A House Called Askival is based upon her own experiences growing up in South Asia and upon the period following the Second World War, when India was partitioned. Born in Kathmandu, to missionary parents, Merryn was brought up in Nepal, India and Pakistan, before training as a teacher at an Australian university.
A House Called Askival is Merryn’s first published novel but she also writes short stories and poetry, which have been published in magazines and newspapers. Over a number of years, the BBC has commissioned her plays which have been broadcast on Radio Scotland and Radio 4. Her poem, Driving Lesson, is in the Autumn issue of Northwards Now.
Merryn read an excerpt from the first chapter of her book, which was greatly enjoyed by all.
Explaining how much she enjoys writing, Merry shared some of the difficulties of being a writer, namely ways of getting published. She enjoys writing every day and is greatly encouraged to do so, by family and friends. Askival was published by the now defunct Freight Books and she is currently in discussion with another publisher, with a view to having her second novel published.
There then followed a general discussion and questions on the writing process and getting work published. Merryn advised us, as budding writers, to:
- never stop writing
- consider the audience who will read our work
- write to communicate with your readers
A lively discussion followed as the focus moved towards getting writing out there.
publishing, and all that
Self-publishing can be a way forward for many writers. It has its drawbacks but it is one way of becoming known to readers and publishers.
We also discussed how publishers focus on a number of aspects of a writer’s work including:
- social media activity
- self promotion
Activities like these are becoming ever more important since many newspapers publish fewer literary reviews.
marketing experience leads to improvement
Merryn suggests that attending book festivals was a way of getting her novel highlighted and cited her own attendance at the Ullapool Festival as being a positive step in becoming more well known.
She approached several publishers with Askival and now appreciates that the number of times it was refused led to improvement in it, as she kept going and adapting and changing, according to their advice.
research, rest, write, research again
We discussed how research for a novel can prevent an author actually getting down to writing a story. Merryn suggested taking a break from the research and coming back fresh, for the next stage. Her advice was that there needs to be enough of a framework to help readers understand time, place and events but mostly they want to engage with the story.
Merryn now lives in the Scottish Highlands, where she is a high school librarian, relishing the challenge of encouraging teenagers to keep reading.
We very much appreciated Merryn coming along to speak to us and offering advice an inspiration.