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UNC graduate debuts new book about mystery and Shakespeare

Melanie L. Rio, a UNC-CH alum, presenting her book "If We Were Villains" at Flyleaf bookstore.
Melanie L. Rio, a UNC-CH alum, presenting her book "If We Were Villains" at Flyleaf bookstore.

Rio, who graduated in 2014, said she is excited to come home to Chapel Hill — the place that in many ways inspired her novel.

“If We Were Villains” has a little bit of everything, she said.

The book, which features college students, Shakespeare and Shakespearian actors and a little bit of a murder mystery, captures many experiences from Rio’s time spent as an English and dramatic art major at UNC.

There are also places in the story that those who know Chapel Hill will recognize, she said.

“There are a lot of little things that are nods to UNC — consciously or otherwise,” Rio said.

“The Gimghoul Castle makes kind of a cameo appearance just because it’s such an odd piece of architecture in the middle of a college campus. It’s the most bizarre little thing, and I love the kind of mystery that surrounds that.”

Rio debuted the novel to a Chapel Hill audience at Flyleaf Books, alongside Daniel Wallace, the director of creative writing at UNC.

Jamie Fiocco, owner and general manager of Flyleaf Books, said the store was happy and excited to host this reading with Rio and Wallace, which she said was different from most book promotions they host.

“It’s an accomplished writer introducing a new author to the world,” Fiocco said. “We’re honored and excited. This is what independent book sellers do well, which is help introduce debut authors to our readers.”

Today, Rio will speak to the Morehead-Cain foundation and its scholars about her experience in publishing her first novel — an experience she said most underestimate.

“I think we tend to romanticize writing a little bit, and when you actually start doing it in a professional capacity, those illusions shatter really fast,” Rio said.

Megan Mazzocchi, spokesperson for the Morehead-Cain foundation, said they are excited for Rio to come share her experience in a field that is so hard to break into.

“We encourage the scholars to come whether they’re interested in the career of the person or not — but particularly for those who are interested in what the person is doing,” Mazzocchi said.

“So, if somebody’s got a novel that they have in mind to write or publish, to have somebody who has been through that is helpful.”

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