Winning Amazon's 2014 Breakthrough Novel Award was the last thing on D.M. Pulley's mind when she submitted her manuscript last February. "It was really kind of a Hail Mary," says the 38-year-old Shaker Heights structural engineer behind The Dead Key ($11.95, Thomas and Mercer), which releases March 1. "I was just hoping to get some professional feedback." The mystery thriller combines the narratives of two heroines who share a connection with a mysterious bank building located at 1010 Euclid Ave. Pulley talks with us about the contest, her inspiration and the power of fate.
Q. The Amazon contest drew approximately 10,000 entrants from throughout the world. How did it feel to win?
A. I still feel like a monkey launched into space. The idea of writing a novel seemed like a flight of fancy. ... It was something other people did. My first draft was 185,000 words and anything over 100,000 words is considered self-indulgent. I had to be ruthless when I edited the book.
Q. Why did you choose to set the story in an old bank vault?
A. The building itself inspired me. In 2002, I spent several days surveying it. It was like walking through a post-apocalyptic scene. The bank had shut down so quickly. The vault was in a state of disarray with keys scattered everywhere. I found my imagination wandering — there were all these mysteries locked away.
Q. Your book launch party was held at the Vault nightclub, the identical setting of your novel. Do you believe in fate?
A. This book took on a life of its own from the moment I started writing, and it's been fortuitous how everything has come together. Writing this was like an archaeological dig. The characters kind of talked to me. I let the story tell itself to me.