A young woman agrees to star in a filmmaker’s latest project, but soon realizes the movie is not what she expected in this chilling debut novel.
In the wake of her father’s death, Betty Roux doesn’t allow herself to mourn. Instead, she pushes away her mother, breaks up with her boyfriend, and leaves everything behind to move to New York City. She doesn’t know what she wants, except to run.
When she’s offered the chance to play the leading role in mysterious indie filmmaker Anthony Marino’s new project, she jumps at the opportunity. For a month Betty will live in a cabin on a private island off the coast of Maine, with a five-person cast and crew. Her mother warns against it, but Betty is too drawn to the charismatic Anthony to say no.
Anthony gives her a new identity–Lola–and Betty tells herself that this is exactly what she’s been looking for. The chance to reinvent herself. That is, until they begin filming and she meets Sammy, the island’s caretaker, and Betty realizes just how little she knows about the movie and its director.
“Shutter” grabbed me with its unique and terrifying storyline! Melissa Larsen invented quite the landscape while adding wonderfully interesting characters. I’m now both in love with Maine and too scared to visit!
As I crept my way to the ending, I grew more terrified! You would think there was a camera watching me, as they watched Betty. I love when I story takes you to it’s location! But, a story that makes the hair on your arm stand up, even better! “Shutter” does both!
Thank you Melissa Larsen for imagining this story, I was reading it under the blankets! For a debut author, you’ve entered the thriller world with a vengeance!
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Q: What first sparked your interest in writing “Shutter”?
The spark was a sudden, clear vision of Betty, covered in blood, asking me for help. I had just finished a novel I had started writing in college that (fun fact!) had Anthony as the narrator and Betty (named Lola) as his love interest. This unfinished novel had haunted me for about four years, so it was an incredible feeling to reach the end of that manuscript—for about five minutes. Then it dawned on me that this story, with its lack of plot, internal logic, and conflict, was written purely for me. I knew I would never show it to anyone else (and that’s for the best). After a somewhat intense panic attack, I took another look at the manuscript. I lifted what I liked from it—Anthony and Lola—and decided I would write Lola’s story. And that’s when I saw her, covered in blood, asking for help. For the next nine months, I wrote toward that image. I have that hidden novel and the resulting panic attack to thank for SHUTTER!
Q: Is there any truth to your story that is personal to you?
This is a tricky question, because I believe both that every single aspect of the book is personal to me and simultaneously that none of it is. I am everywhere in there because I wrote it, but the story took on its own life. I am everyone and no one!
That being said, I have actually stayed in a small cabin on an island off the coast of Maine (my eternal gratitude to the Norton Island Writers Residency!), only my cabin didn’t have plumbing or a hot actor as a roommate. I have likewise keenly felt Betty’s desire to escape, to run away from life and start over, and I have shared some of her heartaches and self-doubts.
Q: Do you have a favorite character? Why?
Is it a total cop out to say that they’re all my favorite? I’ve spent enough time with them that they really do feel like old friends. If I had to pick two, though, and my heart breaks already, I’m sorry to every character I don’t name here, I would say Betty, of course, because she and I essentially grew up together, and Mads, because he was the most fun to write. He is a himbo. If only Brendan Fraser was still in his twenties somehow and could play him in the movie.
Q:How long did it take you to write “Shutter”?
It took about nine months to write the first draft (like carrying a baby to term!) and then around two years of working on it first with my agent and then with my editor.
Q: As you gearing up for your Book to be released, what was the most exciting part(s) for you?
Seeing the actual, real, physical copy of the book has been wild. The reality of it as an object, a beautifully bound book, still hasn’t sunk in, even a week after seeing it for the first time. Holding it has the same mental effect on me as staring at the ocean—my mind clears, my breathing slows, the world feels beautiful again.
But the most exciting part is knowing that complete strangers are reading it! I’m used to knowing the readers (which is also an incredible experience, don’t get me wrong!). This morning, though, I saw a post on Instagram from a reader who is more than halfway through the book and wants to skip work to finish it. Again, like staring at the ocean.
Q: With this being your first novel, do you think you will always explore psychological thrillers?
I love psychological thrillers. I always need more of them in my life (please send any and all recommendations my way!). For the foreseeable future, I will most likely be writing in that sphere, but I’m really excited to explore other genres, too. There’s a lot more coming J
Q: May I ask who your favorite authors are?
These are the authors whose work I will always read, no matter what, and whose work I will immediately reread, no matter what: Daphne du Maurier, Stephen King, Tana French, Marisha Pessl, Laura van den Berg, Jon Klassen, Ron Currie Jr, C Pam Zhang, Jenny Offill, V.E. Schwab, Lara Vapnyar, Tommy Orange, Elena Ferrante, Kiese Laymon…
Q: What is your favorite part of becoming a published author?
My absolute favorite: the privilege of having my book read.
But honestly, a close second: the editorial process. To discuss, very seriously, the motivations and actions of characters that I had been privately fantasizing about on phone calls with my editor and my agent was truly a highlight. It’s a mind-blowing experience, every single time, when someone talks about my characters as though they are real people.
Losing control of my book! For the past few years, this bookhad belonged only to me. It was just me, alone, at my computer, working at the story. I’m basically the booster rockets of this ship. I got us off the ground and in motion, but as soon as the book went into production, my job was basically done. This book is everything to me, but (I hope) it belongs now entirely to its readers. This is something that both fascinates and terrifies me—this book is mine and not mine.
Q: Your cover is Epic!! Like art!! Is is hanging in your home or office? I hope it is.
Thank you so much! I totally agree—I am obsessed with this cover. I really should have a framed print of it, but instead I have about ten printed copies of it floating around my room, one featured very prominently on my desk, and the others all hidden away so that if I’m digging through a stack of books or papers, it surprises me. OH! I also put it on t-shirts! It makes for a very striking, very perfect shirt. I (and my sweet, supportive family!) wear it everywhere.
Q: Do you have another book on the horizon?
Yes! For now, though, it’s still just me, alone, working at it on my computer.
Lastly, Do you prefer Print Book or eBook?
Both! Print ultimately wins, because I prefer the experience of handling the physical book—each one has its own personality!—but I appreciate the accessibility and flexibility of eBooks. Once I learned that I could borrow and download eBooks from my local library, my life changed! I have a very well-loved Kindle, and I have read many books on my laptop, too. I still haven’t quite gotten the hang of reading on my phone (I don’t like how the text formatting looks on such a small screen!), but I’m sure I’ll get there eventually.
Thank you so much for this interview. I am so excited and honored.
Annie: Thank you, Melissa! You have a huge fan in me!!l lll