Today on Paws 4 Thought we welcome author Assaph Mehr and his feline muses, Felix and Tiger-lily.
- Tell us a little bit about yourself, Assaph.
I was born in Israel, where one can’t avoid treading on antiquities. I think living in the area of the dawn of civilization was influential in growing up to love history so much. I now make Australia my home, with my wife, two cats and a variable number of children on any given day (long story).
I always liked to read, and have spent most of my life with my nose in a book. I read a lot of science fiction and fantasy as a kid, and recently fell in love with historical fiction, particularly that set in Ancient Rome.
- When did you first start writing?
Very recently. I had my nose in a book since I was a child, and whilst seeing my name in print was on my bucket-list, I never thought to actually go and do something about it.
I had the idea for a fantasy detective story and for the particular twist ending for a while. Then one hot night in January 2015 my wife complained that she had nothing good left to read, so I just sat down and started writing. And I didn’t stop until I finished the novel.
- As some readers of this blog are aware my son, Joey, named our cat Miri after the protagonist of P.A.W.S. I hear you did it the other way – is it true that your protagonist, Felix, is named after your cat?
Yes, it’s true. ‘Felix’ in Latin means lucky, and it fits both my cat and my protagonist. Besides, it was past midnight and I needed to come up with a Roman name for my character. My cat was already there, helping me write, so he got first honours:
His sister, Tiger-lily, was more involved in the editing process, as an over-the-shoulder tough critic:
- Who are your favorite authors?
So many! On the historical fiction side, probably Colleen McCullough, Steven Saylor and Lindsey Davis stand out. The last two also cover mystery novel, and I will only add the amazing Boris Akunin.
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 haven’t read Jim Butcher yet, but I’ve had several people comment that Felix is reminiscent of Harry Dresden in a toga. I have a feeling I’m about to discover a new favourite.
- What inspires you to write?
Like many other authors, it’s an itch that needs scratching. Once started, it’s impossible to stop.
I’ve always been an avid reader. I’ve had random scenes and ideas running through my mind. All it took was the prompt from my darling wife to sit down and start writing. After that, inspiration is not the problem. As I wrote my first novel, I just had more and more ideas for future novels, ideas I am working with now. It’s the 99% perspiration that’s hard work.
- Tell us a little bit about Murder In Absentia.
Quite simply, it’s the story I wanted to read. I loved historical fiction about ancient Rome since the first time I read Asterix. I’ve read a lot of classic sci-fi and fantasy in my youth, as well as classic detectives. Lately I’ve read a lot Roman mysteries, like those of Steven Saylor and Lindsey Davis. So when it came time to write, I knew exactly what I wanted.
The story itself is a classic noir detective. A young man dies, his powerful family wants to know why. Felix goes after the people responsible, and gets drawn into a little circle of nasty people. What makes this story unique – besides the very surprising plot twists – is the setting. The melding of Ancient Roman culture (I’ve done hours and hours of research into every aspect) together with the high-fantasy magical world.
I’ve subtitled the novel as a “Story of Togas, Daggers, and Magic” as it draws on all three elements equally.
- So what’s next for Felix?
Felix will continue solving cases, usually those involving corpses no one else wants to touch. A few short cases appear on the blog, but he is currently working for one of the city’s top magistrates in clearing a haunted house. It seems like even large apartment buildings – or especially large apartment buildings – can have their own unique troubles.
- What do you like to do to relax?
I can’t remember, it’s not like I have time to relax…
But late at night, after the kids are asleep and the cats are comfortably ensconced in my lap, that’s when I write. I do find the writing process extremely satisfying, though I can’t say that the glass of legal-age scotch doesn’t help.
- If you had a super power what would it be?
The one I’d like to have is to stop time. I could always use more hours in the day.
The one I’m stuck with is that I’m partially anosmic, and can withstand really bad smells without a trouble. (My kryptonite is fart jokes – I just can’t stop laughing).
- If you could have dinner with anyone real or fictional who would you choose?
This is one of those questions I never know how to answer. So many bright people, yet I fear I wouldn’t know what to say to them.
You know that feeling what someone says something, and you’re left speechless, and hours later you come up with the perfect comeback? Well, being witty on paper is easy – you just put a [witty retort goes here] marker, and add it in when it comes to you.
Spend dinner with actual, live people like Neil Gaiman? I’d be star-struck and mumble too much.
- How can readers connect with you?
Here is where you can find my on the webz: