Interview with Assaph Mehr, Author of Murder In Absentia

When and why did you begin writing?

I started to write only 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.

Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?

My “genre” is the Historically-themed Urban High-Fantasy Hard-boiled Detective (with a splash of Horror). I write in this, simply because that’s what I enjoy reading. I grew up on sci-fi and fantasy as well as classic detectives. I’ve always been partial to historical fiction, particularly that set in ancient Rome.

When it came time to write, I wrote what felt the most natural way to tell the story. This happened to be a story of a private detective solving a murder case and set in a fantasy world inspired by ancient Rome. I worried less about the box it would fit in, and more about the integrity of the story and the world.

Are you a full-time or part-time writer and how does that affect your writing?

Part time. I write mostly late at night after everyone is asleep and the house is quiet. I seem to be doing my best writing past midnight.

I do have this three-step plan to make writing a full-time job:

  1. Publish book
  2. Get movie deal
  3. Buy small island

So far the plan is ticking along beautifully.

What have you written so far?

Murder In Absentia is my first full-length novel. After publishing it, and whilst working on the second Felix mystery, I publish short stories on my blog here:

They are just smaller cases, which Felix gets to investigate and resolve quickly. They make for a great introduction into the historical fantasy world of Egretia, and to Felix’s unique style.

Do you work to an outline or plot sketch, or do you prefer to let a general idea guide your writing?

Somewhere in between. I have the all-important plot concept and twist ready when I start. I usually have a rough idea of what needs to happen along the way, at least at a high level. But a lot of the magic happens when I actually come to write a scene or a chapter.

It is almost like having a conversation with my protagonist. I present him with a problem, he tells me what he’d like to do to investigate it, and we take it on from there. I have my evil plans for his future, and he’s doing his damned best to get the job done.

What are some ways in which you promote your work? 

As a first-time indie author, my primary focus is on reviews. These for the basis of everything else, from Amazon and Goodreads recommendations, to selection into premium programs.

To get the initial reviews was a very personal and intensive process. Reaching out and connecting with potential readers, handing out review copies and following up. My book’s Amazon reviews and ranking are doing really well, so I am starting to ease up on this and hand it over to the more automated processes like BookBub. This, in turn, frees me to have more time to write the next novel – and having further novels is a key to long-term success.

That said, I am always up for more reviews J If anyone is interested, they can reach out to me through Twitter and Facebook.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?


It just takes a lot of perseverance to finish the first draft. And then to edit it. And then edit again. And then publish. And then market. Just stick to it, do a little bit every day, and eventually good things happen.

I’ve also written an article for Lifehacker with some other tips, about how to write, edit, publish and market books (when going through the self-publishing route). You can find it here.

But to provide the key takeaway for each main stage:

  • Writing: Just do it. A little bit, but every day. Keep at it, until you finish that draft.
  • Publishing: Never skimp on a good editor and a professional cover art. The difference they make is huge.
  • Marketing: Start with reviews, build up to automated processes as you grow. It’s a job for the long haul, not overnight fame.

Can you share with readers a little bit about your latest book?

Quite simply, Murder In Absentia is the story I always 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 detective 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.

What role does research play in your writing?    

Interesting question for a fantasy novel.

Actually, my novel is based on ancient Rome and I have done a lot of research into it, particularly the everyday culture. While I have put a spin on some things – for example, I have chosen the very early Roman mythology, before the Greek influences – most are still reasonably accurate.

It starts with everyday life. The garum (fish sauce) that Felix likes so much was a Roman condiment. When he has to go to a factory and describes the (rather revolting) way of making it, it’s accurate. The festivals mentioned have all been held in Rome. The curse words, in particular, were fun to research. My novel is very classy – all the cursing is in Latin…

Then there are the gods. What we know as Jupiter was called Iuppiter in Latin. However what is less known is that this is a transformation of a much older name – Iovis Pater, or Father Jove. He is the sky-god father figure that is common across many Indo-European cultures.

When Felix has an adventure in the sewers and sacrifices in thanks to Cloacina, that refers to a real goddess. Her temple was located next to the forum in Rome, and besides being the patron goddess of the sewers (cloaca), she was also the patron goddess of marital relations. I could not make this stuff up!

I put in a glossary and notes at the end of the book, as it makes subsequent readings that much more enjoyable.

Tell us something unique about you.

I’ve studied martial arts for about 30 years. Covered various styles, from ultra-violent Krav Maga to a very internal branch of Wing Chun. I also watch a lot of videos about HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts) for research. This comes into play when I write fight scenes – they are not the Movie-type acrobatics but are all very realistic.


Assaph Mehr book cover

How can readers discover more about Assaph?

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Google+ | Goodreads | Pinterest | Instagram | Amazon Author Page | Book Link 

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