Fab Firsts is my new regular Sunday feature, that is going to be highlighting books that are firsts. When interviewing authors, it will be about their first book, as well as other firsts in their lives. When reviewing books for this feature, there will be a mix of debuts, first books in a series, the first time I read an author, and possibly other firsts depending on what I can think of!
If you are an author wanting to take part in Fab Firsts then please do email on gilbster at gmail dot com and I'll whizz the questions over to you.
I hope you enjoy this look at a variety of hopefully fabulous firsts, while making some sort of dent in my review and paperback TBRs which are my current main focus!
Let's welcome Anna Mansell today, who's debut book How To Mend A Broken Heart was published on 1st March 2017.
1) Can you tell us a bit about your first book?
How to Mend a Broken Heart is the story of three strangers who have one thing in common, they’ve opted out of life’s greatest gift: to love and be loved. It’s about generosity of spirit, it’s about fear, it’s about taking a leap in to the unknown, and it’s about survival. It’s set in my home city of Sheffield, something I have loved writing about given that I live so far away from there now.
2) What was your original inspiration to become a writer, and to write your debut?
The first book I wrote was called The Owl at Home. I was 6. It wasn’t very good. I didn’t ever consider writing as a career, having done spectacularly badly at school, I stumbled around in various jobs then fell in to marketing for dance and theatre companies. I’d always use editorials, reports or strategies as an excuse to sit down and write, not realising why I loved that part of the job so much. I moved to Cornwall 7 years ago, and that was when I really started to think about stories and writing. I am fascinated by people, their choices, their thoughts, their approaches to life. I remember someone told me once that we should never be afraid to love, and yet, so many of us are; especially when we’ve had our hearts broken. That idea, and how we might learn to take the leap, or not, is how my debut evolved.
3) How long did it take you to write your first book?
The Owl at Home? Probably an afternoon! How To Mend a Broken Heart..? A little longer! I wrote the first draft in about 3 months, then did another 4 drafts over the course of a year, writing, working, leaving it, coming back. Eventually, I submitted it to Bookouture, then did another few drafts, edits, amends… In truth, it’s difficult to say exactly how long it took, but I’d wager it’s probably a good year of solid work. How to Mend a Broken Heart is actually the third novel I’ve ever written, despite being my debut. My second novel, out in August, was the second novel I ever wrote, and the first… may NEVER see the light of day!
4) If you could do anything differently in retrospect, what would you change about your debut, or how you went about writing it?
You know something? I wouldn’t change a thing. I can’t say it has been an easy process in some respects, but despite that, I feel I’ve learnt huge amounts about the kind of writer I want to be. Like anyone who sits down to write a novel, we are hugely passionate about what we do. We have to be to get to the end of draft one, never mind anything else. So the bumps and detours we can take, all add up to a richer end product. I am still learning, and will continue to do so with every book, but goodness I’m lucky to firstly, be able to write, and secondly, be published at all. So, no, I wouldn’t change a thing, I’m just grateful that I’m here.
5) Was your first book self or traditionally published, and how did you go about making that decision?
6) Do you have any tips for other first time authors?
Nothing that hasn’t already been said a million times, I suspect. Mainly, never give up, believe you can do it and some time, some day, when it’s right, you will – it may not come in the shape you imagine, so be open to opportunities. Trust your instincts. Be prepared for the rejection. Remember that to be able to write at any time of day or night is a gift. And dream. Dreaming is essential!
Tell us about your first…
7) Book you bought
The BFG, it remains one of my all-time favourite books!
8) Person you fell in love with
Ah, now that one still makes me smile. He was called Nick. He was a marine. We were too young. Lived too far apart. We were destined never to be together, but there is a tiny part of me that will always love him because he was my first true love, and the first boy who taught me that neither my body or mind was a commodity for his benefit. Something only he and my husband have ever made clear they understood.
9) Holiday you went on
France, Brittany to be exact, back in 1983 when I was 6. I met a german girl who I played with for the entire time, despite neither of us speaking the other’s language. I also ate my body weight in mussels. I can still eat my body weight in mussels.
10) Prize you won
A record for a dancing competition down my local Working Men’s club. It was ‘We don’t need another hero,’ by Tina Turner and I was thrilled.
11) Album you purchased
Wham. Make it Big. I write this just days after we lost George Michael and still can’t believe that the man I day dreamed over, his posters blue tacked to my wall, is no longer here. If I had a sad face emoticon on my laptop, I’d use it!
12) Sport you enjoyed participating in
Netball, until I hit puberty. Then putting on a gym skirt was one of the most excruciating experiences of my life. *shudders*
13) Embarrassing moment you can remember
Oh my, so very many…. I can’t even…
A guinea pig called Badger. My brother had one called Fergie. They met an unwelcome end courtesy of a local fox.
15) Time you were in trouble
When I threw a brick at my neighbour Christopher’s head. A true story I borrowed in How To Mend A Broken Heart. Sorry Christopher!
16) Choice of alternative career if you weren’t an author
Singer. Ignoring the fact I can’t sing.
17) Time you felt like an adult
I’m still waiting.
18) Dish you cooked
Because I’m not one to do things by halves, it was a Roast Dinner! I knew the importance of a good gravy with your roast, though perhaps misunderstood what a good gravy was… I lived near a well-known fried chicken emporium at the time and would pop in to pick up their chicken gravy to serve up with my roast. If you look up classy in a dictionary, 17 year old me is the description.
Thank you so much for sharing all that with us Anna, and I really hope your debut goes well for you.
About Anna Mansell
Anna’s first brush with fame was 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 in to 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.