Friday, 26 June 2015

Merrilyn Williams Writing Fiction as Mel Menzies

Today on the blog we welcome Merrilyn Williams who writes as Mel Menzies. Thank you for joining us Merrilyn

What was your favourite subject at school?

English literature. I loved reading from an early age. By the time I was ten, I was completely hooked on Charles Dickens, could quote passages of Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Keats and Byron. Just wish I could still remember them!

So you were a reader before becoming a writer?
Absolutely! I went to an old fashioned convent primary school where ink pots and dip-in pens were still in use! I seemed to be unable to handle this without getting ink everywhere, and was often sent out of class for making a mess. Ironically, ‘naughty’ children were expected to sit in the library. I don’t need to tell you how often I ended up in there!

What made you want to write?
Writing for me, as a child, was both an escape and it was cathartic. I didn’t fit in with my family, who were all extroverts, so I needed somewhere to hide. And where better than the attic where all my father’s books were kept?

Also, because I invariably seemed to be in trouble – ‘sent to bed with bread and water’ was the phrase used – writing about my feelings was therapeutic to me. I didn’t keep a diary as such, but I suppose what I was doing was journaling. I came across some of this quite recently, in which I’d listed all the ways in which I felt I failed as a fourteen year old. Far too many to include here!

Tell us something about your previous books and how you got started with your new book, Time to Shine
New writers are always told to ‘write about what you know’. I’d written a number of books - testimony about how I’d coped with the various circumstances life had thrown at me - and I’d been commissioned by mainstream publishers to write other people’s life-stories. So, with a dozen books behind me, one of which was in the top ten bestseller list, I’m far from being a newbie.

However, I’d had a gap of some years when work commitments for my employers made it impossible for me to write. So when I started writing Time to Shine, I felt it was like starting again.

Consequently, I drew on my own experience of having had a bad marriage. Also, I was a counsellor, practising as a member of a team, so I’d spent a lot of time helping others to cope with marital and relationship problems. But I didn’t want this book to be yet another testimony or How-to book, like those I’d written in the past.

So you decided to switch to fiction and write a novel?
Yes. I’d already written one novel, A Painful Post Mortem (a story about losing a child, which is still available from Amazon as an e-book) and had some great reviews. So I decided this was where I wanted to take my writing career in future, writing stories that entertain but also have some purpose in them.

And what is the purpose behind your book, Time to Shine?

My purpose - the theme of the book - is to show that forgiveness is always possible, no matter what. Time to Shine is in the mystery genre, but I wanted it to be different. So instead of having the usual Detective Inspector investigating the mystery that kicks off the conflict in the story, I have a counsellor – a marriage mender - Evie Adams. In helping her client, Julia Worth, to deal with what her husband, Carl, throws at her, Evie also helps her to solve the enigma of why he’s become so hostile.

Originally, the title of the book was The Marriage Mender. Then I realised that, actually, the theme was about more than just forgiveness, and the story was more than simply mending a marriage. So, as both Julia and Evie end up fulfilling their dreams, I changed the title to Time to Shine. And I’m hoping that, after all my teenage failures, it will also be my time to shine. J

Can you give readers a short passage from your book so we can get a flavour of what it is about?

Certainly! When a client with marriage problems seeks therapy from Evie, a dark secret from long ago is uncovered. Here, she is reflecting on her first session with Julia.

'I keep wondering if Carl's having a mid-life crisis,’ said Julia. ‘They do say men can have a sort of menopause, don't they?'

'How do you mean?' I asked.

'Well, I wonder if it's to do with his father. I only knew him for a short time. He died about four years after we were married; the year Abi was born. He was a barrister. Prided himself on his self-sufficiency, and made no secret of what he thought of anyone needy, or beneath him.'

'So not the easiest of people to get on with?'

Julia screwed up her face in a non-verbal agreement. 'He certainly wasn't one to mince his words. He thought nothing of engineering as a career, and had no qualms in telling Carl so. It was all about brain being superior to brawn. That's what he used to say. He made it pretty obvious he hadn't much time for his son.'

'And you? How did you find him?'

'As I say, I didn't know him for long. I suppose he must have been about - what - ten years older than Carl is now when he died. I remember there was a big to-do. Carl's mother sent for the priest to give him absolution. Last rites. And Carl went berserk. Went round the house yelling that if God forgave his father, he wanted nothing to do with either of them. God or his father.'

I felt puzzled, and said so.

'It was all to do with something that had happened when he was a schoolboy,' Julia explained. 'Something truly terrible . . .’

What are you working on at the moment?

Time to Shine is the first book in the Evie Adams series so I’m now working on the next one. Its title is Chosen? and it tells the story of an American who, happily adopted, seeks Evie out in his search to find his biological family – and uncovers a can of worms. Again, it’s set in Evie’s Exeter Cathedral counselling rooms, and another Devon location near Dartmouth.

It has been a pleasure having you on the blog Merrilyn. I am sure all bookaholics will join me in wishing you every success. 

Merrilyn Williams writes fiction under her family name, Mel Menzies. The author of nearly a dozen books, one a bestseller, she lives in Devon where she likes nothing better than taking her lovely grandchildren on the beach. Her website, An Author’s Look at Life, offers resources to inform, inspire and encourage.


  1. Thank you Wendy, for allowing me to join you on Bookaholics. I've so enjoyed getting to know you - and to doing the interview.

    1. It really was my pleasure Mel. Lovely to find out more about you

  2. I really enjoyed this interview. It was very interesting and I'm off now to find 'Time to Shine' on Amazon.
    Thank you, Wendy, for introducing such a delightful author to me.

    1. Thank you, Christine. Hope you enjoy the book.

  3. You are welcome Christine. I am sure you will love the book