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Open Book Society is back with an all new interview! I recently had the opportunity to chat with author Melissa Groeling about her latest thiller book Lights out, where we discuss the inspiration behind the story, the long process it took to put the book together, main characters, cooking, Aztec culture and more. Enjoy!

  • Read our review for Lights Out here at OBS.
  • For more information about the author and her books visit her at her Official Website here.

Melissa_Groeling_authorCaro: What inspired you to write Lights Out? What kind of research did you have to do and was it a long process?

Melissa Groeling: I’ll tell you, this book was a loooong time in coming. It has been through so many rewrites, so many revisions, so many starts then stops then coming perilously close to setting it all on fire. I first started writing a version of it when I was a freshman in college. Aaron was the first character I’d created for this story, followed by Paul. So I basically had these two characters and no concrete plot, until my junior year when I took an Aztec and Mayans class—hands down, one of my favorite courses and the professor was awesome and so informative. That’s where I got a lot of my information from. That class helped me nail down a plot. However, even though I had an outline, doesn’t mean I stuck to it. It was an ever-changing landscape, for sure and it took me a number of years to finally get it to where it is now.

Caro: I really liked Paul and his little conscience; it always had more to say than what Paul expressed. How did Paul, as your lead character, come to be? Was he an easy character to approach?

Melissa Groeling: Oh, Paul. When I was writing this story, I always felt bad for what I put this man through. I tore him down relentlessly. The thing with writing Paul is that he always had to be so careful in the things that he said and did. He was constantly hiding his emotions from everyone—from Aaron, from Kelly, even from Ethan. In not allowing him to be so free in his feelings was hard, harder than I thought it would be. Keeping Paul in chains when it was so tempting to let him cut loose was like reaching for an itch you couldn’t quite scratch. So he was definitely not an easy character especially with all those demons hounding him.

Caro: Chac Mool was a character I did not expect Paul to encounter. Before writing Lights Out, did you have any previous knowledge about the Aztec culture? How did you come to incorporate this element into the story?

Melissa Groeling: Everything I knew about Aztec culture came from that Aztecs and Mayans class I took in college. The professor who taught the class had such a wealth of knowledge. He showed us tons of pictures of temples, artifacts, treasure troves of jade, alabaster and ivory. The beliefs of these people, the gods, the journeys to the afterlife—I found it to be so captivating. In some aspects, it seemed so surreal that these people were actually in existence at one point in time. It created such a great backdrop to Lights Out.

Caro: I like to think of Chac Mool as a sort of guardian angel to Paul, a little sadistic, but he had Paul’s back. Were your original thoughts towards him sparing Paul always the same or was there an alternative ending? In my mind, if the ending had been different, I’d like to think that Edna takes care of Ethan and they eat chocolate chip pancakes forever.

Melissa Groeling: Wow, I never thought of that ending with Edna and Ethan! That’s pretty good. Actually, the ending I originally had in mind was Chac Mool going through with Paul’s death. But Chac Mool’s beliefs would’ve contradicted it. Paul had to be worthy of the sacrifice and since his life was built around nothing but pain and misery, his death wouldn’t have been gratifying or valuable. Who knows? Maybe eventually Paul will be worthy and there’ll be a reunion of sorts between him and Chac Mool.

Caro: Jakob loved to show his cooking skills. One could consider him a great cook. Are you as skillful as Jakob in the kitchen?

Melissa Groeling: Jakob is definitely the consummate host, isn’t he? I, on the other hand, am most definitely not. Although I can bake and I can follow a recipe, my timing is terrible. It’s probably best for all parties involved if I remain out of the kitchen.

Caro: Is there anything that you would have liked to talk about your books that previous interviewers never asked?

Melissa Groeling: I tell you what, these questions that you’re asking me now are awesome!  I’ve never been asked any of these, especially the one about Jakob’s cooking skills. I love that!

Caro: Can you talk about what new projects fans can expect from you in the future?

Melissa Groeling: Right now, I’m working on a thriller called, Two Evils. This is another one that I’ve stopped and started multiple times but I think as of right now, I know where I’m headed with it. It’s about making the decision to find out the truth. Is the truth really worth it or is it better not knowing? Stay tuned!

Caro: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to read Lights Out and for taking the time to chat with us. The book will definitely have me thinking about it for a while. Not to mention that I have become a big fan of Paul.

Melissa Groeling: Thank you so much! I really appreciate it!