Assaph Mehr is a software product manager, the author of the best-seller and winner of five awards Murder in Absentia and of many other short stories related to it, the owner of the publishing house Purple Toga and of the website TheProtagonistSpeaks.com. This latter exists to interview books’ fictional characters. How is that possible? By interviewing their author of course! So far, the site has already 88 inteviews, and it keeps making more.
(Click on the photos to see them in their full size)
Mr. Mehr grew up in Israel, and that’s where his passion for history was born. His favourite spot was the port of Jaffa, where layers of cultures could be dug down to ancient Egyptians, with many citadels remaining from the crusades and Ottomans. Currently he lives in Sydney (Australia) with his wife Julia, four kids and two cats, writing his second novel In Numina.
MY PERSONAL OPINION
How could I describe something underscrivable?
Writing stories regarding a specific historical time is already complicated enough because of the countless researches that go behind them, but interpreting them in a completely different way, adding new things and yet keeping the mythological core unaltered it’s even harder, almost impossible.
“Almost”, because on this task, Mr. Mehr’s high ambitions and incredible talent matched perfectly, creating a TRULY UNIQUE writing style and an unpredictable plot.
Not gonna lie, at first it may seem a little strange for most of you readers out there, for many writers tend to focus on describing the little details in order to help you immagine what it’d be like to be in the book’s sceneries and therefore transporting you inside them, but Assaph Mehr did the exact opposite.
What he did is one of the proofs that to every action corresponds an equal and opposite reaction.
What do I mean?
I mean that he describes only the necessary things and focuses much more on the dialogues. So far, nothing strange right? Many writers prefer to cut it short with the descriptions to focus on the story, but here’s the difference between them and Mehr… although inside a fantasy book, his dialogues are much more direct and realistic than the ones in most “real life” books. The characters’ interactions are so well structured that the reader keeps wanting to read more of them, as if it was some sort of hellish drug, and paradoxally, he immagines the sceneries, the body language, the voice tones and everything else in a clearer way that he would if Assaph described things like all the other writers do. That’s the opposite and equal reaction.
Without using words he manages to describe and transport the reader inside the story better than the writers who’s books are overflowing with them do.
However, this book is not a screenplay, it does have some “classic” descriptions.
Things are described by the narrator and protagonist of the book, the detective “Felix the fox”, constantly trying to resolve a new supernatural case, which is a perfect way to use the method “show, don’t tell”, for even when telling what something looks like, for example a dagger, a temple or a hungry beast, he shows something else. He shows the different sides of the character’s personality.
The character is alive. It’s relatable. It’s full of a genuine and funny sarcasm.
And that my dear readers, is the most important thing in these kinds of stories.
That’s what gives them a soul.
So, if I really have to say my opinion about Mehr’s creations, the only thing I can tell you is that they’re authentic masterpieces and that if you want to read something different, fresh and that you’ve never seen before, his works might be right what you need.
If you’d like to follow Assaph Mehr, here are his links:
If you’d like to learn Assaph’s Secret to success as a writer, you can check out what is considered by the site Lifehacker: “The Complete Guide To Writing Your First Novel“
If you’d like to read his short stories click here.
And if you’d like to buy his first book Murder in Absentia, click on the Amazon’s page down below:
Good morning, how are you?
G’day, Nick. I’m well. Yourself?
I’m very well, thank you. When will your next book In Numina be published?
As soon as I finish writing and editing it… one thing I learned from Murder In Absentia, is to slow down and take even longer than seems necessary. Rushing to market does not give the best results, so I plan on leaving myself more time between editing rounds.
That said, I hope it will be released by the end of this year.
How do you feel about it being released?
Excited! And scared. Excited for obvious reasons, as this the culmination of a long project. It’s my second full-length novel. Scared, because there is always the gnawing doubt about “what if it’s not as good as my previous novel?” – I’d like to think that I grew in my craft as an author, and can match the great reception that Murder In Absentia has received.
What’s the story behind the stories in your books? How did you get those ideas?
The story is simple. These are the stories I always wanted to read. I grew up on classic Sci-Fi and fantasy. I’ve read a lot of detective mysteries and thrillers. I always loved ancient Rome and history, and read a lot of historical fiction, and in particular historical detectives.
Writing a book was on my bucket list for when I retire. But then one night two years ago my wife complained that she had nothing left to read, so I sat down and started to write that story idea that has been kicking around in the back of my head for a few years. I wrote what I wanted to read – a detective, set in a Roman-like world, dealing with occult matters. And thus Felix and Murder In Absentia were born.
As I was writing, I had ideas for more stories. I noted them down, and I work through that list now. I don’t expect to run out of ideas any time soon.
What is your favorite part of your previous, best-seller book Murder in Absentia?
The fact that you just called it a best seller…
more seriously, it was the sense of accomplishment when I finished the manuscript. It’s an incredible feeling, as a life-long reader, to know that I have written a novel. As for the actual story, some of the scenes in the middle section had me cackling in evil glee as I wrote them.
How did you feel about it being released?
Again, an incredible feeling. The overwhelmingly positive response still amazes me.
What is the part you’ve been struggling the most with when writing it?
I wouldn’t say I was struggling in writing Murder In Absentia, though the process of writing-editing-publishing-marketing is a bit of a learning curve. There were – and, no doubt, will be again – many scary moments, such as pressing the publish button. But we learn from these, and grow.
Who is the character you relate the most to?
That is, without a doubt, Felix. The story is written in first-person perspective through his eyes. He is, in a way, an extension of me. A better version, probably.
Did you have any fear regarding whether or not your book would’ve been liked by your readers?
Of course. That is only natural. I can tell you one thing, though – writing the second book is even scarier in that respect. One keeps wondering if it will measure up to the first.
What was your first reaction when you realized it had won five awards at Virtual Fantasy Con?
I was speechless. I thought I’d be lucky to scrape something, anything, worth mentioning. Winning five awards – top marks for urban and dark fantasy – was a complete shock.
Did you write every day or did you take periods of writing alternated with gaps of relax?
I finished the first draft of Murder In Absentia in just over 4 months, writing every day (or every night, really). I was working to a deadline – finish before my son was born…
Now I have less to write, so In Numina is taking somewhat longer. I do try to work on it most days, though, and it is progressing well.
How many hours a day did you write?
Depends on my schedule and available time. Writing is still a hobby. My current routine is that I write on the train to and from work (unless I’m too tired). I get a few hours per week this way, of uninterrupted writing time.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve discovered through your researches for the book?
So many things… From how to produce fish sauce and the colour purple (hint: both stink), to how to curse thieves who steal your towel at the public baths. Plus a lot of other small details arising from a thousand years of human idiosyncrasies, that I use to enrich the world of Felix.
When did you start being passionate about writing?
I’ve always been passionate about reading and books in general. Writing was never something I thought I’d tackle seriously, certainly not before retirement age. I wrote the first draft of Murder In Absentia without really looking at anything else, not connecting to any writer’s group or the like. But once I finished that first draft and moved on to editing and publishing, it was really clear to me that I want to keep writing.
And what about mythology? What made you love it?
I always loved the stories of ancient mythologies. I had books about it as a child, and kept reading about myhts as I grew up. Part of my love for history in general.
Do you believe in any of the myths you wrote about or in any other legend, mythology and/or religion?
Not in the least. Understanding real world science and loving imaginative fantasy are not mutually exclusive. I write characters that reflect the historical period I base my stories on; it has no bearing on my personal beliefs.
What’s the thing you like the most about the detective and historic genres?
What is the thing you like most about chocolate and coffee? They are just what I enjoy reading. I love learning about history, I love mysteries, I love fantasy – I love anything well-written, really.
Who are the people who have influenced you the most?
There are many authors I count as my inspiration. On the Roman historical fiction side, probably Colleen McCullough, Steven Saylor, Ruth Downie, and Lindsey Davis stand out. The last three also cover historical mystery novels, and I will only add the amazing Boris Akunin for his incredible Erast Fandorin series.
On the fantasy side too many to mention, from classics like JRR Tolkein and Fritz Leiber, to modern authors like Neil Gaiman and Terry Prachett. I adore Roger Zelazny and all his works.
There are also other historical-fantasy-detectives out there… I’ll just mention Barry Hughart, with Bridge of Birds. One of my all-time favourite books.
Why did you create the publishing house Purple Toga?
When I looked at the publishing industry, I decided that chasing traditional publishers was not for me. On the other hand, I didn’t want to just “self-publish”. Instead, I treated my publication as a business, and have done it as professionally as possible. Purple Toga is a full-service publisher, employing the best people for editing, cover design, etc. It’s just geared toward me and not to taking on other authors.
When will it accept new submissions?
I am already working with my brother-in-law on his first novel, an exciting hard sci-fi novel in the style of the old masters. Opening it up to more authors is an intriguing concept, but it will be a few years till I have the time and resources to do it.
What are your projects for the future?
I am currently writing the second full-length Felix novel, and have ideas and planes for further novels. After that… I have even wilder ideas ????
What are the things you consider the most important in your life?
Family, life itself, the future of our planet.
What advice would you give to people who have a similar dream?
Just write. You can fuss about many things, but at the end of the day, in order to write a novel – you need to write. Just find the time to work on it daily, and keep plugging at it until you have a manuscript.
What are the best writing advices you’ve ever heard and/or read?
Don’t skimp on editing and cover art. Get a professional editor and book cover designer. It will greatly affect the final quality of your book, and that reflects on you as a writer.
And last but not least, I’m gonna ask you the most difficult question you could ever ask a writer… not “what’s the meaning of life?”, not “are we alone in the universe?” and not even “is there anything beyond death?”. No, they’re nothing compared to this question… what is your n1 favorite book? ????
That is completely impossible to answer. There are many authors and books I admire. Besides, the answer changes according to my mood.