In author Melanie Surani’s edgy thriller novel, opera singer Joshua Gray wakes in an eerie art museum exhibit. He comes to believe he’s been kidnapped and abandoned. And he isn’t the only one…
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.
The Art Behind the Work:
Beauty school is good for more than just learning to cut hair and file nails. Being in New York City, my class went on all kinds of field trips (the Museum of Natural History to "look at the colors"), to the salons in the area to know what we were getting ourselves into when we graduated, and to Alexander McQueen's Savage Beauty exhibit at the Met. I didn't understand what these weird clothes had to do with what I was learning in class, and I wasn't sure I liked what I was looking at.
Quite frankly, the whole idea behind McQueen's designs freaked me out. I kept thinking, "nobody can possibly wear this stuff." Dresses were made of dead flowers, birdcages, a shirt that looked just like boobs. The hats covered the whole face. Half the class loved it, and half of us (myself included) couldn't stop bitching about the weirdness.
Years before, I'd started a little manuscript called Awake. Since its infancy in the late 90s, the scenery had changed a lot, but one bit I couldn't nail down was the museum. It was blah until I saw McQueen's exhibit. The lighting and music accompanying the strange clothes gave the whole trip a creepy ambiance.
As is usually the case with me, I let my imagination go while I was there. I knew the museum in my book had trick rooms (one of them had even been designed to look like the outdoors, to make the characters believe they were free, but it got scrapped early on for being stupid), but it didn't have anything special. My characters were scared because they were trapped, but there was nothing for the audience. When I saw this exhibit, though, everything clicked. It's dark, creepy, and you're not quite sure the mannequins won't jump you.
Though the exhibit inspired me, it didn't leave me a McQueen fan. I do understand now that none of the clothes/accessories are for everyday wear. If the pieces had just been in a ho-hum white room with display cases, I wouldn't have cared at all about what I was seeing (nothing against those who do, though. Plenty of people I respect are die-hard fans). To be fair, though, my characters didn't like the McQueen-inspired museum I put them in either.
Costumed mannequins, wearing everything from Rococo dresses to the "50's Housewife," lined the room and clustered in the center. They had coverings over their heads: burlap sacs sewn to fit the face, or draped with gauze over antlers, or covered in feathers.
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?
Melanie Surani is a blogger, hair stylist, and author with a heart for international travel. When she isn't cutting hair, Melanie is thinking about ways to kill people (for mystery novels). She lives with her husband and cat in New York City, where she is hard at work on her next book with Booktrope Publishing. Melanie is a member of the International Thriller Writers society. Follow her adventures at: http://melsurani.tumblr.com/
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