Novel by Melanie Pisano

Melanie Pisano is a Communication student with a concentration in Writing for the
Media and a double minor in English and Digital Film. Students at AUR have been endlessly talking about her novel. For her senior-capestone project, Melanie chose to publish a novel based on real life experiences. I wanted to know more about it and asked to interview her for our blog.

What is Connected about?

The story is fiction, inspired by real people and events in my life. It is a romantic tragedy and some people have compared it to a modern day Romeo and Juliet.

The novel is based on a group of college students from all over the world, who come to Rome to study for one year. The novel plays with the idea that people begin college and leave their high school persona and secrets behind to begin a fresh start. As the story unfolds and the characters grow closer, their secrets begin to surface. It’s easy to compare the characters to a rose because from afar, they look delicate and beautiful, but once you get closer, you see the thorns and wilting petals.

The plot is based off Bronzino’s painting ‘Allegory of Love and Lust’ which has a mix of characters and reads from right to left. There are a lot of art history references throughout the book, because art history has always been a passion of mine. The characters are paired up to play out the hidden message in Bronzino’s painting, each resulting in a different outcome with regards to love versus lust. There is the idea that with time their fates will unfold exactly as intended. The novel brings the reader to a dark modern day Rome where sinister acts unfold when the sun goes down and characters’ true colors shine. Of course, the novel has so much more to it but has the essentials of sex, drugs and unfolds in Europe.

Creating characters and events is not an easy thing to do. What was your inspiration behind it?

Since I moved to Rome, I have met different people from all over the world. The characters’ personalities are based off people I have grown with since I arrived in Rome, but their physical appearances are based off of people I know, so oddly enough the characters are a mix, which makes them more dynamic. The events were inspired by experiences I have lived through. This helped a lot when writing my novel because I could relate to it on a very raw level. I always think back on any situation I have been through and find a reason, moral or a story within the experience.

What would you say was your biggest challenge?

I began writing the book a year ago so it would be finished before my first capstone meeting. My one year capstone project is the editing process of my rough draft, two chapters a week.

I had a year deadline, hence many ideas and details that I wanted to have in the book was overwhelming at times and I would gain a writer’s block.

As a junior in college at the time, it was a challenge to separate and balance my academic duties and social life. During midterms and finals I would take a hiatus from writing my book. I often would put social plans on the back burner in order to focus and write. When I was feeling inspired, it became a first priority of mine to get my writing done. Also, I write better at night. It’s the one time of the day when I can focus.

A lot of first-hand research went into this book, especially when referring to specific locations. Writing about them wasn’t necessarily a challenge, but part of the process.

Out of curiosity, why can you only write better at night?

A lot of writers have a time of day that they feel most inspired and focused with their writing. It’s funny you ask that, because before I started writing my novel, I read a lot of books on the writing process. I read that Steven King tends to write at 5 am every day. It’s important for a writer to find their ‘time of day’ and I found that when I write at night, my mind is at peace, whereas in the mornings, I am thinking about all the things I have to do that day.

How did you deal with writer’s block?

When I had writer’s block, I liked to do this method called “incubating,” where I step away from my computer and let my mind space out from any creative obligation with my novel. I found going on power walks around my neighborhood was helpful in allowing me to clear my head and surround myself with creative inspiration. I gave myself a half an hour to an hour for this process. Having this routine has trained me to overcome writer’s block faster.

How long is your novel?

My novel as a first draft is 595 pages and 38 chapters. The academic part of my thesis will be a 10 page preface about the theory behind my story as well as connecting it to my academic experience at AUR.

How long have you been working on it?

I began thinking about the idea a year before I started writing it. I thought out the whole outline of the story and the character analysis was complete before I began writing. This made it a lot easier to write because I always knew what was happening next and how it would unfold. Every detail was in my outline and every detail had a purpose as well as a full character analysis. With so many characters in my story, the character analysis was extremely beneficial to reference back on throughout the writing process.

Why did you pick to write a novel? Wouldn’t it have been easier to work on a thesis paper?

I think a thesis is great for students because it’s a piece of work that you can use later in your career. For me, I want to be an author and I’ve always wanted to be a writer since I was eight years old. Therefore, when choosing to write a novel instead of a thesis paper was more valuable for the future career I hope to have. Sure, it’s extra work but I love writing so it was enjoyable for me. It’s important to “do what you love and you will do it well.” That’s what my dad always told me.

Do you plan on publishing it in the future?

That’s the plan. I hope over the next year it will develop into something publishable. I have four more book ideas in my head and have begun the character analysis process for my next book idea. In my novel I wrote each chapter like a TV episode, with a beginning, climax and cliff hanger. It would be ideal to have my book published and then converted into a TV series.

What do you plan on doing after graduation?

After graduation, I hope to have this book published and begin writing on my next one. Europe has been a playground for my creativity and developing story ideas so I hope to stay here. I want to travel for research purposes and create new experiences. Rome has my heart for now, but I have a belief that Rome can suck people in for eternity or spit them back out into the world. I’m curious to see what Rome has in store for me and where I end up in relation to my characters in a world similar to mine.