|My guest, Merryn Allingham|
Today I’m interviewing Merryn Allingham, who is the author of the Daisy’s War series. Book One, The Girl From Cobb Street, is out now.
Thanks for dropping by, Merryn. Where did you get the idea for The Girl From Cobb Street?
It started with a marriage certificate – my parents’ – which I unearthed from a pile of papers at the back of a cupboard I was clearing. My mother travelled to India in April 1937 and was married in St John’s Afghan Church in what was then, Bombay. Even now India is exotic, hitting you in the face with its difference. But in the 1930s, the journey took three weeks at a time when most people rarely ventured far beyond their home. I tried to imagine how it must have been for a working class girl who had never been further from London than a day at the Southend seaside, to travel to what was an alien world, thousands of miles away, and marry a man she hadn’t seen for some time – six years in my mother’s case! And so my heroine, Daisy Driscoll, was born, facing the same hazards in her new life as my mother had – and then far more, with a deceitful and desperate husband who threatens her with disaster.
How long did it take you to write?
Much longer than I expected because one book turned into three. I think it took me around two years to write the whole of the Daisy’s War trilogy. I found I couldn’t leave my heroine at the end of The Girl from Cobb Street. I knew she was going to have more adventures, but I also knew that eventually she would reach a safe harbour.
Who is your favourite character, and why?
It has to be Daisy. She was the character that pushed me into writing more books than I intended. She is such a mix of vulnerability and strength, someone who at the beginning of the trilogy is still being formed. Bad things happen to her, but she fights every inch of the way and by the end of the third book has become the person she was always meant to be.
Have you ever had any rejections in your writing life? How did you cope?
I’ve been very lucky in having every book I’ve written published but, of course, along the way there have been plenty of rejections. Sometimes it’s been a resounding ‘no’ and other times a tantalising near miss. I think you have to remind yourself that it’s not you personally that’s being rejected, but your story. Either it doesn’t appeal to the person you sent it to or it doesn’t fit what they’re looking for at that time. Writers put so much of themselves into their work, though, that it can be difficult.
What’s the most useful piece of writing advice of your own you’d like to hand on?
Writing can be a lonely business, never more so when rejections start to flow in, but you have to continue to believe in yourself and keep writing. Determination and patience are essential. If you look at the biographies of many of today’s most popular novelists, they’ve often been writing for years. As Lee Child said, ‘It took me ten years to be an overnight success.’
Who’s had the most influence on your writing life?
I would have to say Georgette Heyer. When I began writing, I had a daunting background of academic research and teaching and hadn’t a clue how to begin writing popular fiction, although I knew I wanted to. Then one morning I woke up and the idea was there. I would start where I felt most comfortable – in the Regency with a book along the lines of Georgette Heyer, who I’ve read and reread a hundred times since my teenage years. And so I began writing as Isabelle Goddard and published six Regency romances before deciding to broaden my scope into mainstream women’s fiction. But GH definitely got me going.
What’s next for you?
I’m toying with writing another trilogy, three separate stories set in 1914, 1941 and 1965, but linked together by the same house and its various occupants. It sounds like quite a challenge and at the moment I’m not sure just how it will work. But it’s an idea that keeps buzzing through my mind and I know it won’t let go until I put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. I even have a rough title for the three books: The Summerhayes Saga!
Good luck with The Summerhayes Saga—I’ll look forward to interviewing you when it’s finished!
Here’s an excerpt from The Girl from Cobb Street, to give us a taster of your latest release…
Nandni Mata was as beautiful as she had been days ago. Daisy stroked the shining black stone with gentle fingers,willing the goddess to come alive. It was foolish, but this statue was the only connection she had with her mother, this and a creased photograph. Lily must have bought the brooch in a shop or from a market stall, as Grayson had suggested, but what if the connection were closer than that? What if the brooch had come from here, from this very place? What if her mother had been here? It was a fantasy, she knew, and she traced the necklace once more with her fingers, smoothing the stone pendant over and over, trying to feel her mother’s presence. But she could not. All she could feel was the still, suffocating heat.
She looked at the statue again and the goddess stared back. Her look was baleful. Daisy hadn’t noticed that before. A strong impulse to leave was flooding over her, for the temple hadn’t brought the peace she sought and she didn’t know why. It was as though the spirit of the place had withdrawn and left her exposed. Yes, she must definitely leave, and leave now. She backed quickly away and walked through the regiment of columns to the top of the temple steps. A sudden noise above her head made her look skywards and there, held in suspension, was a stone, a very large stone, hurtling through the blue, hurtling towards her. She stepped back into the shelter of two columns a second before a deafening crack shattered the stillness of the arena and a rock lay in splinters on the steps below.
Thanks for sharing with us, Merryn. Good luck with The Girl From Cobb Street!
You can find out more about The Girl From Cobb Street here.