Mastodon The Writing Desk: Special Guest Interview with Author Merryn Allingham

20 December 2017

Special Guest Interview with Author Merryn Allingham

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

A war-torn summer A house fallen into ruin A family broken apart by scandal...Summer 1944: Bombed out by the blitz, Bethany Merston takes up a post as companion to elderly Alice Summer, last remaining inhabitant of the dilapidated and crumbling Summerhayes estate. An evocative and captivating tale, The Secret of Summerhayes tells of dark secrets, almost-forgotten scandals and a household 
teetering on the edge of ruin.

Today I would like to welcome author Merryn Allingham:

Tell us about your latest book

The Secret of Summerhayes is set in the summer of 1944. Bombed out of London by the Blitz, Bethany Merston takes up a post as companion to elderly Alice Summer, last remaining inhabitant of the dilapidated and crumbling Summerhayes estate.

Now a shadow of its former glory, the house and gardens have been requisitioned by the military and show the scars of army occupation. Alice has struggled with the realities of war, but is now plagued by anonymous letters supposedly from her long lost daughter, and haunting visions of her old household. At first, Beth tries to convince her it’s all in her mind, but soon it becomes clear that a sinister force is at work in the Summer family.

What is your preferred writing routine?

On weekday mornings, I trot off to any classes I’m doing - ballet, fitstep, Italian - or I meet friends. I don’t really buckle down to writing until after lunch, then I’ll write for four to five hours until supper time. After that, my brain turns to mush. Weekends are when I catch up with my family, so writing gets ‘slotted in’ as and when.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

I think the most important thing is to let the words flow, rather than censoring every sentence you write. Some of it you’ll want to lose as soon as you edit, but other stuff will be okay and a few sentences will be sheer gold. It’s important, too, to be disciplined and write as regularly as you can. And patient – getting where you want can take time.

What have you found to be the best way to raise awareness of your books?

I suppose the short answer is that I’m still looking for the Holy Grail! I belong to a number of Facebook groups that are relevant to the genre I write, try to keep up with Twitter and am slowly building a mailing list. But how much of this helps to raise awareness, I’m not sure.

Something unexpected I discovered during my research:

I was surprised to read that though the Germans suspected the invasion was imminent in 1944, they assumed the Allies would choose the shortest distance across the Channel. When Allied troops landed in Normandy, the German high command was caught completely unawares. The weather helped, of course - it was pretty bad and being a logical people, the Germans must have reckoned the Allies wouldn’t take the chance.

In fact, Rommel was in Germany celebrating his wife’s birthday and had to be driven back to France at high speed. There was a rumour circulating at the time that the Field Marshal commanding the Germany army in France heard reports there was fighting in Normandy, but carried on believing the invasion was aimed at the Pas-de-Calais. He could have mobilised a Panzer Division, but didn’t like to wake Hitler to check if he should. 

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

It was probably the denouement when the full sweep of the villain’s wickedness becomes clear. There was an awful lot to reveal and it took a while to get the scene to flow.

What are you planning to write next?

My next book is set in Turkey and concerns two sisters, Alice and Lydia Verinder. The period is 1905 - 1907 when the Ottoman Empire is breaking down and the Sultan’s power is challenged as never before. Lydia has been working at the Topkapi Palace in Constantinople teaching English to the young daughters of one of the Princes. Initially, her long letters home are full of excitement and pleasure, but gradually they become shorter and less frequent until they stop entirely.

When Alice asks the whereabouts of her sister, a palace official tells her that Lydia has left and no one knows where she has gone. Alice is desperately worried, but tries to keep the news of her sister’s disappearance from her sick parents. Instead, she decides to travel to Topkapi herself and slowly and dangerously uncovers Lydia’s story. The tale is one of intrigue and mystery, some tragedy and, of course, a dash of romance.

Merryn Allingham
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About the Author

Merryn Allingham worked for many years as a university lecturer and between job, family and pets, there was little time to write. But when the pressures eased, she grabbed the chance to do something she’d always promised herself – to write a novel. Under the name of Isabelle Goddard, she published six Regency romances, but in 2013 adopted a new writing name and a new genre. The Daisy’s War trilogy, set in India and London during the 1930s and 40s, was the result. Her latest books explore two pivotal moments in the history of Britain. The Buttonmaker’s Daughter is set in Sussex in the summer of 1914 as the First World War looms ever nearer and its sequel, The Secret of Summerhayes, thirty years later in the summer of 1944 when D Day led to eventual victory in the Second World War. If you would like to keep in touch with Merryn, sign up for her newsletter at and find her on Facebook and Twitter: @MerrynWrites.

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