Psychological thriller brings chills to the movie set

            Melissa Larsen and I are in total agreement. If a handsome movie director asks you to star in a reality-style movie set on an isolated island with just a crew and cast of five after an odd and awkward one-on-one screen test, there’s only one thing to do.  Just say no.

            Larsen is the author of “Shutter,” a psychological thriller whose central character is Betty Roux, a lost young beauty who has cast her previous life behind following her father’s suicide. She’s severed relationships with her boyfriend and mother, moved to New York with vague ambitions but no experience, of becoming an actress. Now she’s sleeping on the couch of her high school friend, someone she hasn’t seen in years. But in serendipitous connection, her friend’s husband works with Antony Marino whose first—and so far only—film has won accolades. Betty loves the movie, has watched it incessantly and soon finds herself auditioning for the starring role. That she gets it is a surprise as she has no acting experience at all.

            Of course, she doesn’t say no.

            “I don’t think I would have either at that age,” says Larsen.

            If this were a romance novel, then the entrance of Marino, would lead to the inevitable happy ending. But Larsen’s tale is much darker than that. If Betty wasn’t in such a funk of grief, she might see the warning signs which are more like flashing neon lights. The job entails filming on a remote island off the coast of Maine with a cast and crew consistently of a total of five.

Really, what could possibly go wrong? Well, as it turns out, just about everything.

            “Somebody asked me what advice I would give Betty and I said I’d tell her to run,” says Larsen, who previously held high level, high stress jobs working for a talent agency in Los Angeles and then for a New York publisher. But she had started writing a novel in college and wanted to try writing again. “Shutter” is her first novel, and it has already garnered praise with the New York Times Book Review calling it a “chilling debut novel” and making Pop Sugar’s list of most anticipated novels.

            Developing the plot for “Shutter” was like a very fluid brain storm says Larsen detailing her creative process.

            “I’m a very image-based writer, and the first thing I saw was Betty covered in blood asking me for help,” she says recounting how she plotted the book. “So I decided to start writing with that in mind. It was like I was seeing a billboard in the distance,  and I kept walking towards it.”

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