Interview with Arlo Mercia

Published 2016-07-30.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
My other great passion is infra-red landscape photography. I love the way the images can be processed to look like high-contrast, unusual black and white photos. There is something ethereal about the lightness of foliage and the depth of the sky - and it is exciting because you can never quite predict how an image will turn out. You will see some of my favourites as the background images on my website. I admire photographers who get up before dawn to capture the amazing light as the sun rises - but I'm not a good early riser. Infra-red works best on a warm day, followed by coffee - very civilised.
And . . . I am also a senior teacher at the local high school, where I manage the careers education program and teach Maths and English.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
I really want my characters to get out into the world so that people can enjoy them. The story often seems to take on a life of its own and when I wake in the morning there is a strong urge to write the next bit. Sometimes I have to stop and ask myself 'What happens now?' or work out the logistics of a scene, but usually the next part of the plot is sitting there asking to be told. Sometimes characters take on a surprising life of their own and speak with a strong voice. I also love doing the artwork, which makes a break from writing sometimes. It is another way of bringing the characters to life, and I hope, adds something to the whole experience.
What was the first book that you read?
I can't remember the first one I read, as I started reading very young, but I do remember during reading time in high school I finished a book called The Carved Cartoon by Austin Clare. It is the story of Grinling Gibbons who did the carvings in St Pauls Cathedral, in the time of Charles II. The end of the book was so sad that I put my head down on the desk in class and sobbed - which was very embarrassing. None of my friends shared my interest in history, so they thought it a bit weird. But history is made of great stories which influence each other in complex ways; some of them are very sad, and a lot of them are inspiring.
What do you read for pleasure?
I read very widely in most genres, but predominantly I like non-fiction on current affairs, politics, science and social commentary. I have read some fantasy, but not as much as I probably should have, given that I write it. I have read a lot of the classical novels from many cultures in their English translations. To be really honest I don't have as much time to read these days as I would like, because most of my spare time when I am not at work is spent writing, but I try to manage a random book or two when I am on holiday.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes, when I was seven I wrote (what seemed to me) a long story about a made up historical figure. I don't remember the plot, but I do remember telling my family that I was going to write a novel. I wanted to be a writer that early on. I was always very good at English at school, but at Uni for various reasons I lost confidence in my creative writing and studied Philosophy instead. The need for a steady income meant I ended up doing various jobs including teaching, and it wasn't until I was in my early thirties that I finally wrote my first novel - Margot's Men. I followed that quickly with the second one - Dr God; but then they both sat on the shelf for twenty years while parenting, further study and life in general rolled along. I never quite gave up on them, and dragged them out regularly for rewrites. Now I have finally published them on Smashwords, and moved into writing fantasy.
What's the story behind your latest book?
The fantasy series started when I was on holiday in Shoal Bay, New South Wales, with my partner. I was finishing a final edit of Doctor God and he said, 'Why don't you write a fantasy novel?' I had to think about it for a while, because I hadn't read a great deal of fantasy. I suppose because I have cats at home I quickly came up with the idea of reptilian cats, and preferred the notion of dealing with incompetence rather than evil. Within a couple of days I had the plot and it just took on a life of its own. I managed to write the first book in a year even though I was working full-time.
What is your writing process?
I think about the plot a lot when I am not writing - mostly in bed if I wake in the middle of the night, or as I'm waking up in the morning, or when I am driving, or doing housework - pretty much any time really.
When I write I sit down with a big mug of chai tea, a heated throw-rug on my knees and usually one of my cats will join me. I have two computer screens - one for the chapter I am writing, and one for researching any facts or ideas.
My fantasy novels have lots of characters and several areas of action, so I tend to write one plot line for a while, then get the others to catch up. Every so often I print it all out and edit and reorganise the sections by cut-and-paste. If I am too tired to write well I spend the time editing.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I love the way characters sometimes take over and gain a distinct voice. Even though I know where I want a story to head there are often intricate twists and turns that I hadn't predicted. Sometimes it looks as though I've planned a detail in the plot when actually it was fortuitous. You know a story is working when it takes over and basically writes itself.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Like many other authors I tried the conventional path of trying to get an agent several times with no success, and yet people who read my books said they enjoyed them. A friend of mine has a daughter who publishes on Smashwords and recommended it, and I thought this would be a good way to make my books more widely available so that people who wish to can enjoy them.
What are you working on next?
I am half-way through the second book in the trilogy 'Lygon Island', so the aim at the moment is to finish the trilogy. After that I already have a reasonable idea what the next one will be about. It will be set on the mainland of Fraith and be about the sorrow of the Indigo dragons.
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Books by This Author

Doctor God
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 117,830. Language: English. Published: June 13, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Thriller & suspense » General, Fiction » Romance » General
A routine test for brain tumour erupts into a crisis and a young man’s life is at stake. Max Godfrey, Director of Harbings Institute is called upon to solve the mystery, only to find he might have been the cause. Both his career and new love are at stake if the past is revealed. What was the secret behind the drug trial he worked on? Was the fire that killed the doctor an accident - or murder?
Margot's Men
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 102,530. Language: English. Published: June 13, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Romance » General, Fiction » Mystery & detective » General
Margot lives alone in Sydney making hats and keeping the secret of her past, until Claudia moves into the flat upstairs and threatens to destroy everything that Margot cares about. Will the young, determined Claudia steal Margot’s dream? Or will Margot discover that a shattered life may yet bring unexpected gifts? This is a haunting tale of what may be lost and found when the past is unresolved.