The fabulous Mercedes Mercier
(in The Mortlock Wing of the State Library of SA)
Mercedes Mercier earned her black belt in karate at the age of fifteen which is a skill I’m certain her compelling main character, criminal psychologist Dr Laura Fleming, wishes she possessed.
I absolutely devoured Black Lies https://www.harpercollins.com.au/9781460714669/black-lies/ Mercedes' riveting second novel, the follow-up to her breathtaking debut White Noise https://www.harpercollins.com.au/9781460761687/white-noise/
Mercedes' background working in the criminal justice system is interwoven strongly throughout both of her twisty, pacey psychological thrillers. There are moments where her chilling narrative sends goosebumps creeping across your entire body, and makes you double check your doors & windows are locked, and she has you constantly looking over your shoulder.
I couldn't turn the pages fast enough as I sunk further and futher into the depths of this novel, with clues so intricately threaded through the story that I just didn't see things coming.
Another fresh female voice in the Australian crime genre, Mercedes is also a stellar standout to come out of the author stables of the Fiona McIntosh Writing Masterclass alumni.
If her novels ever find their way onto the big screen, perhaps Mercedes can call on former schoolmate actress Sarah Snook. They once acted together in a school play!
But now, without further ado, I will hand you over to the gorgeous Mercedes.xx
Q1: What was your inspiration for this story and how long did it take you to write the first draft?
A: I’ve worked in the criminal justice for the last decade, so it felt natural to set my novels within a prison. I’ve also been really interested in psychology for a few years (I considered going back to Uni to study it), so writing a main character who is a criminal psychologist was also a natural choice.
A few years ago, South Australia passed the ‘No Body, No Parole’ legislation - which is exactly as it sounds. If a prisoner doesn’t reveal where they hid the body of their victim, they’re not eligible for parole. Working with the people who were helping get this through Parliament sparked the germ of the idea for Black Lies. I started to consider the implications of the legislation and of course my brain went down a twisty, dark path!
I also wanted to explore the idea of love being the strongest human emotion, and the acts that people will commit – and justify – in its name.
It takes me just under four months to write my first draft of approximately 80,000 words (I stick to a strict daily word count). I look at my first drafts as me just telling myself the story, so they’re very rough. I have to let go of my perfectionist tendencies, because I know that the editing is where the story will really shine.
Q2: You are hosting a spectacular dinner party. Name four dream guests you would love to have seated around your table, and what would they be dining on and drinking?
A: This is a great question! I’m hoping I can choose a character – if so, I’d have to start with Ted Lasso. I’m obsessed with the show, and he’d be such a fun, cheerful and chatty addition to the table.
I’d love to have Agatha Christie, to get inside her head and ask juicy questions about her process.
Then, I’d have to choose Paul Holes – the former cold case investigator who contributed to catching the Golden State Killer in the US. I would love to hear about every single part of that case!
Finally – Bruna Papandrea, an Australian film and TV producer who’s made it big in LA. She’s adapted Jane Harper’s The Dry and Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies. I’d slip her a copy of my books too, of course haha (a gal can dream, right?)
We’d be eating beautiful fresh seafood from Port Lincoln – oysters, crayfish and prawns – all washed down with freshly baked bread and butter, and lots of bubbles and crisp white wine.
Q3: What is your favourite book of all time and why?
A: This is such a toughie, but I’d have to go with Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. It was one of the first crime novels I can remember reading, and set me on the path of loving the genre for my whole life.
'My dog, River, is my best friend and I always lying at my feet when I write (even when I get up at 5am in the middle of winter!).'
(Does that mean that gorgeous River gets to go to bella Italia too!! Shelley.xx)
Q4: If you could travel anywhere in the world to write for a year, where would we find you?
A: Ooh another great question! My mind is on everything Italy at the moment (maybe because it’s so freezing here at the moment!). I’d love to spend a year leisurely travelling around the country, writing, swimming and living off pasta and Aperol spritzes.
Q5: Describe your go-to reading spot at home and what book/s would I currently find there?
A: I tend to read in the evenings after a day of writing and working, so my go-to reading spot is in my bed (I’m also trying to break the terrible habit of scrolling on my phone before I go to sleep every night).
I’m currently actually re-reading a book (which I don’t get to do often!) - Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. It’s one of my favourites and I try to re-read books that inspire me whenever I can.
Once I’ve finished that, I can’t wait to dive into Margaret Hickey’s latest book, Broken Bay https://www.penguin.com.au/books/broken-bay-9780143777267
(I loved Cutter’s End and Stone Town) and Yellowface by R. F. Kuang https://www.harpercollins.com.au/9780063250840/yellowface/
Q6: Tell us a bit about a typical writing day…
A: I work full time, so I have to fit my writing in around that. My brain works the best in the mornings (I’m on the downhill slide from about 2pm onwards!), so I get my writing in before I start my workday. That means setting the alarm for 5am (eek! I know!) and getting my butt into my office seat. I’m trying to break the habit of having a coffee first thing after I wake up, so I’ll begrudgingly make herbal tea, then get stuck into it.
I’m a very regimented writer, so I have a daily word count target of 1,200 words, five days a week, with weekends off. I have the pressure of needing to get that done before getting ready for work, so I find that helps kick me into gear and stop me procrastinating on social media. As soon as I hit my word count, I’m done for the day. I’ll finish the sentence I’m working on, then close the laptop.
I’ll do the same if I’m in the editing phase – I’ll break the task into either pages to edit, or number of things I need to change and make sure I get that done before work. In the evenings, I’ll tackle things like interview prep, social media, emails – and get in a bit of reading where I can!
'My office is surrounded by two of my favourite things: plants and books (the wall behind where I sit is lined with bookshelves).'
Q7: As a lover of words, is there a special quote you would like to share with us?
A: It’s a very simple quote, and one that I use almost daily: It is what it is (I’m not sure who it’s attributable to). For someone who is a chronic over-thinker, this quote is almost like a mantra to me, and has an immediate calming effect. It helps me put things into perspective and let go of thoughts that aren’t helpful.
Q8: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
A: I like to read (of course), spend time with my partner and dog, and garden. We recently moved into a house with a large backyard, so I spend a lot of time in my veggie patch (and getting rid of the never-ending pesky weeds!).
I also love to travel and explore new places, eat good food and drink good wine. On the weekend, I’m often trying a new restaurant, or going back to a favourite. I always have a podcast on too when I’m driving, gardening, walking the dog, cooking dinner etc – I love true crime and comedy podcasts, so both ends of the spectrum!
I’ve also been saying for a while that I’d like to take up pottery and watercolour painting. I’d like a creative hobby/outlet that is just for fun, and I can feel free to do it badly. I really need to get my butt into gear and start looking into them more seriously!
'Me holding the first zucchini I’d ever grown in our garden.'
Q9: Any advice for aspiring authors?
A: My first piece of advice is simple: to finish the manuscript. I remember where I was an aspiring author, I used to flit between ideas and manuscripts as soon as a new exciting idea would come along. This meant that I had a lot of half-finished manuscripts on my laptop, which were no good to me, or a publisher. You need to write the whole thing, then dive into the editing, because that is hugely important and vital for the strength of the story.
(I need to take your advice Mercedes! #stillprocrastinating. Shelley.xx)
I would also say to surround yourself with people who are doing the same thing. Writing can be a lonely business – we’re sitting by ourselves in front of a computer for the vast majority of the process – so having people in your life that are in the same situation and understand what it’s like is so important. Those people will be able to commiserate with you on the rejections (of which there are many for most aspiring authors) and celebrate with you on the successes. They’re also great for motivation and helping you get to the stage when you’re ready to have your manuscript out on submission.
Q10: In a few lines, which debut/emerging Aussie author should we look out for?
Veronica Lando’s second book, The Drowning Girls https://www.harpercollins.com.au/9781460715963/the-drowning-girls/ is out next month and I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of it. Veronica won the 2021 Banjo Prize with her first book, The Whispering https://www.harpercollins.com.au/9781460714966/the-whispering/
The Drowning Girls is another richly described, atmospheric, twisty thriller that completely and utterly pulled me into the pages. I couldn’t put it down, and yet, I didn’t want it to end!
'Tension and menace ... Mercier wields exceptional talent' CANDICE FOX
'Will keep you turning pages late into the night: don't say you weren't warned!' HAYLEY SCRIVENOR
'Suspenseful, smart and utterly gripping' BETTER READING
Only a handful of inmates in Westmead Prison have committed crimes so atrocious that they've been locked away for life, and for fifteen years, convicted murderer Tomas Kovak has refused to disclose where he hid the body of his victim, a vulnerable young woman.
When Kovak is diagnosed with terminal cancer, intense pressure is put on Dr Laura Fleming, criminal psychologist, to find the location of Kovak's victim so her grieving family can find some sort of closure.
Laura has to use all of her training, skills and instinct to form a connection with the cold, remorseless killer, a man who has refused any psychological assessment since the day he confessed to the murder.
With every session, Laura becomes more and more convinced that something about Kovak's story doesn't ring true, and as his health rapidly deteriorates, the pressure on Laura ramps up. She becomes increasingly desperate, resorting to unconventional methods to find out what she can from the secretive man.
As she inches closer to the truth, she discovers some people will stop at nothing to keep the past hidden ... and the people Laura cares most about are fair game.
Love can make you do terrible things.
Thank you Mercedes for being my July 1st Author Stalker victim. xx
Black Lies is available now through all leading bookstores and online retailers.
If you would like to find out more about Mercedes, you can find her here: