To all the jobs I’ve had before – Leah Mercer

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By Leah Mercer

This is a love letter to all the jobs I’ve had before: the greasy, the filthy, the ones with extra perks, and those that kept me up late at night. Because as much as I may have loathed them at the time, I realise now how invaluable they’ve been to my writing career. Apart from truly appreciating the freedom to write full time (and believe me, there isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t thank my lucky stars!), they’ve also provided invaluable material and research for my novels.♥

I started my illustrious working life in the bowels of the restaurant industry: working for McDonald’s. I’d come home splattered with grease from the deep-fat fryer, the tender underbelly of French fries mashed in the treads of the hideous black shoes we had to wear. Even now, I remember the scratch of the uncomfortable polyester trousers and starchy shirts which quickly deflated under a combination of sweat, steam and grease.

Needless to say, I didn’t last there long. My next job involved handing out flyers to passers-by on a busy street, trying to convince them to enter the dark den of a hairdressers that looked more bordello than salon. The one time I actually let them do my hair, I emerged with a huge bee-hived French twist and layers of make-up that only succeeding in scaring off potential punters.

From there, I moved to the wonderful world of house painting, spending afternoons up 20-metre ladders swaying precariously in the wind, and then onto the relative comfort of retail where the summer days passed in a blur of air conditioning, boredom, and the smell of fabric.leah-mercer

When I finally finished my university degrees and entered the world of ‘real’ work, I figured finally, I’d find a job where I’d feel fulfilled. Oddly, that job did not turn out to be editing medical journals, where my colleagues and I would pass the hours dreaming up funny titles to articles on obscure diseases. Hiding photos of digital rectal exams in random desks was the highlight of our day.

Positions in public relations, teaching, and recruitment quickly followed, each with their own quirks and foibles, until finally I realised what I really needed to be doing: writing. And after penning a few novels, I discovered all those years hadn’t been wasted. They provided me with useful real-life experience in lots of different worlds, occupied by some very interesting people who would provide multiple story ideas and form the basis for many characters.

So, all those jobs I left behind, you served me well. Now, would you like fries with that?

Leah Mercer was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia. By the age of thirteen, she’d finished her first novel and received very encouraging rejections from publishers. Leah put writing on hold to focus on athletics, achieving provincial records and becoming a Canadian university champion in the 4 × 400-metre relay. After getting her BA, she turned to writing again, earning a masters in journalism. A few years later she left Canada and settled in London, where she now lives with her husband and their young son. Leah also writes under the name Talli Roland. Who We Were Before came out October 1 in ebook and paperback.

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