Libby Mercer has been one busy lady. Her debut novel, Fashioning A Romance, was published in May. Now she has a new self-published novel, Unmasking Maya, out this month, and another new book planned for 2013!
I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing Unmasking Maya (read the review here). Fans of chick lit will love the fun romance and relatable characters in this exciting novel.
Libby has an eclectic background, having lived in the midwest, on both coasts, and even abroad. Before she began writing and publishing novels, Libby worked in fashion journalism. Her interest in fashion design really shines through in the fantastic fashion details in Unmasking Maya, and her vivid San Francisco setting reflects her personal familiarity with the city.
Libby was kind enough to answer a few of our questions about her background and her newest book, Unmasking Maya.
The Daily Quirk: Could you please tell the readers a little about yourself?
Libby Mercer: I’m a Midwestern gal, born and bred, but I’ve lived a lot of different places, including Boston, NYC and London. Currently I live in San Francisco. I’ve done a lot of work in fashion – first as a journalist and then as a shopkeeper. I also worked in marketing for a while. Right now I’m throwing all my energy into getting my career as a novelist off the ground. It’s grueling work, but I love it!
TDQ: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
LM: Since I’m pretty much isolated when I’m writing (and marketing) I love spending my free time with other people – going out to lunch with my dad, going out for drinks with the girls, catching a flick or a festival with a friend. Stuff like that. I enjoy reading, of course, and I love taking a break from work to play with my kittens.
TDQ: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
LM: I’ve been writing stories for pretty much my entire life. My first “book” is a little picture book I wrote at the age of seven called “BIG & small”. I was probably around ten or twelve when I decided I wanted to do it for a living someday.
TDQ: Do you have a favorite author or book?
LM: My all-time favorite book is Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell.
TDQ: Is there a specific scene from the book that you most enjoyed writing? Why?
LM: The Games Day scenes were really fun because I got to show my characters under a different light – so to speak – but I would say the one I most enjoyed writing was the opening scene. I don’t plan things out ahead of time. I write as I go, so when I’m working on that first scene, I’m not constrained by my characters’ personalities or anything else. I can explore a lot of different options and sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised at the direction the story takes.
TDQ: Maya creates unique art pieces with fabrics and notions, and based off the descriptions in the book it sounds like you had a pretty clear vision of what her pieces looked like. Where did you get the idea for Maya’s artistic style and the pieces she created?
LM: Because I used to work in fashion, I know a lot about different fabrics and what works together – that sort of thing. Once I decided this would be Maya’s medium, I just took a break from the writing and worked on visualizing what the pieces looked like. It wasn’t difficult to figure out which fabrics would form the sort of pieces I had in mind.
TDQ: At one point in the book Maya uses her experience in fashion to create a top for her friend Lin. If you could have any fashion designer create an outfit for you, who would you choose?
LM: Ooh, good question. I think it would have to be a toss-up between John Galliano and Vivienne Westwood. British fashion is my favorite – so whimsical and quirky.
TDQ: As a woman working in the male-dominated IT industry, I felt that for the most part you hit the dynamics and environment of working in IT on the nose. Did you use personal experience (or research) with the IT industry as far as your portrayal of the employees and atmosphere at Derek’s company?
LM: Wow, thank you! That’s wonderful to hear. I don’t have any personal experience in the industry and didn’t really do a whole lot of research. I did visit the Googleplex one afternoon to see an old family friend who now works there. He’s the one who helped me with the “tech speak” in Unmasking Maya. I didn’t speak to anyone else that day, but I kept my eyes and ears open. I let everything soak in and then imagined what it would be like for the few women who work in that sort of environment.
TDQ: Parts of Unmasking Maya read like a love letter to San Francisco. Why did you choose to set the story there, and how did you go about incorporating the city into your story?
LM: I do love this city. When I started writing Unmasking Maya, I’d only been living in San Francisco for about six months. I knew I wanted to set my next story here, and a lot of Unmasking Maya is filtered through my own experiences and observations. For example, Derek’s neighborhood is where I aspire to live one of these days. And I once met a guy who gets around town on a unicycle!
TDQ: Some authors use specific music or mood boards to inspire their writing. How did you go about finding inspiration for Unmasking Maya?
LM: What works for me is getting away from the computer and getting outside, going for a walk. I don’t know if it’s fresh air, a change of scenery or the fact that I’m not at my computer, but that’s when the ideas really flow – whether I’m playing around with plot ideas for a brand new project or trying to power through a difficult scene to write.
TDQ: As a reader I sometimes find myself getting so involved in a book that I forget the characters and events aren’t actually real. Do you have any examples of how the characters or stories you write about have bled over into your “real” life?
LM: Usually it works the other way around – little bits of my own life bleeding into the story. But there’s a scene in my third novel, The Karmic Connection, that’s so painful and intense it often makes me cry when I read through it. I think it’s because I put myself in the heroine’s shoes and imagine what it would be like to go through what she has to endure. I’m afraid I can’t be too specific here because it would be a major spoiler. But stay tuned: The Karmic Connection will be coming out sometime in 2013.
TDQ: What’s the last book you read that you really enjoyed?
LM: Oh, there are so many books I love and I’ve read a lot recently that I’ve really enjoyed, but the last one that kept me up all night was I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella. There’s a texting in the woods scene that’s so brilliant and unique (and amazingly romantic) that it knocked my socks off, if you’ll excuse the cliché.
TDQ: Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
LM: Be patient. It takes such a long time to develop the craft, but the more you work at it, the better you’ll get. It’s also very helpful – in fact, it’s essential – to exchange manuscripts with other writers and critique each other. Not only will it benefit your story to get a fresh set of eyes, but critiquing other people’s work will help you develop editorial skills you can apply to your own manuscript. One last thing: don’t fight your natural process. Some writers plan out everything ahead of time and some let the story guide them. Some race through their first drafts, laying down the rough version of the story and later go through a series of edits while others edit as they go along. There is no “right” way – only the right way for you.
TDQ: Anything else you would like to share with our readers?
LM: I’d just like to say thanks for reading! I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about my experince as a newbie author. And thanks so much for having me here!