By Amy Berkowitz

Times Herald-Record
September 09, 2007

'The Room'

Author: Ray Melnik

Genre: Fiction

Setting: The novel is set in Washingtonville.

From the jacket: No matter how hard we try, life doesn't always go as we plan. Just as Harry begins to pick up the pieces of his life, emotions once hidden away must be dealt with as old wounds are exposed (his dying mother and damaged relationship with his brother Malcolm and his abusive father). Although he finally meets a woman who understands and truly loves him, the cosmos take a different path. He discovers that what goes wrong in life sometimes matters as much as what goes right.

Author's view from the flap (Why they write): "I've been pretty disturbed with the way things are going in the country and the imposition of the religious right. I wanted some little contribution to the conversation. Instead of doing a preachy book ... I decided to do it through a story ... about someone who is an existentialist. Someone who believes in the natural world. It's so hard to fight the religious right without hurting the people you care about."

Upcoming work: He is starting the next book set 12 years in the future, with new characters and some of the same as in the first book. Melnik says that Harry, the main character in "The Room," will not be the main character in the next book. Harry's older daughter will be the central character.

Price: $24.95

Availability: www.theroomnovel.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or order it at any bookstore. Several copies were donated to local libraries.

Additional work: He has also written short stories that can be found on his Web site, www.theroomnovel.com.

2 sides to every story – Staten Island Advance

Native Islander attempts to show that every person is entitled to his or her own beliefs in debut novel

Sunday, June 10, 2007

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Ray Melnik wants to be heard. He wants to show people that there are different views and every person has a right to hold their own. He wants them to understand that he's an atheist and an existentialist and there is nothing wrong with his beliefs.

In Melnik's debut novel, "The Room", the native Staten Islander attempts to make his point through his main character, Harry Ladd. Harry, a computer wiring technician who has always been interested in science -- like Melnik -- believes that there is a natural reason for everything that happens in our lives. With his existentialist views, he believes we are born only with existence and what we encounter and choose for ourselves is what gives us value.

"My goal is to show those people who are not dogmatic, that there is another side and we deserve to be heard," said Melnik, who now lives in Salisbury Mills, N.Y.

In the book, which is set in Washingtonville, N.Y., Harry is dealing with his divorce and struggling to maintain a happy relationship with his two young daughters. Like Harry, Melnik, 49, is recently divorced. He also has two young children, Leah, 10, and Kyle, 12. However, the only character in the book who is similar to a real person is Harry, Melnik said.

Harry's mother, Rue, is dying and in her final days, she's living in the past. She talks about leaving Harry's abusive father, Henry, who died several years earlier, and constantly asks about Malcolm, Harry's younger brother who has been estranged from his family for some time. To her, Harry is still a 12-year-old boy, who used to hide with his brother in the closet in her room to escape Henry's anger.

"This is why the room is so central," Melnik said. "They're comfortable when they're children hiding in the closet. As he gets older, it turns into bad memories; all it did was remind him of his father. He [Harry] never goes in [again] until his mother can't leave the room."

Throughout the book, Harry deals with religious and political conflicts. When he finally confronts Malcolm, he is faced with a contrasting character who believes heavily in God. Malcolm puts the blame for Harry's misfortunes on his atheist beliefs.

Harry also is confronted with other religious characters; some he befriends because they let him hold his beliefs and others he opposes because they try to push their beliefs on him. He also shares his opinions of the president and Iraq war, although he befriends a soldier who lost his leg and empathizes with him.
"It's so important to me that people realize Harry's thoughts are his private thoughts and he's entitled to them," said Melnik, who was raised in a Catholic household. He noted that he studied science and religion before he decided on his beliefs.

In the book, Harry falls in love with Lacie Brooks, the local pub keeper's daughter. Just when the romance is blooming, a cosmic event occurs in the room where Harry and Malcolm used to hide. The event transforms Harry's existence and, in the last moments of his mother's life, his life is changed forever. But Harry knows it is not an act of God and finds scientific reasoning for the occurrence.

To Melnik, the book is not a work of science fiction because to him, science is fact. It is intended, instead, to be a work of imagination.

Melnik was born in Travis and lived in several communities on the Island, including Grant City and Westerleigh. He also lived in Manhattan before returning to Travis in the late 1980s. He settled in Salisbury Mills about eight years ago.

Melnik graduated from Susan Wagner High School and attended the College of Staten Island, where he began majoring in literature, learning about the existential views of those like Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre.

He left college to join a rock 'n' roll band and through the years was in several groups, including Staten Island's Civil Tongue and the Fine Malibus. Melnik also is the former owner of recording studio Mannik Productions in Livingston.

He returned to school and currently works as a network engineer in Manhattan. He also has written for different publications and is a feature writer for the New Technology Home Web site.

"The Room" took him 13 months to complete and a second novel could be in his future.

"There are thousands of books that tell the religious side," Melnik said. "There are only a handful that tell my side."

For more information, visit www.theroomnovel.com.

Andrea Boyarsky is a features reporter for the Advance. She may be reached at boyarsky@siadvance.com.