Tri­als and tribu­la­tions of be­com­ing an au­thor


The first at­tempt was not at all en­cour­ag­ing.

Merryn Corcoran knew a book agent and asked them to take a look at the novel she had been work­ing on.

It was set in an Ital­ian vil­lage dur­ing World War II. It spanned decades and had ro­mance and ac­tion and sad­ness.

’’Don’t give up your day job,’’ came the re­ply.

It did not


the Christchurch- born, nurs­ing­trained Corcoran who had spent the last 20 years, off and on, in Lon­don. She got her­self an ed­i­tor.

’’It was quite eye-open­ing – how you read a book and how you con­struct it are quite dif­fer­ent,’’ she says.

Corcoran left school at 16 – she didn’t un­der­stand she was dyslexic, just thought she ‘‘ was a bit dumb’’.

She went into busi­ness, open­ing bou­tiques in Lon­don and on the way be­com­ing a well-con­nected or­gan­iser of the Unicef celebrity ball. But she al­ways wanted to write.

Corcoran had a health scare and her hus­band sug­gested she sell the busi­nesses and have a go at writ­ing. ‘‘I was ter­ri­fied,’’ she says. But they moved to Men­ton, on the bor­der of Italy and France where Kather­ine Mans­field once lived. They lived among me­di­ae­val vil­lages perched on hills.

One such town ap­peared oddly quiet. Cas­tel Vit­to­rio was a 14th cen­tury me­dieval vil­lage.She felt a sad­ness there she could not ex­plain.

Corcoran later dis­cov­ered it had been the site of a mas­sacre by Ger­man troops on lo­cal vil­lagers only months be­fore the end of the war.

Her 76-year-old French teacher re­layed the story of her fa­ther who was taken by the Gestapo, and melded those two sto­ries into her book, The Silent Vil­lage.

Corcoran was home in Christchurch when the Fe­bru­ary 2011 earth­quake struck and knew the ef­fects of post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der all too well.

She learnt how a tragedy can per­me­ate a so­ci­ety and have a last­ing im­pact that is never quite for­got­ten.

It al­lowed her, she says, to write more deeply about her sub­ject.

‘‘It gives you a whole dif­fer­ent slant on how slow the re­cov­ery is.’’

Writ­ing a book had been 99 per cent per­spi­ra­tion and one per cent in­spi­ra­tion, she says.

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