Writing Defines Who I Am, Not What I Do!

Posted at 00:31am on 12th May 2014

When Fay Sampson, an author I’ve known and admired for many years, asked me to take part in a blog tour, naturally I was delighted to accept. When I heard that Donna Fletcher Crow - another author whose work I love to read - had participated -  that clinched it.  Both have explored the questions they’ve asked me to answer: What am I working on? How does my work differ from others in its genre? Why do I write what I do? How does my writing process work? Fay’s answers may be found here, and I’d like to thank her for inviting me to take part.


What am I working on?

I currently have a completed manuscript with Tony Collins, who invited me to submit it for the new fiction imprint of Lion Hudson. Provisionally titled Time to Shine this will be the first of a series featuring a thirty-something divorcee named Evie Adams. Part of a counselling team, with rooms in Cathedral Close, Exeter, Evie sets out to help Julia Worth to achieve a sense of wholeness in the face of her disintegrating marriage. It soon becomes clear that husband, Carl, is hiding a dark secret and that uncovering it is key to saving the relationship.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

Written in a similar multi-viewpoint style to Jodi Picoult’s books, the Evie Adams series substitutes counselling procedures for her police procedures. This, I believe, is what makes these psychological mysteries different from others.
Rightly or wrongly (discuss) I’ve used different pen names for different genres. In the early days, I wrote as Meg Scott, but when commissioned by Hodder & Stoughton to write biographies, and later by Lion Hudson to write a how to book on Stepfamilies, I reverted to my given name, Merrilyn Williams. For fiction I write under the name of Mel Menzies.

Why do I write what I do?

I began writing as a child, submitted my first piece of work at the age of ten, and received my first rejection slip (from the prestigious Argosy short story magazine) when I was fourteen. Writing defines who I am, rather than what I do. 
Having endured an on-off first marriage for fifteen years, divorce, a daughter whose idea of escape from the trauma was to embark on a thirteen year heroin binge, her success in kicking the habit, followed years later by her death in suspicious circumstances, the aim of my writing is always to help others, as I was helped, to face their fears and fulfil their potential.  Though never accredited, I trained in counselling, and all my books and speaking engagements to date have dealt with the sort of issues many of us have to tackle in relationships.
The fan mail I’ve received over the many years I’ve been published, has, gratifyingly, shown that I’ve achieved this to some extent. Indeed, one book, The Last Mountain published by Hodder & Stoughton, went on to become a Sunday Times No. 4 bestseller.

How does my writing process work?

I begin with the kernel of an idea: some dilemma that has presented itself, perhaps, through reading the newspaper, or observing the real life events in someone’s life. A character is born in my mind; someone struggling with physical, mental, emotional or spiritual issues; someone on a journey to freedom and fulfilment.
With no clear picture of how the plot will develop, I begin to write and that kernel of an idea sends out root and branch in my imagination. The characters take over. I’m often surprised by their reactions on the journey they take and though I know pretty well how their storylines will be resolved, the denouement may be as much of a surprise to me as to my readers.
I wrote my first books by hand because I found the ideas flowed more easily, and once had to employ a typist to help me achieve the deadlines imposed by my publisher. Nowadays, I write directly onto my laptop. Being a touch typist (I worked for a publisher for fourteen years) I find no impediment in doing so.
The only problem I face is that my creativity demands an early start - sometimes five or six in the morning. If, for some reason, I’m unable to achieve that, then I cannot start later and have no alternative but to wait for the next morning. And as my poor husband knows, to his cost, I am not the easiest person in the world to live with under those circumstances.
I’ve asked prolific writer, Andy Seed, if he would continue the writing blog, and am delighted to say that he’s accepted. His contribution will be available on his website next Monday, 19th May. I have also asked my writing buddy to contribute but have not heard from her as yet and, having been away myself, have been unable to follow through. I’ll correct that when I hear from her.



Your Comments:

13th May 2014
at 3:07am
Thank you for an interesting and inspiring blog.
13th May 2014
at 8:07am

What an interesting background you have, Mel. By asking Andy Seed to continue your writing blog does this mean you won't be keeping a blog anymore? I find it a good writing exercise for my writing in general.
Mel Menzies
13th May 2014
at 8:13am
Thank you, Veronica. And you, too, Sheila. I've asked Andy to do the next round of the blog tour, not to take over my blog. Doesn't say much for my writing skills, does it, if I've conveyed the wrong idea. :D

13th May 2014
at 9:06am
Mel, I can't wait to read your new series! I was hooked when you said your heroine lives in the close of Exeter Cathedral. That reminds me of two of my favorites--Kate Charles whose Book of Psalms series had a heroine living in a cathedral close and Susan Howatch who actually did live in the close of Salisbury Cathedral whilst writing her wonderful Starbury series.
Mel Menzies
13th May 2014
at 9:53am
Thank you, Donna. I do hope it meets with expectation. I loved Susan Howatch's Starbury series. I still remember the thrill I had when I read the opening line of the first one I bought (not the first she wrote). Justin Welby, the new Archbishop of Canterbury, said that cathedral attendance in the UK is bucking the trend. He's right. No matter where you are in terms of faith, or none at all, Cathedrals draw people to them. The one in Exeter is particularly beautiful. I couldn't resist making that the location for my series.
17th May 2014
at 12:49pm
I'm delighted to find that I am not the only author to whom the denoument of the novel sometimes comes as a surprise. I may think I have things mapped out in my mind, but when I get close in and know the characters more deeply it doesn't always work out as I expected. That's what makes the writing process so much more interesting.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. It's always a pleasure to find how other writers work. I've had a sneak preview of Ellie, and look forward to hearing more.

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