When Characters Talk – Interview with Author Assaph Mehr

 

Felix the Fox business card

By Debbie Burke

@burke_twitter

 

Recently a writer friend turned me onto a site called The Protagonist Speaks, created by author Assaph Mehr, who was born in Israel and now lives in Australia. He writes a series described as Stories of Togas, Daggers, and Magic for lovers of urban fantasy, detective mysteries, and ancient Rome.

His main character is Felix the Fox, part sleuth, part magician, part fixer who handles occult trouble for Rome’s upstanding citizens who don’t want to dirty their hands.

Felix’s first interview appeared in 2016. The idea of an author interviewing the characters in his book intrigued readers. Soon, Assaph expanded the site to include other authors interviewing their characters.

The concept struck me as a fun, quirky marketing tool. I reached out to Assaph and requested an interview. That is today’s post, although I’m not quite sure who will show up—Assaph or Felix!

In Numina by Assaph Mehr

Debbie Burke: Please share a little about yourself and your background.

Assaph: I grew up on the shores of the Mediterranean, where every stone has a history – and the stone under it too, going back millennia. One of my favourite spots was an Ottoman citadel (we used to play LARP [live-action role-playing game] there), which is built on Mameluk foundation, laid on top of Roman village, which displaced older settlements to Egyptian times. Can’t grow up like that and not love history. Fantasy I discovered early on when introduced to The Hobbit, and thereafter I’ve been reading it voraciously. I now live in Oz (aka Australia), with various cats, kids, spiders, and water dragons.

Felix: I come from the city of Egretia, which Assaph assures me is very like your own ancient Rome. My father was in the antiquities trade, though I was fortunate enough to be accepted to the Collegium Incantatorum. My father died, the family fortune was lost, and I could no longer pay tuition so never graduated. So, after a brief stint in the legions, I came back and by a stroke of luck apprenticed with a couple of the city’s most renowned investigators. When they didn’t want to take a case that had occult elements, I seized my chance. I combined whatever education in the magical arts I gathered in the collegium with the investigative skills I learnt, and set out to solve paranormal problems for the proletariat.

Assaph: In Ancient Rome tradespeople often advertised by chalking messages on public walls. That’s how I met Felix, and got him to tell me his stories so I could write them down. For our world we couldn’t quite spray graffiti everywhere, so we made Felix some business cards. Please, pass them on to your readers.

DB: Your books sound like an interesting mashup of hard-boiled detective stories, fantasy, and history. How did you come up with that combination?

Assaph: Quite simply, that’s what I always liked to read. I grew up on classic detectives and thrillers, loved ancient Rome, and often escaped into fantasy and Sci-Fi. I always wanted to see my name in print, so when it was time to write I combined my favourite elements into the stories I wanted to read. (sotto voce) Don’t tell Felix he’s a figment of my imagination – he gets offended, and besides I’d rather he not ask uncomfortable questions about some of the misery I put him through.

Felix: For me it was a stroke of luck – my name, Felix, means lucky, so I attribute everything to my patron goddess Fortuna. As everyone will tell you – or, rather, whisper so she can’t hear – she can be a fickle and capricious goddess. I was accepted to the collegium, but had to terminate my studies; with no prospects I joined the legions, but escaped honorably without injury; the two investigators took me in, and I managed to carve out a unique niche for my business. So those stories are just the cases I handle for my customers, which Assaph publishes here. I’m still waiting on those royalties he promised.

Assaph: Skinflint. I told you, I had to pay the editor and the cover designer. We’re waiting on that movie deal for the big payout.

DB: What inspired the seed for The Protagonist Speaks?

Assaph: It was one of those 3 a.m. ideas that stuck. Every reader talks about favourite characters, I thought it would be an interesting idea to let them meet those characters in person, as it were. A bit like a celebrity talk show, but centered about the characters rather than the authors.

DB: How do readers respond to interviews with characters?

Assaph: The responses I get are overwhelmingly positive. Both authors and readers enjoy the quirky experience of letting the character sit on a guest couch and be interviewed. Both authors and readers also tell me that they are sometimes surprised by the answers they get.

Felix: For my part, I can say that it was a bit weird at the start. I didn’t quite get what it was all about, and I was reluctant to share secrets. Now I do have a better understanding of what’s involved, and I can say it can be a phenomenal experience for the character as well.

Assaph: Right, so that’s you agreeing to do another one – proper one – for the next book launch.

DB: What is the site’s primary purpose? Promote author name recognition? A way to increase book sales? Fun and entertainment?

Assaph: Yes – pretty much all of that. Authors and readers get to have a bit of fun, it helps increase exposure of the books to potential readers, and authors end up with long-life marketing collateral, something that can be shared to help increase buzz. Running the site is my way of giving back and helping fellow authors.

DB: Have you experienced an uptick in sales from The Protagonist Speaks?

Assaph: Modest, but yes. As with most marketing, it’s about repeatedly putting good content in front of potential buyers, till they make the decision to buy. Having these quirky interviews helps do just that – it’s a way to come across new authors, it’s a reason to share the books again, it gives more view-points into the author’s style that may help convince a reader that this is a book for them. There is definitely more engagement from authors who understand that, and I see more engagement when authors share it on social media and newsletters (beyond what I normally see when only I share the interviews).

DB: What is the process for an author to submit an interview with a character? Is there any cost?

Assaph: No costs. As said above, it’s my way of helping fellow authors. Heck, I half do it for myself – besides having an excuse to chat up authors I enjoy, I also discovered a few new favourites.

For anyone interested in joining, just fill out the Contact form on TheProtagonistSpeaks.com/Contact.

DB: Anything else you’d like to share with Kill Zone readers?

Assaph Mehr

Assaph: Thanks much for hosting us, Debbie! I promise I’m not as crazy as I sound, despite the voices in my head. Should any of your readers like to meet Felix more, there are a few free short stories and a free novella on my website here: egretia.com/short-stories. Those will give you an idea of the trials and tribulations of a private investigator during antiquity, dealing with the supernatural world (and why he wants to get paid, and I don’t want him to think I’m the cause of all his troubles).

Website: http://egretia.com

Facebook: http://facebook.com/AssaphMehrAuthor

Twitter: @assaphmehr

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As a side note, after chatting with Assaph, I dragged the male lead in my thriller series, Tillman Rosenbaum, kicking and screaming, to Assaph’s interview couch. Please check out Tillman’s reluctant answers on March 5 at The Protagonist Speaks

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TKZers: Do you ever interview your characters? Do their answers surprise you?

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Debbie Burke’s characters really startled her in her new thriller Flight to Forever.  Discover the surprises here. 

 

Cover design by Brian Hoffman

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23 thoughts on “When Characters Talk – Interview with Author Assaph Mehr

  1. By all means, I’ve done character interviews. In fact, for a couple of years, I invited author guests to my blog to have their characters answer questions I posed. It was a great deal of fun. Reviewer Dru Ann Love also features “A Day in the Life” on her blog, where characters can tell readers what their lives are like.

    These interviews are not the ones some authors do to get to know their characters before they write; they’re based on the fully fleshed-out people after the books are written.

    I’ve done job interviews for some of my characters as well. Technically they’re auditioning for the part, but I write them after I’ve written the book.

    • Auditioning your characters? What a great idea, Terry! I never thought of putting them on the hot seat of a job interview. That surely brings out different aspects of their personalities–like how they react under pressure.

    • Terry, I love the idea of interviewing characters after the books are written. I’ve tried interviewing my hero before I’ve written the book, and given my own process, it doesn’t work.

  2. Clever piece! Thanks, Debbie, Assaph & Felix. Interviewing characters is a most interesting angle. Most of mine seem to run and hide when I show up at the writing table. Then there’s the aggressive few who threaten clear and present danger.

  3. Love this interview about interviewing your characters, Debbie. Very clever. I’ve really only tried interviewing my characters before I’ve written their story, as an aid to helping in creating them, but it hasn’t worked very well for me. However, this idea of interviewing them after the fact sounds like a great deal of fun. Thanks for posting your interview with Assaph!

    • You’re most welcome, Dale.

      Isn’t it interesting how a “before” interview doesn’t work for you but an “after” might? Everyone’s creative brain works differently.

  4. Ahh…loved this piece, Debbie! I’m going to check out Assaph’s sites for sure.

    I do interview my characters, both before and after the MS is finished. In fact, I’m running a blog series on my website, Character Interviews, as a way of promoting my first novel. I’ve gotten some positive comments. During the interviews, I try to reveal just a smidge of the tension in the novel without giving away the farm.

    It’s great fun! Assaph seems to have a different take on it, though, so I’ll have to visit his site. Thanks, Debbie!

  5. My characters have done quite a few interviews, and they’re always great fun. A dear friend created a radio show, his character as the host, author characters as guests. The show lasted several years, too. Loads of fun.

    Fun post, guys!

  6. I love this interview, Debbie. I’m going to check out Assaph’s site.

    Very timely, too. I’m in the process of writing a character sketch for the murderer in my next book. After reading your post, I’ll interview the person (no gender hints here) to see what would drive him/her to such despicable behavior.

    • Kay, murderers are esp. valuable interviews b/c they think so differently from us “normal” people.

      I always remember Jim Bell’s advice on villains–imagine them pleading their own case before a jury that will decide their fate.

  7. For a worldbuilding class I taught, I did that as an entertaining explanation on how to create a character/creature by starting with the result you want then figuring out the cause. I interviewed Floppy, the sentient catlike alien in my OOP STAR-CROSSED, so he could explain why his species fit my alien world. Link below. I’ve never had characters take over a story because I create each character for their narrative role, but Floppy was my one exception. Cats never behave in real life and in fiction.

    http://mbyerly.blogspot.com/2011/08/from-result-back-to-causes.html

    In real life, I’ve had conversations with characters in dreams. A weird but interesting experience. Some authors have told me that they do mental interviews with characters before they write them, or if they are having trouble nailing the character.

    Or you can do it for promotion.

  8. Debbie, this is terrific. Mind-expanding, if I may make so bold. Thanks for sharing and we will tune in on March 5.

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