FOR Merilyn Davies, whose first novel will be published this summer, people watching was the best way to spend time as a teenager – and it’s influenced her writing.

When I Lost You is a thriller centred in Oxford, her home city, but the action all takes place away from the dreaming spires in parts tourists don’t stop at.

In it, a young couple from Rose Hill are accused of murdering their only child – but mother and father are unwavering in their belief they have been framed. A crime analyst and police officer work to find the truth.

The story is deeply rooted in the author’s knowledge of the police and crime: Ms Davies formerly worked for the Metropolitan Police as a crime analyst, while her husband remains a serving officer in the force.

And hers is an Oxfordshire novel: Witney, Summertown and Rose Hill all feature, along with Thames Valley Police’s Kidlington headquarters. She took trips there herself to get advice from officers on what she should include in When I Lost You last year.

Yet, on top of that, the mum of three has had a lot on her plate recently. She is now working on her second novel after When I Lost You was finished late last year and she is the first ever Labour West Oxfordshire district councillor for Freeland and Hanborough.

The Oxford Times:

Merilyn Davies, left, with West Oxfordshire's two other Labour councillors Laetisia Carter and Rose Bolger.

To add to that, she is Oxford City Council’s Freedom of Information and complaints officer – and is also a co-founder of Chipping Norton Literary Festival.

Where writing is concerned, she was not a child prodigy--- but when she started writing fiction, it was difficult to stop.

Ms Davies said: “I’m not one of those people who started writing books at the age of three. I am an only child and grew up with my head in a world of fiction – both books and self-created imaginary worlds – but whenever I thought about writing I pictured myself more as a journalist, never an author.

“I’m not sure when I decided books were the way I wanted to go but the minute I did it became a compulsion. I am very unhappy when I don’t write, I’m restless and agitated and basically a nightmare to live with. I can also be these things when I write but when it’s going well I have yet to find a feeling to match it. (Children’s births don’t count).”

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Much of her writing is informed by what she has previously learned at university, particularly during a master’s degree at Goldsmiths College in London, and her time at the Met Police.

She added: “I studied sociology. I was endlessly fascinated by what motivated people to commit crimes but from a societal perspective, not a psychological one.

“I was interested in how structures in society create crime – poverty, patriarchy, affluence, for example – and the ways in which people committing crimes were viewed, particularly their portrayal in the media and the way in which crimes were perceived differently when people from certain class or colour committed them.”

She added: “So the chance to work within an organisation which dealt with this subject on a daily basis was too great to pass up. I had always had a very analytical mind and it struck me as the perfect opportunity to combine the two.

“It was a mad baptism of fire, mainly in acclimatising to police culture, which took around six months, but I loved it from the minute I started.”

The Oxford Times:

Before all that, she attended Cherwell School and retains a deep attachment to the city.

Ms Davies said: “Hanging around in Oxford as a young person, you see the whole mix of people: tourists, students, workers, the homeless. It was fascinating to sit and watch how these groups all interacted – or didn’t. People watching has always been my favourite way to pass the time.”

She added: “After doing an MA in London, I settled there and began work as a crime analyst. The decision to move back came after I had my first child.

“I wanted her to have the same experiences I had growing up, particularly the ease with which you can go from the countryside to a town in such a short period of time, and I wanted her to be able to appreciate both those things.”

“I was lucky enough to be able to move and we chose West Oxfordshire, originally for its affordability, but now I wouldn’t live anywhere else.”

Like many Labour councillors in Oxfordshire, Ms Davies is not a massive fan of the current leadership.

But she said: “I became a councillor because I believe politics can be used to effect real change in communities and I wanted to work in behalf of the residents of Hanborough and Freeland to achieve that.”

It was an unexpected success, bearing in mind all councillors who have represented the seat in recent years have been from the Conservative Party.

Ms Davies and her publishers, Arrow, are hoping she has another success soon.

When I Lost You will be published on August 22 and is available to pre-order on Amazon.