When life is falling apart, good friends and companionship can help mend your broken heart – and maybe even give you the chance to fall in love again…
Life is good for nurse Kat. That is until the man she intended to marry legs it, she’s unexpectedly promoted to a position with too much responsibility, and a patient arrives on her ward under strange circumstances.
Susan is a mystery. She refuses to speak or interact with anyone, she’s obsessed with a book of fairy tales, and the only name in her diary is that of Rhys – a plumber she barely knows.
Down-to-earth Rhys is trying to get his life back on track after the death of his beloved brother. His mum is his priority, and she needs him as much as he needs her. Or at least she did, until she starts disappearing, leaving him to find comfort in the form of his brother’s girlfriend.
Anna had a brush with ‘fame’ as a magician’s assistant back in 1977. She later decided that being sawn in half by her father, at barely 6 months old, was too submissive a role, vowing to channel the trauma into something much more pro-actively creative. Having failed at acting, singing and professional murder mystery parties (she was ALWAYs the one to die!), she fell to something much more solitary: writing. How To Mend a Broken Heart is her first novel and her life was not on the line in order to write it. Anna lives on a dairy farm in Cornwall with her two children, her husband, and her ex-racing greyhound, Olive Dog.
Our Q&A with Anna
Describe yourself using three words?
A Greyhound reincarnate… on account of my love of food and sleep. Between me and my Olive Dog, a rescue grey, we could probably sleep for team GB!
What inspired you to write your first novel?
Partly because I didn’t think it through properly, had I have known how addictive, terrifying, satisfying and stressful it is, I might have thought twice… nah, who am I kidding! I love it really. My first novel came about mostly because I was fascinated by the idea that some people opt out of life, not necessarily physically – although sometimes that’s true – but also, emotionally. They don’t feel they belong or deserve love, life, and happiness. I find that notion desperately sad and wish people could see what they have to offer the world and what the world can offer them!
What time of day do you like to write?
Since I started writing, I’ve always treated it as my main job. I’m self-employed and can manipulate my hours to suit the kids, the dog, and my freelance work… mostly the dog! I do the school run, walk Olive, come home to make a cuppa (and probably poached egg on toast!), then sit down to write… usually whilst looking on enviously as Olive knocks out the post walk Z’s.
What is your favourite book and why?
My favourite has always been The Diary of Anne Frank. I first read it when I was eleven or so and every now and then, I pick it back up. Though this may sound trite given the circumstance, I love the humour it contains, despite the darkness of their situation. The truth and lies of a young teen. The desperation of the time, yet the comradery that was also evident. For me, it sums up human nature and that idea that we laugh or make happiness, even at our toughest times. It’s something I like to weave into my writing and I’m sure that comes from reading Anne’s entries. That such a tragic outcome, gifted us such legacy is bittersweet – you can’t even write that without understating it – but I’m grateful to her, every time I take a moment to read.
How did you pick the title of your book?
I didn’t! ☺ Which was something of a shock to me when I got a publishing contract. I had no idea that so many books are retitled by the publishers. But I can totally see where Bookouture’s inspiration came from, and the reason for giving it the title. When you set your heart on your own title, it takes a while to re-adjust, but as I signed off that final draft, I realised it felt like I ‘owned’ the title now.
Are the characters in your book based on real people?
Yes and no. All characters in my writing are made up of snippets from lots of different people. There is nobody lifted from life to book in completeness. In fact, I wonder if anyone would believe a character I wrote if it was solely made up of one person – it would be so hard to truly represent someone in fiction, knowing how multi-faceted we all are; well for me, anyway! Sometimes I’ll write something and think, well that’s just me, or my husband, or the neighbour we had when I was growing up. In fact, in my head, Susan reminded me a lot of a woman I lived a few doors up from as a kid, but she also reminded me of several other people I’ve come across in life. Each character is a kaleidoscope of the people I know, meet, read about, watch, hear of and so on.
What’s your favourite word?
Oooh, great question. It’s megalopolis! My form teacher at secondary school, Miss Harvey, taught it to us in a geography lesson once. Or was it history? I can’t remember. Either way, I remember her joy in saying the word and it was infectious. Megalopolis… it’s great, isn’t it! And not remotely useable in any of my novels. Haberdashery, now there’s another one. Perhaps I could set a character in a haberdashery, based in the back streets of a megalopolis… what do you think? Love amongst the zips and buttons…
If you were a colour what would it be?
I’ve always felt pillar box red, but not in a fiery way necessarily – I’m hurtling towards forty, my fire is more of a gentle simmer these days – but I’m focussed, and determined, so maybe that’s why. Sometimes I think I’d like to be yellow, or blue, or perhaps a sea green like the colour of our local high tide, down St Ives. But no, I think I am and always will be pillar box red.
Do you plan your story beforehand or go with the flow? When I’ve gone with the flow I write myself into an impossible hole. When I plan, I change everything and end up nowhere near the place I started out. I suspect I’m part pantser, part planner. But I’ve only ever written four novels so maybe I’m still learning my approach. I wish it was a more straightforward process, but it just isn’t.
Who is your favourite Author?
Do playwrights count? If I’m permitted that, I’d say Alan Bennett every single time. Sometimes I find reading hard – which perhaps as a writer, I shouldn’t confess to – but I do. I’d love to read some of those greats, those classics, the deeply literary novels, but I just find them so impenetrable. Or just not engaging to me. I’m embarrassed by how many I’ve tried to read and failed. Or read and hated. Books that people the world over, revere, delight in and admire. And when I do fail, I have to re-ignite my love of reading by reminding myself that I can read, that I do enjoy it, and that it can make me laugh and cry in equal measure. Alan Bennett never fails to get me back on track. His characters are so beautifully complex and his use of language so visually alluring, I just adore him. His Yorkshire turn of phrase is perhaps one of the greatest attractions to me, as a Yorkshire woman, living in Cornwall. I’ve always got a book or two of his on the go.
If you could give any literary villain a happy ending who would you chose?
The White Witch from The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. I’d make her fall in love with herself and realise that anger and bitterness has no place in her heart. Then she and Aslan could shack up together in a modern day house share that had stunning décor inspired by her icy past, but warmth and love from Aslan’s heart. You know, fairy lights and clean lines, softened by cuddly throws and cushions. And probably a few more fairy lights!
Are you working on a new project?
My second novel is out, through Bookouture, later this summer so I’m currently working on edits for that. But I also have a work in progress to go back to after that is done, and an idea for another novel. Actually, there’s also a radio play that is in the back of my head… it’s just a case of working out which one shouts the loudest I suppose. ☺
You can purchase your copy here
Thank you for much Anna Mansell for being on my blog today, please come back soon with the new book.
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