TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery.
Ariel: Thank you! It’s great to be here.
TQ: When and why did you start writing?
Ariel: I’m the daughter of a poet, so I guess it’s no surprise that I began writing poems as a tiny kid. (One was about worms getting smooshed on the sidewalk after a rain.) As I got older, I would write stories and illustrate them, and take immense pleasure in these creations. Eventually, writing became an essential way to speak to and listen to the world—and that hasn’t changed!
TQ: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
Ariel: I write my first drafts by hand—preferably in spiral Mead notebooks with yellow, college-ruled paper. About four years ago, these notebooks went out of stock, and I was devastated. When they returned, I ordered boxes of them. Now I have enough notebooks to last me till the end of time. (Also, the Mead company thinks I’m running an office supply company out of my house.)
TQ: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Ariel: Early on, I’m a plotter. There’s a special thrill in writing an outline, having the possibilities and complications mapped out. Inevitably, though, the story will take a direction that I couldn’t have foreseen until once I’m deep into the world.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Occasionally I have days when I throw out many, many pages and start fresh on a chapter or story. Invariably, I end up with something much better, but those moments are still frustrating.
TQ: Describe The Office of Mercy in 140 characters or less.
Ariel: Natasha lives in a happy, idyllic utopia that “mercifully” annihilates people outside. She’s always believed killing is right. Until now.
TQ: What inspired you to write The Office of Mercy?
Ariel: I’m obsessed with imagining the perfection of science, law, and how we organize our days. The America-Five settlement grew out of these thoughts. It’s a bright, cheerful safe haven in a messy, chaotic universe. Of course, it’s a quietly sinister place too. And that’s what really pulled me into this novel: A young woman who can see through the polish to the horror that keeps her society in tact.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for The Office of Mercy?
Ariel: Early on I read popular biology books about achieving immortality. I also would turn to writing by people like Peter Singer and Steven Pinker when I was thinking about ethics: how we know that good is really good. But once I got going, the research stopped. You have to trust yourself to internalize the good stuff.
TQ: Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Ariel: When writing Natasha I could let my feelings, attractions, repulsions, and curiosity guide me. She’s determined and vivacious, and I felt a real connection to her. Jeffrey (who is her mentor and love interest) was harder. He’s more secretive with his feelings. Though now, with the book finished, I feel extremely close to him.
TQ: Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in The Office of Mercy?
Ariel: It’s Natasha’s job to track and eventually kill people who live outside the settlement. At one point, everyone’s celebrating one of these mercy killings, or “sweeps,”—there’s even a nice dinner and music—but Natasha finds herself strangely unable to engage in the fun. It’s the moment Natasha realizes that she’s being pulled in two directions: between her loyalty to the settlement’s cause and her grief over the death of innocent people.
TQ: What's next?
Ariel: I’m writing a prequel to The Office of Mercy, the story of the young, spirited iconoclasts who created the Storm. It’s been exciting and a little scary too, because I know the book has to end with an act that’s so huge and devastating.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Ariel: Thank you for having me!
About The Office of Mercy
The Office of Mercy
Viking Adult, February 21, 2013
Hardcover and eBook, 320 pages
A thrilling debut of a postapocalyptic world for fans of The Hunger Games
Weaving philosophy and science together into a riveting, dystopian story of love and adventure, The Office of Mercy illuminates an all-too-real future imagined by a phenomenal new voice in fiction.
Twenty-four-year-old Natasha Wiley lives in America-Five—a high-tech, underground, utopian settlement where hunger and money do not exist, everyone has a job, and all basic needs are met. But when her mentor and colleague, Jeffrey, selects her to join a special team to venture Outside for the first time, Natasha’s allegiances to home, society, and above all to Jeffrey are tested. She is forced to make a choice that may put the people she loves most in grave danger and change the world as she knows it.
The Office of Mercy is speculative fiction at its best with a deeply imagined, lush world, high-stakes adventure, and romance that will thrill fans of Suzanne Collins, Margaret Atwood, Justin Cronin, and Kazuo Ishiguro.
The L Magazine and The Paris Review Daily. The Office of Mercy is her first novel.
Website : Twitter @ArielDjanikian : Goodreads