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Smoke and Mirrors: An Interview with Alice Mercier

Interview by Wendy J. Fox (Read the Story) March 19, 2018

Alice Mercier

Photograph by Ryoji Iwata

In addition to writing fiction, you’re also an illustrator, and in Crossing there’s a real and visceral visual impact in how you give readers the image of the birds. How does writing influence your illustration work?

That’s a good question. I think to begin with I felt more confident with photography and illustration than I did with writing. So maybe it was more the other way around, and the idea of illustration influences my writing. Sometimes when I think of a story, it’s more like a snapshot of somewhere or something, or like a very short scene playing out.

There doesn’t seem to be that much information about you out there in the digital world, which feels a bit novel in this era—you are in a graduate program at Cornell, for example, but what else should readers know about you that’s not in your bio for this publication, especially something we might be surprised to learn?

I was thinking about this the other day. I did used to use some social media, and I started to build a website a while back, but I don’t think I’d decided exactly what I wanted—or didn’t want—to be on there. I should try again sometime.

Something that’s not in my bio: On bright days I can still see the silhouette of a seagull moving across my left eye from where I looked directly at the sun too long when I was about fourteen years old.

Given unlimited time, space, funding, what is the project that you’d dedicate yourself to? Would you paint murals on houses? Would you travel to remote regions of the world and photograph them? Would you start an apiary? Construct a home made entirely from found river rocks?

I would probably still make a book, or several books, and I would learn how to do the typesetting, illustration, printing, and bookbinding for each.

Like violence unfinished” is a great line. What, if any, unfinished business do you have?

Thank you. Actually at the moment I feel like nearly all my business is unfinished. But I think that’s OK for now.

The lack of a top sheet (between oneself and the duvet) is a common European custom that I personally could never adopt (though I do support it in the terms of that much less laundry to do). What’s an Americanism you cannot abide by?

 I never even knew about this! I’m going to try it this way and I’ll let you know if this is something I can’t abide by—I’m already worried about the extra effort involved in making up the bed.

About the Author

Alice Mercier worked as an assistant archivist in London before moving to the U.S. She writes and illustrates short fiction, and is currently a student in the creative writing program at Cornell University.

About the Interviewer

Wendy J. Fox is the author of four books of fiction, including What If We Were Somewhere Else, which won the Colorado Book Award and received a star for excellence in the genre of short-stories in Booklist. Her 2019 novel, If the Ice Had Held, was a top pick in audio for LitHub. She has written for many national publications, including SelfBusiness InsiderBuzzFeed, and Ms. and authors, a quarterly column in Electric Literature focusing on independent books. She is a former SVP of marketing for a green tech firm and lives outside of Phoenix.

About the Artist

Find more of Ryoji Iwata‘s photography on Unsplash.

This interview appeared in Issue Fifty-Nine of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Fifty-Nine
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