2K18 Member Spotlight: Dana Mele
BOOK TITLE: People Like Us
PUBLISHER: Putnam / Penguin Random House
RELEASE DATE: February 27, 2018
About PEOPLE LIKE US
A sharp psychological thriller that’s just right for fans of Thirteen Reasons Why and Pretty Little Liars–this story will seduce, mislead, and finally, betray you.
Kay Donovan may have skeletons in her closet, but the past is past, and she’s reinvented herself entirely. Now she’s a star soccer player whose group of gorgeous friends run their private school with effortless popularity and acerbic wit. But when a girl’s body is found in the lake, Kay’s carefully constructed life begins to topple. The dead girl has left Kay a computer-coded scavenger hunt, which, as it unravels, begins to implicate suspect after suspect, until Kay herself is in the crosshairs of a murder investigation. But if Kay’s finally backed into a corner, she’ll do what it takes to survive. Because at Bates Academy, the truth is something you make…not something that happened.
Debut author Dana Mele has written a taut, sophisticated suspense novel that readers will tear through and not stop talking about.
Dana Mele is a Pushcart-nominated writer and a work at home mother. A graduate of Wellesley College, she is a former actor, lawyer, musician, and briefly, associate producer. She prefers tea to coffee, snow to sand, and stars to sunshine, and she lives in the Catskills with her husband and toddler.
WHAT INSPIRED YOUR BOOK?
Stressful emails. I had the brilliant idea of setting a goal of collecting 100 rejection letters in 100 days in order to normalize rejection, and actually at first it kind of worked, but by the end I was really dreading those emails. (How did I accomplish this? I submitted to magazines I knew were way out of my league like the New Yorker and submitted some of my poetry and nonfiction for the first time just as I was querying my first novel.) I've always found inspiration in things that cause anxiety. For one reason or another, I like to write about things that scare me. My book features a lot of truly distressing correspondence. From there, the first line came to me, then the main character, and the rest materialized very quickly.
BEST ADVICE FOR ASPIRING WRITERS?
Write, and ask questions.
WHAT DOES FEARLESS MEAN TO YOU?
Can I dodge that question? Just kidding. I like "fearless fiction" as a kind of play on words, because the idea of being purely fearless is a fiction. There's no such thing. We all have fears and it's nothing to be ashamed of. Fear is a fundamental part of being human- it's a lifesaving evolutionary instinct! But I love the idea of embracing and normalizing fear. The fearless fiction. On the other hand, that also makes fearless a cool, mythical quality. Who are these fearless beings? Where did they come from? What other emotions do they lack? Is that the secret liability that allows humans to prevail? It's a cool idea.
WHAT WERE YOU LIKE AS A TEEN?
I always have a hard time finding pictures of myself as a teen for publicity purposes. I'm usually either staring blankly at the camera (at best; glaring at worst) or buried in a sea of faces. I struggled with depression as a teen. In group photos I look happy, because the loneliness was at arm's length. It didn't matter how many friends I had, when I was at home I didn't feel like I had any. I questioned it. I really struggled. It was an on and off thing. In a group, I was a pretty silly person. I think I was fun. I don't know objectively. I made a lot of jokes and did a lot of non-dangerous impulsive things. I liked last minute road trips and spontaneous midnight trips to the diner and beach parties (I grew up on Long Island sound so it wasn't exactly an event, but it was still fun). I loved writing and yard saling and crossword puzzles, and I was obsessed with the Simpsons and 80s movies. I played bass in a band and guitar on my own, and I graduated high school a year early because all of my friends were graduating and I didn't want to be alone. That's the sole reason I did it. My english teacher refused to write me a college recommendation letter because she didn't think I was ready for college. I always wonder whether she was right, because I made a bunch of mistakes and struggled really hard. But the fear of loneliness made staying behind seem unbearable. That fear kind of generally describes who I was in high school.
WHAT ARE YOU AFRAID OF?
A great many things.
HOW DO YOU APPROACH FEAR IN THE WRITING PROCESS?
As I mentioned, I like to write about things that scare me. Go figure. Maybe it's a way of working out my fears, or maybe it's a strange fascination, like the way horror movies are exhilarating as well as scary. Sometimes for a story, I'll take an image or idea that scares me, even a little vignette from a nightmare, spin it into a what if and a character who has to deal with it, and just see how it all unravels. Fear is definitely integral to my writing.