Hi. Hello. Hey. Aloha. Ciao. Konnichiwa. Hiya. Bonjour. Sup. Hola. G’day.
My name is Claire Merchant. I write books and I live in one of the most isolated cities in the world—Perth, Western Australia.
Yes, I am Australian, but let me just clear a few things up. I don’t have a pet koala, I can’t surf, I have never had a ‘shrimp’ from a ‘barbie’, my preferred mode of transport is a car and not a kangaroo, and I consider the left side of the road to be the right side of the road. I also very rarely say g’day. Though, I do like Tim-Tams and Vegemite, oh, and AC/DC, but like, who doesn’t right?
But despite the fact that there are a few differences to what is normal means to me compared to what is normal for you, one thing that we both have in common is that we love books.
I love words and language. I love reading and I love learning. I love that I can travel the world, go to Hogwarts, District 12, St. Vladimir’s Academy or pick my faction without even leaving the couch. I love that even if I spell some words a little differently that you can still get a glimpse of the fictional city of South Coast that I created that has become like a second home to me.
I began writing when I was a teenager because I found that words in written form made more sense to me. They also allowed me to create a world where the cute boy that I had a crush on actually noticed me. They allowed me to live outside of my surroundings.
I continued writing through my years at university and after graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Literature and Communications, then a Diploma of Education, I began sending out my stories to publishers in the hopes of one day seeing them in paperback form.
It was quite difficult to get noticed by Australian publishers and I felt like I was back in high school, being rejected by the popular guy who sort of liked me but not enough to take the chance on me. I struggled to get the attention locally, so I decided to take my search global.
I found my soulmate of sorts in Cambridge, England, with a publisher called Pegasus Elliot MacKenzie Publishers. I thank my stars every day for the support that they offered and continue to offer me. In the three years of our partnership, I have had three of my novels in print with three more on the way. I still need to pinch myself sometimes. I’ll admit that there are occasions when I get a little bit sad that I can’t walk into a bookstore in Australia and buy my books off the shelf. But that said, to be published internationally is more than I could ever have hoped for.
But this poses the question of whether a small-town girl from Perth really write books that people from other countries and cultures can relate to? My answer: well, gosh, I certainly hope so!
I have never written books with only one audience in mind. I have always been fascinated with other cultures and even if I am Australian at heart, I did giggle a lot when I first went on a holiday to California and was asked by someone if I was from England since I had always wanted to be Posh Spice.
I write my stories about issues that anyone anywhere could face. At some time or another we’ve all felt uncomfortable in our own skin or confused about our futures. Having your heart broken is one of the hardest things that anyone might face, and falling in love is one of the greatest. Funnily enough, my characters are not necessarily Australian. I have written several characters with different cultures in mind. Quite a few of them are British or European and some, yes, even American since I have come across people in my travels who have had an impact on me. I would hope that even then anyone could at least relate to one of them.
I was asked recently if I try and change my language to make my books more appealing and readable to other people in other countries. Honestly the thought had never even occurred to me. I think that as long as I don’t use too much fair dinkum Australian phrases you’ll have more than Buckley’s chance to understand what I’m saying. Sorry, I’ll stop. But even so, reading is about learning, right? So isn’t it kind of amazing that you can learn about my version of the world and my point of view just from reading a fictional novel that I wrote? One of my favourite things is seeing the world from a different angle. I love reading books by people like John Green, J.K. Rowling, Richelle Mead, Suzanne Collins or Veronica Roth, and getting to live in their stories, in their little snapshot of the world. Every one of them comes from a different background and has different views and a different vocabulary to mine, but I still enjoy reading them. I can still even relate to them because even if we’re separated by oceans, we are all still human and united by words.
Language is incredible, words are powerful. Reading enables you to learn about language and live in a different world to what you already know. It transcends cultures and allows you to experience a different reality, a different vocabulary and a different way of thinking.
I may live upside down, on the other side of the world, and in one of the most isolated cities but look at what words can do to bring us together.
That’s the beauty of language.
Are you still with me? Good-o.
See? We’re not so different after all.
Claire Merchant is the author of Mistry by Moonlight (2013), South Coast Son (2014), and the just released Forever Ruby. We look forward to at least three more books from Claire, Knowing Nora, Midnight Mistry, and Mistry at Dawn.