Melissa Cassera - YA Paranormal Thriller Full of Twists, Turns & Angsty Romance
Melissa Cassera is a Professional Screenwriter, Author, and award-winning Publicity Expert based in Washington State. On-screen, Melissa is the writer of THE OBSESSION THRILLOGY (Lifetime Network’s first trilogy of movies.) She is also the writer of the films SECRET LIVES OF COLLEGE ESCORTS, NIGHTMARE NEIGHBORHOOD MOMS, MOMMY’S LITTLE STAR, DADDY’S PERFECT LITTLE GIRL, HER STOLEN PAST, and GIRL FOLLOWED. Melissa also sold an eight-episode dark comedy series, ADDICTED, to Fullscreen. She has two additional feature films, WHO KILLED OUR FATHER and NIGHTMARE PAGEANT MOMS, coming to Lifetime Network in 2023, and six additional film projects in active development. When Melissa is not whipping together obsession-worthy words, she can be found drinking too much coffee, playing at the lake with her dogs, or getting lost in the romance section of a bookstore. As our Author of the Day, she tells us all about her book, Control.
Please give us a short introduction to what Control is about.
Control follows 18-year-old Natalie who has big ambitions but very little control over her situation. She’s trapped at an elite boarding school on a private island, where cell phones are forbidden, militant guards line the iron gates, and her practically prearranged boyfriend has eyes for another girl.
Everything changes when a mysterious new student arrives named Henry Thorne. Henry is a “precog”—a hidden society of people who can see the future, and who are forbidden to reveal their powers. When Henry has a grisly vision of Natalie being murdered, he ultimately decides to save her and face the consequences. But the consequences of changing the future are more dangerous than Henry imagined, unlocking a wide conspiracy among his kind that’s linked to Natalie’s past, and a desire that threatens to consume them.
What inspired you to write this story? Was there anything in particular that made you want to tackle this?
I’m a screenwriter and originally wrote this story as a script, except the setting was different, the time period was different, and it was about adults navigating a political landscape. When that script didn’t sell, I tucked it away for a few years until I had the idea to reimagine it with teenagers coping with the “politics” of high school, while also grappling with supernatural powers and the angst of teenage love.
Why did you title this book Control?
Control is about a group of people with special powers. In order for them to live amongst those without powers, they have to be tightly controlled. The title becomes even clearer as the series continues.
What drew you to this audience and this genre?
I’m a huge fan of books/shows/movies from the early 2000s - Gossip Girl, Twilight, Vampire Diaries, etc. I wanted to write something nostalgic for that time while bringing a modern twist.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I’m a pretty decent hip-hop dancer and I make really good pasta!
Tell us more about Natalie. What makes her tick?
Natalie is a teenager who is traumatized after losing her mom, stuffing her feelings away instead of coping. She feels trapped by the expectations of her father and her boyfriend, and deeply craves freedom, but she’s also a people pleaser, so she’s spent her life muffling her own needs/wants to make others happy. We meet her at a time when she’s very lost and feeling trapped by her circumstances.
Interesting cover. Please tell us more about how it came about.
I worked with Damonza and they were so fabulous in creating the design. I gave them a summary of the story and some key elements and they incorporated all of that in a really incredible way.
What did you have the most fun with when you wrote this story?
I absolutely love angsty, messy romance and teenagers behaving like teens. They don’t have all the answers. They don’t always say what they want to say. They’re not the strongest, or most powerful, or always make the right decision at the ripe age of 18. These in-between moments and the conflict of those moments are what make me tick as a writer.
The book contains a lot of twists and turns and angsty drama. Why did you take this approach?
I write thriller movies for a living so shocking twists & turns are deeply ingrained. The angsty drama also adds to tension of the story. I love being able to bring a bit of a new spin to paranormal romance by layering in my thriller writing experience.
This is book 1 of the Lockwood Trilogy. Can it be read as a standalone? How do the other books in the series tie in with this one?
Control has a cliffhanger ending so readers will definitely want to read the second book which releases this September. The second book, Unravel, picks up 33 days after Control leaves off.
When starting on a new book, what is the first thing you do?
I make a Pinterest board and a playlist because I’m a visual person and I’m used to “seeing” scenes as a screenwriter. From there, I start to mood board the chapters and think about what those scenes would look like visually, if they were to be scripted for a movie, before I write.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
I’m always shocked how much writing I do while walking. A good walk can solve any plot issue! I walk about 5-7 miles a day either outside or on my treadmill and just constantly take voice notes. When I’m back at my desk, I start transcribing those and getting words on the page.
I’m big on time blocking, so I always set aside focused time for a single project and just work on that. I’m always juggling multiple scripts, books, and sometimes client projects (like drafting TV show pitches), so it works for me to give dedicated time to a single project.
What are you working on right now?
I’m finishing the final edits on Unravel (Book 2 of the Lockwood Trilogy). I’m also writing a novella that ties into the Lockwood universe, taking place 20 years prior to the story in Control. The novella is a Hades/Persephone/Poseidon reimagining - placing those characters as students at Lockwood.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
I’m on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/melissa.cassera/
TikTok at https://www.tiktok.com/@melissacassera
My website: https://melissacassera.com/control/