooms, and I don’t have to buy something to sit there,” she said. “If I need a little break from writing, I can people-watch or go shopping, then come right back to business.”

Melanie always starts with the germ of an idea.

“A look someone gives. An object that seems like it should have a story behind it. Someone in danger. These tiny ideas grow in my head (and then on paper) to become my plot and characters. For me, the characters drive the plot. If I’m thinking that someone is in danger, I ask myself how they got there, who’s keeping them there, who’s going to get them out. Answering those questions leads to hundreds others. I take that tiny idea and expand it until I’ve got my outline. The longest outline I ever had was 50,000 words by itself–which was excessive,” she admitted. “Then when I’m writing the first draft, I’m just filling in the gaps with dialogue and detail. When I used to be a pantser, I would never get to the ending and abandon the project.”

Finally I asked, “What is a talent you wish you had, but don’t?”

“I would love to be able to sing opera. I don’t necessarily want to perform, I just think it’s a beautiful artform. In fact, this could also be a paranormal ability. If I’m trying to lead some people to safety, and we come across a glass wall blocking our path, I’d just whip out the ol’ Queen of the Night aria and break it down with my glass-breaking high notes. But then again, the people I’m trying to save would be covered in shattered glass, and the enemy would be able to follow us through the now-broken wall anyway (and by our trails of blood). So scratch that.”


About the Author:  5_8 InterviewWhen Melanie Surani isn’t cutting hair, she’s thinking about ways of killing people (for mystery novels). Her fiction can be found anywhere ebooks are sold, and you can book a hair appointment if you live in Manhattan (and have a lot of money).   



5_8 interview cover big Kat Shergill doesn’t expect to find a piece of forgotten movie history during a bout of retail therapy. After watching the coil of film found tucked inside her purchase, she’s shocked to witness the brutal murder of a famous 1920’s star by a fellow actor. 80-year-old mystery aside, someone will stop at nothing to get the film away from her and silence what she’s discovered.


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