Monday, September 22, 2014

Aloha to Merryn Allingham and THE CRYSTAL CAGE

British author Merryn Allingham joins us today for a cozy chat about THE CRYSTAL CAGE:

Appearances don’t always reveal the truth. Grace Latimer knows this better than most. Illusions of commitment and comfort have her trapped—until bohemian adventurer Nick Heysham charms his way into her world. Commissioned to recover a Great Exhibition architect’s missing designs, he persuades her to assist in his research. The mystery of the Crystal Palace seduces Grace, and once she discovers clues about a forbidden Victorian love affair, she’s lured into the deep secrets of the past…secrets that resemble her own.

As Grace and Nick dig into the elusive architect’s illicit, long-untold story, the ghosts of guilt and forbidden passion slip free. And history is bound to repeat itself, unless Grace finds the courage to break free and find a new definition of love…

Amazon Kindle
Barnes & Noble Nook
Kobo Books

Kim:  Thank you for your father's service. I am jealous that you lived in Egypt. Can you share a favorite memory?

Merryn:  Yes, my father was an officer in the Royal Artillery. I think my most vivid memory of Egypt is of an ordinary summer day, though for a child brought up in England, it was far from ordinary. For a start, school was open for only half a day, from eight in the morning until midday, when it became too hot to do anything as difficult as learn. After lunch was snooze time, for my parents at least. For me it was reading book after book – anything I could get my hands on - beneath a whirring ceiling fan and with a bar of Fry’s chocolate in my hand. It always had to be peppermint cream. Then it was off to swim in the very salty waters of the Great Bitter Lake, a part of the Suez Canal. I do remember that the walk home was blissfully cool.

Kim:  Readers will be envious of your travels while working in the airline industry. Do you draw on any of those experiences for your writing?

Merryn:  I haven’t so far, though I’ve plenty of material for future books. I guess that living in a country so full of history, it’s tempting not to stray far beyond its borders. However, I am venturing further afield with the trilogy I’ve just completed. In this case, it’s my parents’ travels that have inspired me. Just before the Second World War, my mother boarded a troop ship in Southampton bound for India, and married my father in Bombay (as it was then called). At the time, they hadn’t seen each other for six whole years. A true romance!

Kim:  Who or what helped you along the path to publishing?

Merryn:  I taught English Literature for years and I suppose that was a help in getting my first novel down on the page. In some ways, though, it was a hindrance too. Putting pen to paper is daunting when for years you’ve taught only the very best in writing. I got over that by writing in a genre that I knew and loved – Regency romance – and once my book was finished, I looked around for a publisher. You can see that I wasn’t terribly well organised! Harlequin are one of the few that welcome unsolicited manuscripts, so I submitted the novel to them and was thrilled when it was accepted. Since then, I haven’t stopped writing.

Kim:  Tell us about THE CRYSTAL CAGE - what inspired it?

Merryn:  Grace, the modern day heroine of The Crystal Cage, is at a crossroads in her life. Despite a smart home, a seemingly caring partner and a job that keeps her busy, she’s dissatisfied.The house isn’t hers, she finds her work tedious and she’s beginning to feel uncomfortably controlled by her partner. When Nick Heysham catapults into her life with a request that she help him complete a contract, she is ready to listen. Nick has been commissioned to find plans drawn for the Great Exhibition by Lucas Royde, the most influential of Victorian architects. At the same time, a trifling and apparently unrelated job – the haunting of a former school room - lands in her lap. By the end of the novel, Grace has uncovered connections that have stayed hidden for a century and a half. She has discovered, too, that a past tragedy has uncomfortable echoes for her own life.

There wasn’t one particular event or place that inspired the book. The idea of a glass cage through which women see the world, but which prevents them from actually living freely must have come from my unconscious. Perhaps it’s better not to enquire further! And the Crystal Palace was a magnificent setting for the Victorian love affair – original pictures of the building have a romance and colour to them. I have a fabulously detailed print on the wall of my writing room which shows the Inauguration Ceremony in all its glamour.

Kim:  What's next for Merryn Allingham?

Merryn:  I have a new contract with MIRA for a trilogy set in the 1930s and 1940s. The three books cover a period of ten years and move between India and wartime England. They follow the fortunes of Daisy Driscoll, a working class girl from London. Daisy has been brought up in an orphanage and her life has been hard and lonely. When she meets and falls in love with a young Indian Army officer on leave in London, it seems an impossible dream has come true. She is thrilled to be marrying a handsome cavalryman, thrilled to be travelling to India. But she soon discovers her bridegroom isn’t what he appears and instead of the happiness she’d imagined, she is faced with deception and danger and forced to call on every ounce of courage to survive. The next two books present her with new mysteries and new challenges. All three are connected by characters who appear in one or other of them, and through Daisy’s attempts to discover her identity and to find true love. You’ll be glad to know, I’m sure, that she gets her happy ending!

Mahalo, Merryn, for sharing your wealth of experience! 

Connect with Merryn Allingham on Facebook and Goodreads.   

Kim in Baltimore
Aloha Spirit in Charm City

Follow along the blog tour:

Monday, September 15
Review at To Read or Not to Read
Spotlight at Flashlight Commentary
Spotlight & Excerpt at Romantic Historical Reviews

Tuesday, September 16
Review at A Bookish Affair
Excerpt at Casual Readers

Wednesday, September 17
Excerpt at CelticLady’s Reviews
Interview at What Is That Book About

Thursday, September 18
Review at Turning the Pages

Friday, September 19
Review at Queen of All Reads
Excerpt at Just One More Chapter

Monday, September 22
Review at Bibliotica
Spotlight at Layered Pages

Tuesday, September 23
Interview at SOS Aloha
Spotlight at Historical Fiction Connection

Wednesday, September 24
Excerpt at Passages to the Past

Thursday, September 25
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book
Excerpt at Princess of Eboli

Friday, September 26
Review at Unshelish
Spotlight at Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, October 15
Review at The Worm Hole