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Good to meet you…author Merryn Allingham

So, it’s September and summer’s officially over – not that it ever really got started in our part of the world! But we’re not downcast at all, not as long as there’s plenty of tea, a fabulous cake baked by my husband over the Bank Holiday weekend, and my lovely guest Merryn Allingham, here to talk about books and music, and the wonderful places she’s travelled to.

Welcome, Merryn!

merryn allingham, helena fairfaxWhere do you live, Merryn?  I live in Lewes in East Sussex, about five miles from the coast. It’s a very old town dating back to Anglo Saxon times and has the narrow streets and old houses to match. It also has a splendid history, given its modest size, that includes Simon de Montfort and his victory over King Henry III, and Tom Paine, a revolutionary writer and one of the founders of the United States who lived here for a number of years.

Where is your favourite place in the world?  A difficult one. At one time in my life I worked as cabin crew and travelled very widely, and over the years I’ve kept on travelling! I suppose the place that blew me away on first sight was Rio de Janeiro. The gap between rich and poor was, and still is, huge but the natural beauty of the place is stunning. I remember midnight walks along the Copacabana beach (I’m not sure it would be safe today!), in one ear the sound of the samba playing from hotels lining the Avenida Atlantica, and in the other, waves breaking on the sand.

A few years ago, I visited India which prompted me eventually to write the Daisy trilogy. If you’ve been there, you’ll know it’s an assault on the senses, but the colour, the life, the sheer spirit of humanity hits you in a way you don’t expect.

And nearer to home, it would have to be Italy, my long term love affair. I think I’ve travelled most of the country by now and I love it all – the lakes, the hill towns, the Renaissance cities and the amazing seascape of southern Italy.

My favourite, favourite place, of course, is England. There’s nowhere I’d rather live and I’m always happy to come home.

What wonderful places you’ve visited, Merryn. I’d love to travel further south in Italy, and Rio sounds just the sort of place that would blow you away.

Being a writer is a great job.  What’s the worst job you’ve ever had? Like most people, my past has a scattering of really boring and badly paid jobs. Fortunately, they were most often temporary. The one that comes to mind is demonstrating a men’s fragrance in a department store. At the time, I was young and unconfident, and died several deaths every time I had to approach a stranger to spray him. I didn’t like the fragrance either!

That does sound a nightmare. From now on, I’ll take pity on the sales people and accept their sprays of perfume.

What book do you wish you’d written? Gone with the Wind. It has everything – romance, tragedy, the drama and conflict of war – and wonderful frocks. To be serious, the amount of research that Margaret Mitchell must have done is awe inspiring, and how wonderful to see all that scholarship encapsulated in a book (and a film) that is unashamedly popular.

So hard to believe the film is seventy years old. I watched it recently, and it’s as fresh for me today as when I first saw it many, many years ago.

What’s your favourite song? Feeling Good. Not the singer so much, but I find the lyrics wonderfully uplifting:

It’s a New Dawn … Its a new Day …. Its a new life … for me, and I’m feeling good.

Never too late to start over!

Love that song!

If you could meet anyone in the world, dead or alive, who would it be and what would you say to them? Thomas Hardy. I’d want to say how much pleasure his writing has given me over the years and also, if he didn’t already know it (!), that he’s remembered as one of the greatest novelists that ever lived. Despite his fame, his autobiographical writing reveals a man unsure of his talent. ‘Thomas the Unworthy’, he called himself.

What’s your happiest childhood memory? Eating loganberries in the sun. We lived in a cottage in Somerset – no indoor toilet and no real bathroom – but an enormous cottage garden, or so it seemed to me as a child. There was a small spot, a corner really, where two old stone walls met and soaked up the summer warmth. It was where my mother chose to grow the loganberries and it was a very special place.

That sounds idyllic. What a lovely memory.

If you had to marry a fictional character, from film, television, or books, who would it be? Mr Knightley in Jane Austen’s Emma. He has good looks and good humour. His estate is just the right size. And he’s wise and witty too. The perfect gentleman.

Oh, I love your choice. He is the perfect gentleman, isn’t he? And the sort of person you could always rely on to do and say exactly the right thing.

What’s the most important lesson life has taught you? To be brave and grab the moment when it comes, whatever it is – a new house, a new job, a new love. It’s a truism, but that moment won’t come again.

Very wise words!

And finally, please tell us about your latest book, where we can find it, and where we can find your blog/website

merryn allingham, helena fairfax, long road homeDaisy’s Long Road Home came out on 27 August. It’s the last of a trilogy tracing ten years in the life of Daisy Driscoll, a working class girl from London. The trilogy begins in 1938 (The Girl from Cobb Street) when Daisy sails to India to make a disastrous marriage to a young officer in the Indian Army, then moves on to 1941 and London in the Blitz (The Nurse’s War) with Daisy training as a nurse but at the same time forced to confront the dangers that threaten her from the past. In Daisy’s Long Road Home she returns to India once more. It’s 1948 and the war has been over several years but India meantime has suffered a blood-stained Partition of the country. Daisy is convinced the roots of her identity lie in India and is desperate to find the truth. In a series of adventures, she uncovers long hidden and dangerous secrets about the family she never knew, eventually winning through to find the happiness she deserves.

All three books are available on Amazon

I have a Facebook author page

And my website is here. I send out a newsletter every two months and you can sign up to receive a copy on the Home Page. I’d love to ‘meet’ all of you, so do get in touch.

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Thanks so much for dropping in, Merryn. I love your description of your latest release. It sounds a fascinating read – even more so since I’ve discovered a little bit about the background through your travels. Thanks for being such a super guest!

If you’ve enjoyed Merryn’s interview, or have any questions or comments at all, please let us know. We’d love to hear from you!

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21 thoughts on “Good to meet you…author Merryn Allingham

  1. Hullo Merryn, what a lovely name you have. As another author of a book featuring a Daisy, I thought I’d drop in and I’m rewarded. I’ve been to India twice and recognise your reaction. My DH and I are travelling a bit in his retirement and visited Sicily and then the northern Italian cities. Great places and I love wandering around where the air is scented with garlic (and red wine). Good luck with the trilogy. It sounds really fascinating. anne Stenhouse

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    1. Thanks so much for dropping in, Anne. I would love to travel to Sicily some day. I’ve been researching for a new novel and have become fascinated by Roman history. There must be parts of Sicily where you feel as though you’re walking with Romans. It sounds a wonderful place – as do the food and wine! Thanks so much for your comment!

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    2. We travelled in Sicily when we went to Italy our second time. We were there for four days and loved it. I enjoyed Palermo, not so much my husband. We stayed in the area where the cultural part of the city was but the travel books said to get out of the area in the evening. Agrigento had gorgeous Greek ruins. The Greeks landed on the coast and developed Greek cities. That night at the hotel a political meeting was going on. There were probably 100 men standing outside of the hotel visiting. They looked like extras on a mafia movie. In the evening their women came out dressed to the hilt in beautiful evening gowns. Also went to Taoriona (?) a city on a high plateau and another city I can’t think of the name of.

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      1. It’s Taormina, Susan – a fabulous place, particularly the view from the Greek theatre high up on the hill. Maybe you also went to Catania, not so picturesque but interesting. I visited Sicily a couple of years ago and loved it. The food was as wonderful as the landscape.

        Merryn x

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      2. That’s a great description of a group of Italians dressed for a special occasion, Susan. I can just picture it! I went to a wedding in northern Italy several years ago, and it was exactly the same. Dress and appearance are very important, especially further south. Even if you live in a run down slum, you must come out dressed to kill. I quite admire this attitude – we British are a lot scruffier and we definitely aren’t known for our dress sense :) Thanks for the great comment!

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  2. How wonderful to have travelled so much, Merryn! I am quite envious. I would love to go to India one day, especially in the North in the Himalayas. Your trilogy sounds really fascinating and I wish you good luck with it!

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    1. That’s the part of India I’d really love to visit, too, Marie – there, and Kashmir. I’m looking forward to reading Merryn’s trilogy – it does sound a fascinating read! Thanks for dropping in!

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    2. Nepal is on my list,too, Marie. But also Kerala and, of course, Mumbai. I so much want to visit the church where my parents were married. I know it fell into disrepair after Independence, but now I believe it’s been beautifully restored.

      Merryn x

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  3. This was a lovely interview, Merryn and Helena. A wonderful start to my day.

    I enjoyed, Merryn, your happiest childhood memory. I come from a family of gardeners. With each visit to one grandmother as a child, I always had to take the obligatory walk through her garden. I wasn’t so interested. Now I wish I could take that walk.

    Best wishes with Daisy’s Long Road Home. The premise sounds interesting.

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    1. What a lovely comment, Susan. I wish I could walk through your grandma’s garden, too. I’d love to grow loganberries, but I suspect here in the north of England it may not be warm enough to grow them successfully. (Merryn lives in the south.) Thanks so much for dropping in.

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  4. Hi Merryn, I think we bumped into each other a few times on Twitter. It’s been really great learning more about you and your books. Best of luck with all your enterprises.

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  5. What a delightful interview, Helena. Merryn, were you named for someone? You’re name is lovely. What a great story line of your trilogy. As more and more people die who experienced those times before, during and after WWII, it’s critical to have current books set in that period to help folks grasp the realities of those times. Best to you with this and on your future books.

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    1. Thanks so much for your lovely comment, Marsha. I really love the name Merryn, too! It sounds Welsh to me, but I expect Merryn can explain the roots of her name better than me :) I so agree with you regarding reminding younger generations of the terrible times endured by many in the second world war. Thanks for dropping in, and for your great comment!

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    2. Thank you, Marsha. You’re so right about knowing and understanding what previous generations went through.
      By the way, Merryn is a Celtic name – so Welsh certainly, but also Cornish. My parents lived in Cornwall for many years.

      Merryn x

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