I came across a new book last week and in the process discovered a new writer – Merryn Allingham. The book I read ‘ The Nurses War ‘ is part of a trilogy, although stands alone as a good read. Luckily Merryn has agreed to feature on my blog today and let us in on some of her writing secrets.
So Merryn can you tell us a little about your book The Nurses War?
The Nurse’s War is the second book in the trilogy that charts ten years in the life of Daisy Driscoll, a working-class girl from London. Daisy has been brought up in an East End orphanage and longs for a home of her own, but the marriage she makes to a young officer in the Indian Army sees her facing deception and danger. She survives that ordeal to return to England and begin training as a nurse at St Bart’s.
The Nurse’s War opens in 1941 when the Blitz is in full swing. Along with her colleagues, Daisy is working round the clock to help victims of a rubble-strewn London, and trying at the same time, to forge an independent life for herself. But it’s not long before misfortune strikes when the past comes back to haunt her. She finds herself once more falling into a web of intrigue and once more having to battle to save herself and those she loves.
And how did you get into writing?
Looking back, I can see that I’ve always written something – short stories, a diary, several magazine articles – but between family, pets and my job as a lecturer, for many years there was little time to do more than dabble. When the pressures eased, though, I grabbed the chance to do something I’d always promised myself – to write a novel. I’d taught 19th century literature for years and grown up reading Georgette Heyer, so it seemed natural to gravitate towards the Regency period and to write romance. An added incentive was that both UK publishers of Regency romance had an open submission policy and one, at least, was willing to help polish the manuscript, if my writing showed promise. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse!
I used to love Georgette Heyer. For me it seemed reading romance was somehow more respectable in barouches! So what made you decide to change your genre and mood?
I started publishing over five years ago and produced six Regency romances under the name of Isabelle Goddard. Writing category historical romance proved a great apprenticeship, but left me wanting to write more mainstream fiction and to write on a larger canvas. It also left me wanting to create something a little darker. It hadn’t escaped my notice that with each succeeding Regency, the mystery element of the novels had become more pronounced. It seemed a natural progression then to segue into writing suspense, but still with an element of romance. In 2013, I adopted a new writing name -Merryn Allingham – and launched myself into the new genre.
At the same time, I decided to jump period. From the Regency I advanced to Victorian England with The Crystal Cage and for the trilogy, made another move in time and place – the Daisy’s War series is set in India and wartime London during the 1930s and 1940s.
And with this change came a change of publisher – MIRA?
I am in awe of people who self-publish and make a success of it, but from the beginning I knew that I wanted a publisher behind me, giving much needed editorial advice and clueing me into the commercial aspects of publishing, of which I was entirely ignorant. Mills and Boon, who gave me my first contract, were hugely encouraging and under their guidance I learned a great deal about writing a novel. My new publisher, MIRA, doesn’t follow the same open submission policy, but because they are part of the same Harlequin stable, their editor, Sally Williamson, was willing to read the books that became Daisy’s War. I was delighted when she said she loved them, and at the same time quite shocked to learn that I’d been writing a saga! Now, of course, I realise she was spot on – the books were mysteries with a sprinkling of romance, but they were also quite clearly a saga. Daisy is such an attractive character, a mix of vulnerability and strength, and I soon realised that her disastrous marriage in India was just the beginning of her story. Although bad things happen to her, she fights every inch of the way, through all three books, to become the person she was always meant to be. I couldn’t have left her at the end of the first novel, The Girl from Cobb Street – I had to see her reach safe harbour. So thank you, Sally, and thank you MIRA, for seeing the true potential of the series.
And thank you Merryn for sharing a little about yourself. Certainly I will be keeping an eye out for more from you, whether it’s back to Regency, World Wars and beyond.
And for you dear reader The Nurses War is available to pre order via Amazon, it’s release date being May 21st Enjoy