I’m delighted to welcome Merryn Allingham to my blog.
Hello Merryn, Thank you for joining me on Arabella’s Blog and Chit-Chat.
Like you, I’m a member of The Romantic Novelists’ Association and it’s been through the RNA that I’ve been able to connect with so many wonderful writers. It’s marvellous how everyone shares experiences - both good and bad – that they have faced on their writing journey. I'm looking forward to reading some of the gems of writing knowledge you're willing to reveal.
But before we discover more about your latest release, The Venice Atonement, here are a few questions which will hopefully give your readers an insight into some of the things that matter to you.
Arabella: Authors can release books, making them available to readers in various ways…via an agent, or working directly with a traditional publisher, or they can even go the self-publishing route. Which method of publishing do you prefer, and why?
Merryn: I’ve worked with traditional publishers - a large corporation like HarperCollins, and a smaller, independent such as my present publisher, Canelo. I’ve also published through agents (two, in fact) and self-published some of my back titles. Each method throws up positives and things that aren’t so positive. It’s helpful to have the marketing might of a large company, for instance, great to have editorial, copy editing etc and a super cover provided for you (Canelo are brilliant). On the other hand, I get a real kick out of choosing my own design and having control over things like titles, publication date and price.
Arabella: A slice of Chocolate Cake, a piece of Fruit, or Burger and Fries?
Merryn: Definitely not burger and fries, but I’m anguished over the chocolate or fruit. I love both, though probably chocolate - hmm…
Arabella: Who or what inspired you to write your latest release, The Venice Atonement
Merryn: I’ve wanted to write a crime novel for a long time, I love art and I love Venice - and this story seemed a perfect place to start. I found changing genre a little daunting (though there’s still plenty of relationship ‘stuff’ in the book) but I really enjoyed the plotting. And, of course, bringing Venice to life on the page.
Arabella: Currently, what is your most favourite T.V. programme, and why?
Merryn: One of my favourites has just finished - Line of Duty. I’ve loved this programme, though I felt the last series was probably the least successful, but still great television. The Handmaid’s Tale has now taken over Sunday evening!
Arabella: If the person of your dreams, (husband/wife/partner/or superstar), were to take you out for the night, where would they take you and what would you do?
Merryn: It would depend on the weather, but if we’re in an ideal world, I’d go for drifting down a gentle river - on a punt, I think - with a bowl of cherries to eat and a glass of champagne in my hand!
Arabella: When writing a book or chapter, which do you concentrate on first: plot, character, or setting?
Merryn: It’s always setting, I’ve come to realise - my books have visited India, London, Constantinople, rural Sussex and now Venice. It’s a specific place at a particular time that suggests an idea, then in come the characters who might have lived or visited there, and finally the problems/conflicts they face. Together they bring the book alive.
The Venice Atonement is set in 1955 when Italy is still recovering from the effects of the Second World War - there’s a lot of poverty in the city but also a few grandees who have made a great deal of money. Venice is still small and provincial with local shops and services and plenty of gossip - not the destination for a dozen cruise ships as it is today. And the 1950s is also the period when women felt the full pressure to ‘get back to the kitchen’ after their wartime efforts. My heroine, Nancy, is a feisty woman, so plenty of scope there for conflict, even when she’s not solving crimes!
Arabella: How do you research your novels and characters?
Merryn: Usually, I spend some weeks reading around the place and period I’m interested in and do more specific research when a point comes up in the text that I’m unsure of. But the Venice book was different; when I began researching, I found little to go on. There was an enormous trove of books on its splendid history - in the Middle Ages it was an immensely wealthy city trading between East and West - but with the 1950s I drew a blank. I was forced to move on to the 1960s and to travel writers who had fallen in love with the place, plus I was lucky enough to talk in depth to a young woman whose grandmother had lived in Venice during those years. She recalled a very different city to today’s. Everything her grandmother had needed, she said, was on the old lady’s doorstep, the nearby campo or square providing bread, groceries, a vegetable market, newspapers and, of course, a church. Later on, I unearthed an old black and white film, amateurish by modern standards, but brilliant at catching the period my informant had described - the peace, the sense of a community and the simple, humdrum pleasures of life.
Arabella: What advice would you give to someone who is starting out on their writing journey?
Merryn: Relax and let the words flow. Some you’ll want to lose, some will be okay and a few will be nuggets of gold.
Finding your voice is probably the most important thing you can do as a writer. Your background, personality, reading, all play a part and make your voice unique.
Be disciplined and write as regularly as you can. Be patient, too – getting where you want can take time.
Thank you for sharing some of your writing secrets with us, Merryn. And the outing on the river, drifting with the flow of the water sounds so idyllic that I might even join you.
ABOUT MERRYN ALLINGHAM
Merryn writes historical romantic suspense and timeslip, and now historical crime.
Merryn Allingham was born into an army family and spent her childhood moving around the UK and abroad. Unsurprisingly it gave her itchy feet and in her twenties she escaped from an unloved secretarial career to work as cabin crew and see the world.
Merryn still loves to travel and visit new places, especially those with an interesting history, but the arrival of marriage, children and cats meant a more settled life in the south of England, where she has lived ever since. It also gave her the opportunity to go back to 'school' and eventually teach at university.
She has written seven historical novels, all mysteries with a helping of suspense and a dash of romance - sometimes set in exotic locations and often against a background of stirring world events. This year, she’s turned to crime!
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BLURB - The Venice Atonement
A tragic accident at the opera – or the murder of someone keeping dangerous secrets?
While watching the opera at La Fenice, Nancy Tremayne is shocked to see a woman fall to her death. But how did this tragedy occur?
Newlywed Nancy is accompanying her art professor husband, Leo, on a work trip. As she explores Italy’s beautiful city on the water, she feels increasingly compelled to uncover the mysterious circumstances surrounding the woman’s death. Leo is adamant it was an accident but his assistant, Archie, reluctantly helps Nancy despite his seeming coldness to her. Nancy’s determination to reveal the facts puts her in harm’s way more than once. As she learns more about Venice’s secrets, she realises she may be forced to make a choice – the truth, or her life?