Assaph has been feeding his addiction for books with stories of mystery and fantasy of all kinds. A few years ago, he randomly picked a copy of a Lindsey Davis’s Marcus Didius Falco novel in a used book fair, and fell in love with Rome all over again, this time from the view-point of a cynical adult. His main influences in writing are Steven Saylor, Lindsey Davis, Barry Hughart and Boris Akunin.
Why storytelling? What made you yearn to tell a good story, and how long was this story within you before it came out?
I always loved stories and reading. I’ve had my nose in a book since I was five. But while seeing my name in print was on my bucket list, it just wasn’t something I thought I’d get to before retirement.
Then last year my wife made a passing comment about having nothing left to read. So I sat down that night, and start to write. And haven’t stopped since.
As for the particular mystery behind Murder In Absentia, I had a few ideas (though in a different form) for about a decade probably. When it came time to write though, I changed quite a bit in the setting (making it based on Ancient Rome and Alexandria), but the crux of mystery remains the same.
What character from your book fills you with hope?
Now that is a strange question. The most exuberant character is probably Aemilia. She’s young, naïve, and full of enthusiastic ideas. Felix (the protagonist) is older and more cynical.
What character from your work frightens you, makes you feel dirty to write?
I don’t often write people who are “evil” as such, or are truly psychopathic. Mostly I write people who end up at cross purposes to each other, and hence the tension. You should at least be able to understand – and possibly even sympathize – with the antagonist and their aims.
Then again, there is Araxus, with his curse afflicted mind…
Funny you should say that. Felix spends a lot of his days in bars. If it’s somewhere local, he’d be hailed by acquaintances and probably invited to a game of dice. If he’s on the job, he’ll try to match the clientele, so that he could get on with things. He normally prefers the second option – so he can charge his clients expense account for the drinks.
When you are writing, tell me about the emotions that are running through you and what it takes to work alongside them.
My stories are mostly in first-person view. I try to feel whatever the protagonist is feeling. But in my mind is also what every other character is feeling, plus of course what twists of fate are rushing towards them… I have been known to chuckle in evil glee as I write.
How do you police your production? Do you have a word quota, or a page goal, maybe you work for a set amount of time? Do you place demands on yourself when you’re working? How do you meet those demands?
Writing is still a hobby, not something that pays the mortgage. I’ve written Murder In Absentia mostly at nights. Since its publication, however, we’ve been joined by a baby boy and have moved houses. Accordingly I sleep at night – and write my current WIP on the train.
I try to write daily, though I don’t set specific goals. I use the time I have, and am happy with any progress.
A publishing house gets ahold of you and wants you to take over writing an established character. For instance, DC Comics calls you and tells you they want you to take over writing Batman. What is the dream? What established character would you love to write?
Never thought about it that way. I write the stories I want to read, my own blend of historical detectives and fantasy. I’m not sure I’d be comfortable to write someone else’s creations.
Everyone has at least one specific challenge that holds him or her back. What is that challenge in your work and how do you overcome it?
Time. I just wish I had more time to write. I overcome it by trying to find the space where I can write in peace. Currently these are the train rides to and from work.
How did you find the time to write this book with your busy life? What ideas do you have on how others can make time in their lives?
It’s a matter of priorities. If writing is important to you, that places it over other things (such as watching TV, or having a life). I place writing after my family, but above all other hobbies.
Without giving any spoilers, what is your favorite thing about this book?
Felix (the protagonist) and the world he lives in. Felix and I share some character traits, and I do sometimes feel like I’m writing his memoirs (as in, he likes to keep me on suspense, telling me what to write but not where he’s heading with it).
The city of Egretia, which I’ve modelled after ancient Rome and Alexandria, is almost a character by itself. A lot of effort went into both historical research and world building, and I enjoy “living” in that space.
If we wanted a good story—book, show or movie—one that you didn’t write, where would you send us?
First, I’d ask you what you like to read. My own tastes are eclectic – I’d read everything I find well written. I’d try to find something that I think you’d enjoy.
That said, I do tend towards historical detectives and fantasy. Some recent works that I enjoyed: Boris Akunin’s Fandorin series, Ruth Downie’s Medicus, Jonathan Maas’ works, Dan Buri’s Pieces like Pottery.
Let’s talk about tools. Do you have a word processor that you would tell us to use? Is there a certain computer that has become your favorite? What do you look for in a keyboard? What would you absolutely have to have if you were to sit down and write your next book?
I write on Scrivener. It’s set to save to Dropbox, which synchronizes between my computers. I’ll write at whichever computer I’m sitting at. I also keep a OneNote notebook with all my notes (again, synchronized), and use InDesign and Sigil/Calibre for layout (print and ebooks, respectively). What I hardly ever do, is write longhand on paper. I just type as I go.
If we read your work and crave more, can we find more that you have written? Will we ever see another book by you? If we fall in love with your work, how can we find you and everything you have done?
I am currently working on the second full-length Felix mystery, titled In Numina. In between, I publish shorter mysteries on egretia.com/short-stories/. These are the adventures of Felix, shorter cases between the major ones described in the books.
Google Plus: http://plus.google.com/+AssaphMehr
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Assaph-Mehr/e/B015U1F3NC
Amazon buy link: http://amzn.to/1XbfKN1
Assaph Mehr has been a bibliophile since he learned to read at the age of five, and a Romanophile ever since he first got his hands on Asterix, way back in elementary school. This exacerbated when his parents took him on a trip to Rome and Italy. He whined horribly when they dragged him to “yet another church with baby angels on the ceiling”, yet was happy to skip all day around ancient ruins and museums for Etruscan art.
Assaph now lives in Sydney, Australia with his wife Julia, four kids and two cats. By day he is a software product manager, bridging the gap between developers and users, and by night he’s writing.