Interview: Mary Reed and Eric Mayer

Please welcome Mary Reed and Eric Mayer, co-authors of the Lord Chamberlain Byzantine mysteries; Ten for Dying is the latest.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?

MR: A day Ten for Dyingwithout chores but featuring a fresh pot of coffee and something interesting to read. And let it be a late autumn day, please!

EM: I agree with Mary, but make it a day in early spring.

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?

MR: For me? “This is Liberty Hall”, “Lurching from crisis to crisis” (a hat tip to JAB, from whom I pinched the phrase years ago), and “Is it time to catch the bus to Panic City yet?” immediately spring to mind.

EM: That’s a tough one. Signature accessory? I don’t even carry a purse. Hopefully my characters are more colorful than I am.

Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.

MR: M. R. James (pause for obligatory declaration that MRJ roolz), Ray Bradbury, and Charles Dickens. Quite a varied bunch, but then so is my

EM: Only two stand out: Mike Ashley who purchased our first joint story and Barbara Peters who bought our first novel. There’s nothing more inspirational than knowing someone likes your work enough to publish it.

Do you listen to music when you write?

MR: No, but I sing a lot around the house.

EM: No. I prefer the sounds of silence.

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?

MR: Dark chocolate. Because our latest novel is very dark and a little bitter in a subtle sort of way.

EM: Some kind of chocolate with nuts in it, because we always have a few wacky eccentrics in our casts of characters. In Ten for Dying there’s a fellow everyone can hear coming because he jingles. You’ll have to read it….

What made you interested in writing this particular story?

MR: It’s a continuation of the story arc developing in the previous book, and picks up where it concluded — although I hasten to add all the novels in the series contain a stand-alone investigation.

EM: The first seven books take place early in Emperor Justinian’s reign, starting in 525. According to most accounts Empress Theodora was a powerful figure who exerted considerable influence on her husband during this period. In our series she is John’s most powerful antagonist. She died in 548, seventeen years before Justinian. We wanted to explore how John fared in the very different environment left by her passing.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?

MR: That’s a difficult question. Perhaps one of the most pervasive is that justice is not always possible but it also sometimes comes in strange and unexpected disguises.

EM: As with most detective fiction our books are concerned with the search for justice, and the fact that society and the powers-that-be can make it difficult to come by. Ironically since John is a high ranking official, Lord Chamberlain to Emperor Justinian, his ability to mete out justice is seldom aided by his official position.

Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today?

EM: I’m a bit uncomfortable trying to answer that. It’s a question no one would have asked John or any of his acquaintances because the sixth century was long before the days of psychology, psychiatry, and the literary vogue for probing character. Is it fair to psychoanalyze a man who lived a millennium and a half before Sigmund Freud was born? John, I am sure, would never have imagined a kalamos to be anything other than a reed pen.

It seems almost an anachronism to explain a character’s actions in a way they would never have understood them. What motivates John for the most part is his sense of duty as a Mithran. Mithraism was a soldier’s religion and placed great emphasis on duty. So John acts in accordance with what he feels is his duty towards his friends and in furtherance of justice. He would find any speculation about obscure motivations derived from his past to be of no importance.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.

EM: Sherlock Homes and Batman/Bruce Wayne.

If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six
writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?

MR: As guests I would pick the three writers I mentioned above plus Agatha Christie, Herodotus, and Stephen King. An eclectic mix to be sure, but certain to provide lively discussions and anecdotes!

EM: John D. MacDonald, Graham Greene, Mickey Spillane, Agatha Christie, Georges Simenon, Mary Reed.

What’s next for you?

MR: That’s a good question. We’ll have to let you know when we do! Some ideas are being tossed back and forth but as yet we’ve not had a “basket”.


Mary and Eric co-write the Lord Chamberlain Byzantine mysteries, set in and around sixth century Constantinople. Ten For Dying, their protagonist’s latest adventure, was published by Poisoned Pen Press in March 2014.

Eric’s blog:
Mary’s blog:     On 18th of each month on the Poisoned Pen Press blog at
Twitter:         Mary @marymaywrite and Eric @groggytales


5 thoughts on “Interview: Mary Reed and Eric Mayer”

  1. Thanks for the kind words, and a tip of the hat to the Mysteristas for allowing us space to ramble on a bit!

    Sue, our method is to write a chapter based on an outline of the plot, and then the other party gives it a bit of a polish. We agreed long since if either of us feels a particular sequence should or should not be included, the other does not veto the idea, for the main concern is what is best for the book? Once we have a first draft, we each look that over, adjust as needed, and that is the ms the publisher receives. There will be changes after they edit it, but usually not too many. The blended writing style seems to work
    extraordinarily well, thank goodness!


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