‘I love using my rather active imagination to create something’

By Joshinder Chaggar

Mehrisa Mex on her first novel, Lie To Her, which is making waves 

Mehrisa Mex is a mystery-thriller writer with a law degree and a background in film and television production. Her debut novel Lie to Her is a psychological thriller that takes concepts of autonomy, coercion and misogyny and weaves them into a story full of unexpected twists and nail-biting suspense. One that feels especially relevant now in light of conversations around social justice movements like #metoo.

In the novel, Lydia Warren is a young woman who suspects her psychiatrist husband Myles of sabotaging her recovery from past trauma. Lydia’s anxieties keep her more or less confined to the house and under the watchful gaze of Myles, who has numerous cameras installed everywhere. They’re for her own good, he says. But she’s not so sure. And yet, between her ghost-like visions, blackouts and memory gaps, Lydia realises she doesn’t really know anymore what she’s capable of. It’s a story about obsession, secrets and betrayal. And from the very first chapter, I was hooked.

“I’m so excited to share this with people. I love being able to use my rather active imagination to create something that other people might also get something out of,” says Mehrisa about her debut novel, which took her seven months to write. More from the writer…

★ Sometimes the issue is that we are uninspired. And sometimes it’s the opposite, there’s a new idea every other week. How does one commit to one idea for so long?

Well, I had this wild idea and it kept playing itself out in my head. I kept thinking what if I was the one living the nightmare that the protagonist, Lydia, finds herself in. What if I suddenly realised one day that I was a stranger to myself? That sense of confidence I take for granted that I know who I am, what I’ve experienced and what I’m capable of—what if that were to shatter? It would be terrifying. And there was something so compelling in that for me, I decided I was going to run with it. So I put on my proverbial blinkers and that’s what I did—I ran with it all the way to the end!

What made it easy for me to commit to the process was that, although this story is dramatic, it’s rooted in very real discontent about the world we live in. About problems of misogyny, for instance. So I felt very invested in the telling the story.

★ Tell me about your writing discipline?

I write (or do writing related work) almost every day. But the number of hours tends to vary.

★ Do you set any specific deadlines?

I told myself I was going to write this novel in six months. That isn’t too long for a novel, but I decided I would keep the language simple and straightforward and focus more on characters and plot. I completed a first draft in a little over a month and spent the rest of the time revising and re-writing. In the end, I overshot my own deadline by about a month or so.

★ How did you create your protagonist?

When the character first cropped up in my mind, she was partially formed. And then I carried her around for a while, wondering about her—where she was from, what she was like as a child, who her family and friends were—that sort of thing. Little by little, I added layers to her and she became more vivid to me.

★ What inspired you to write this particular story?

Various experiences—my own and those of people I know.

But let me tell you what inspired me in the case of one particular aspect of the story. I was traveling some time ago and had rented a flat for a week. A few days into my stay, I noticed a camera in the flat that I hadn’t been told about and it was quite inconspicuous, so I hadn’t realised before that it was there. It made me feel like my privacy had been violated. For all I knew, there were more cameras hidden around the place and suddenly I was paranoid that I was being watched. I felt like a character in a creepy film. I tried to talk myself out of it, but I couldn’t shake that uneasy feeling. I ended up channeling some of that into the book.

★ Who are your writing heroes?

There are so many! In the mystery-thriller vein, there’s Agatha Christie, Patricia Highsmith and Gillian Flynn. Also, Thomas Harris for The Silence of the Lambs and Dennis Lehane for Shutter Island and Gone Baby Gone. Outside of the genre, there’s Franz Kafka, William Golding, Toni Morrison and many more.

★ What would be your greatest obstacle as an artist?

Trying to be a perfectionist. You really have to banish that impulse from the room if you want to get anything done.

★ What comes first? Character, plot or an underlying theme?

It’s difficult to say. Sometimes it’s one, or the other. Other times, they occur simultaneously. With ‘Lie to Her’, it emerged hand-in-hand, so to speak.

★ What inspires you?

Everything inspires me! I’m inspired by people around me, by the news and by all the other usual suspects—books, films, music, TV shows, art, innovation, the outdoors. And yes, I do drink a lot of tea and coffee!

The ebook Lie to her is available on Amazon: www.amazon.com/author/mehrisamex


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