Assaph has been a bibliophile since he learnt to read at the age of five, and a Romanophile ever since he first got his hands on Asterix, way back in elementary school. This exacerbated when his parents took him on a trip to Rome and Italy – he whinged horribly when they dragged him to “yet another church with baby angels on the ceiling”, yet was happy to skip all day around ancient ruins and museums for Etruscan art.
He has since been feeding his addiction for books with stories of mystery and fantasy of all kinds. A few years ago he randomly picked a copy of a Lindsay Davis’ Marcus Didius Falco novel in a used book fair, and fell in love with Rome all over again, this time from the view-point of a cynical adult. His main influences in writing are Steven Saylor, Lindsey Davis, Barry Hughart and Boris Akunin.
Assaph now lives in Sydney, Australia with his wife Julia, four kids and two cats. By day he is a software product manager, bridging the gap between developers and users, and by night he’s writing – he seems to do his best writing after midnight.
When he’s not busy mashing up genres or interviewing other author’s characters on the website The Protagonist Speaks, this ex-Israeli-turned-Aussie enjoys his kids, cats, wife and even his day job. He hopes that his thirty years of martial arts make his fight scenes realistic, and that his love of history shines through his work.
Where To Find The Author
Where To Buy The Book
Murder In Absentia by Assaph Mehr may be purchased using the links below:
Why do you write?
I write because I enjoy it. Simply put, these are the stories I always wanted to read.
I grew up on classic fantasy and sci-fi. I loved – still do – detective stories and historical fiction. In recent years I fell in love with hardboiled detectives set in ancient Rome. So when it came time to write, blending all three genres – a detective set in a Romanesque setting with fantasy elements – was the combination of all that appealed to me.
As to what started me writing – I’ve had my nose in a book since I was five, but while seeing my name in print was on my bucket list it just wasn’t something I thought I’d do before retirement. Then one night two years ago my wife complained that she finished all the books she wanted to read. So I sat down, and started to write, and didn’t stop until I finished Murder In Absentia.
What are you currently working on?
I am now writing the second full-length Felix mystery, In Numina. In it, Felix is hired to resolve a problem for one of the city’s rich landlords. No one would lease his apartments, because his buildings are reputedly haunted!
I have currently ideas for further two or three Felix novels, and some short stories in between. I’m not expecting to run out of ideas any time soon…
Beyond that, I’ll probably tackle another time period. I’m thinking of a retelling of the Crimean War from the Russian side – but with steampunk elements thrown in. Who wouldn’t enjoy a young and dashing Count Tolstoy with a mechanical arm?
From where did you draw your inspiration to write your latest book?
I’ve has the idea for the particular mystery twist behind Murder In Absentia kicking around in the back of my head for a while. It was in a somewhat different form to how the book turned out, but the essence was there.
As I was writing the first draft, I’ve had ideas for more stories I wanted to tell. I noted them down, and am working on some of them now. I also had inspirations for short stories from random Twitter conversation, music videos and others.
Inspiration for a story is easy – it’s finding the time to work the story to completion that’s a challenge.
Which writers had the most influence on your decision to write?
I can’t say I had established authors influence my decision to write. That was purely me (after a prod from my wife, as I mentioned above).
But in terms of style, I can mention a few authors I admire. On the Roman historical fiction side, probably Colleen McCullough, Steven Saylor, Lindsey Davis and Ruth Downie stand out. McCullough wrote an historical Epic about the life of Caesar and the downfall of the Roman Republic, while the other three cover historical mystery novels. I will only add the amazing Boris Akunin for his incredible Erast Fandorin series – a detective set in late 19th century Russia, where each novel is told in a different style of mystery.
On the fantasy side there are too many to mention, from classics like JRR Tolkein and Fritz Leiber, to modern authors like Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.
There are other historical-fantasy-detectives out there too… I’ll just mention Barry Hughart, with Bridge of Birds. One of my all-time favourite books!
What was the last book you read?
A book as yet unpublished, written by a friend. I am currently alternating between re-reading Ruth Downie’s incredibly charming Medicus (roman mysteries series), and reading Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series (modern urban fantasy, after so many fans have told me Felix reminds them of Harry Dresden in a Toga).
Do you suffer from writers’ block?
Not often. Finding a time to sit down and write can be a challenge. If I’ve left writing for a while, it may take a bit to get back in the rhythm of things.
One thing I’ve found, though, is that I am almost recording Felix’s memoirs. In case of doubt, I let him go forward, and tell me what he’s doing, and I trust he knows where he’s going, even if I can’t see it. My job is just to complicate his life – either throw something unexpected at him, or let him have some fun at a brothel.
Biggest frustration as a self-published author?
Takes longer than expected to get that movie deal and retire to a small chateau in Europe.
Reviews for books are vital. Any tips on getting more reviews?
Get out there, and reach out to your niche audience. All too often I see authors who treat social media as an advertising platform, neglecting the social aspect of it.
Instead, use it to connect to people who will be interested and appreciative of your work. It’s a numbers game, but this is how you build a core following of dedicated fans.
Do you use social media? If so, do you like using it?
As above -I use it a lot, and use it to connect with people. I’ve made quite a few new friends, and a lot of new acquaintances. Some are also now fans of my writing. I enjoy talking to people in general, talking about books when appropriate, and talking about my writing last.
Who is your biggest fan?
My wife has been there to support me, from that initial spark that got me to start writing (though she didn’t know it), through reading the novel as it progressed, and through supporting me know. My sister and brother-in-law and a few close friends have also been there.
As for people who I’ve met only through the book, Fuchsia Carter (an amazing woman by all reckoning) deserves a special mention.
Many people have a bucket list. What is #1 on yours?
Now that I’ve written and published my first book, probably seeing it made into a successful TV series, and retiring to write full time.
Any special message for your readers?
Keep on reading! Pick up new books and new authors, try new things. At worst, just drop it and move on. At best, you’ll discover something magical.
And if you like a book, please leave a review (even a short one) on Amazon. You have no idea how important it is for an author (or any artist) to have those reviews to keep them going.
Assaph Mehr, thank you! A wonderful and interesting interview… yet another book to be added to my TBR list!
A young man is found dead in his bed, with a look of extreme agony on his face and strange tattoos all over his body. His distraught senator father suspects foul play, and knows who to call on.
Enter Felix the Fox, a professional investigator. In the business of ferreting out dark information for his clients, Felix is neither a traditional detective nor a traditional magician – but something in between. Drawing on his experience of dealing with the shady elements of society and his aborted education in the magical arts, Felix dons his toga and sets out to discover the young man’s killers.
Murder in Absentia is set in a fantasy world. The city of Egretia borrows elements from a thousand years of ancient Roman culture, from the founding of Rome to the late empire, mixed with a judicious amount of magic. This is a story of a cynical, hardboiled detective dealing with anything from daily life to the old forces roaming the world.
This is a story of Togas, Daggers and Magic – for lovers of Murder Mysteries, Ancient Rome and Urban Fantasy.
“Hardcore Historical Fantasy – Felix the Fox is Sherlock Holmes in Ancient Times”
— Jonathan Maas, author of City of Gods – Hellenica
“Mehr’s imagined world based on ancient Rome feels at once familiar and dreamlike. In Egretia, magic is real and potentially deadly. While rival incantatores have been banned from calling up competing winds to speed ferries across the bay – they’ve drowned too many innocent sailors – the powers of magic appear to have fallen into malevolent hands. Failed incantator Felix the Fox is investigating a mysterious death in a growing atmosphere of menace. I can’t help thinking the idea of Death by Magic might be closer to the mindset of some of the ancient world than our modern rationality.”
— Ruth Downie, Author of the Medicus Roman mysteries series
“Mehr is a master alchemist, blending the real and surreal on a captivating flight of fantasy.”
— Cynthia Celmer
“This book gave me a ‘book-hangover’ – I could not get my head out of the world of Felix for days after finishing it! I hope that there will be more stories coming, of Felix’s past and future. I like authors that create real human characters”
— R.M., Israel
“Finished Murder In Absentia twice now. A truly remarkable story which draws you in and makes it so you never want to leave.”
— Fuchsia Carter, UK
“For a history buff like me, it was the perfect blend of historical trivia and good old-fashioned murder mystery. A sheer delight to read.”
— W. Klijn., Australia
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