Interview: Claire Merchant
Claire Merchant is a talented young author from Western Australia. She has written several stories surrounding the fictional South Coast, in genres ranging from fantasy and supernatural fiction to adventure, action, drama and romance. Her first published book, Mistry by Moonlight, is available now.
1. Mistry by Moonlight looks at the changes Taylor Mistry has gone through, leaving her feeling like a different person and trying to figure out who she is. What inspired you to write about this subject?
I drew on a lot of personal experience when I wrote this book because I had undergone a similar transformation to Taylor. I think at some point growing up, everyone goes through trying to figure out who they are—we are all continually trying to be the best version of ourselves. A the time I had dropped a few dress sizes and was still trying to line up the concepts of who I thought others saw me as, who I was, and wanted to be, so I wrote about it. Writing has always been an outlet for me; it’s a way to order my thoughts coherently and experiment with how things might go if a particular decision was made. That said, Claire Merchant is not Taylor Mistry.
2. There is a hint of the supernatural in your book. What would you say to people who would compare it with Twilight or Vampire Diaries?
I can understand why they would—I love both of those and they feature similar supernatural creatures and use them as metaphors for obstacles that the heroine is facing. That said, Mistry by Moonlight is not Twilight or Vampire Diaries. I consider Twilight to be foremost a love story of overcoming obstacles whereas Vampire Diaries (the books) deals with Elena’s development from human to vampire and from teen to a young adult. In Mistry by Moonlight, Taylor is already a young adult and she cognitively knows who she is but what’s changed is how others see her so it’s not so much about growing up, it’s about that personal development of knowing who you are and learning to be okay with it. But sure, there are some similarities between them and Taylor still faces those obstacles in love, but they’re more her own doing because she’s still figuring out which type of love she thinks she deserves.
3. How would you describe your book and who would you say it was aimed at?
I would describe Mistry by Moonlight as a story about accepting yourself (and your imperfections) and realising that you have control over the direction that your life goes in. Just because it seems like a set path, you have the power to change your fate depending on how you look at a situation and who you face it with. Regardless of how she feels, Taylor is never alone even when she tries to cut herself off from everyone—they don’t leave her, even if she can’t see them, they’re always there for her. I think that’s something that is so important for everyone to remember. The story is aimed at teens and above, as I think that anyone can read it and relate to it though I think the issues that are addressed are more targeted at the teenage/young adult group so from 12 and up.
4.You have written several stories surrounding the fictional South Coast. Do any of your characters from different books ever meet each other??
Yes and I love it that they do! I love weaving their stories together because there are some characters that I don’t want to say goodbye to, like Cole. He’s at least mentioned in most of my stories and I am actually finally getting around to drafting up his own origin story which will span across them all. Ruby has her own story and she’s also appeared in a couple of others as well as Ebony. I use each character’s name once so they can walk in and out of each other’s stories without readers getting confused. That said, they do take place at different times (for instance, Taylor’s mother Charlie wasn’t a mother in her story), so I’ve had to draw myself up a timeline so I don’t get confused as to who shouldn’t be popping up in certain stories. The fact that a lot don’t age for different reasons works to my advantage though!
5.In Mistry by Moonlight Taylor has the attention of several suitors. Which one would you choose to go for...the mysterious stranger, the old infatuation or the handsome man in Italy?
This is too hard to answer! But…I probably wouldn’t pick the old infatuation straight up because I think that the past generally should stay there because there are reasons it didn’t work out the first time. So between the mystery man and the handsome Italian, it would be tough to say no to the Italian but it depends on whether the mysterious guy shows any interest. Mystery is only fun to a point and I don’t really like games. In saying that, if it’s between Harper, Brandon and Leo then no question I’d pick Harper. But then what about Cole? He’s the traditional, dashing Englishman. I’d actually pick him out of all of them.
6. What has influenced your writing style?
I think Stephenie Meyer has a fair bit plus J.K. Rowling and Suzanne Collins. I’m a huge fan of the Twilight books, Hunger Games and Harry Potter series; I could read them over and over again and never get bored of them. Another author who I just love is Melina Marchetta—every time I read her books, I just wish I could write as good as her and just snapshot human emotion the way she does. Markus Zusak is absolutely brilliant too. So those five authors I’d say have impacted me as both a reader and writer.
7.If you could choose one book to take with you to a desert island, which book would it be?
I can only pick one? That’s so hard! Which one, which one? Maybe a complete collection of Shakespeare, that’ll keep me going for a while. I don’t know that’s a really tough question. Maybe I’d just take a blank notebook and a pencil so I could write my own.
8.What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Keep writing, regardless of what happens or who reads it; just keep writing because no-one can take that away from you. It took me a while to get to where I am but even when I wasn’t successful with submissions, the one thing that didn’t change was that I was first and foremost a writer before I became an author. Also reading heaps is great because it offers a different perspective and creativity on the world and helps keep your mind open to all the wonderful possibilities out there. Sometimes I even find myself musing over different possibilities that a character in another book could take and what that would mean. It’s great, I love reading, I wish I had more time for it.
9. What are your future plans?
I’m working on a few ideas at the moment so I’ll definitely be expanding South Coast a little further. I’d absolutely love to make more of my books available to people so hopefully people will get to meet my other characters in the near future. I’m also keen to do some more travelling and am planning a trip to the UK in 2014 so I’m proper looking forward to that.
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