My spot of The Lost Wife tour, by Anna Mansell. I have an interview with Anna for you today and also an excerpt of The Lost Wife. Enjoy.
When Ellie Moran passes away, she leaves her newborn son and husband Ed behind her. Their marriage was perfect, their lives everything they had hoped for. So why was Ellie keeping secrets from Ed?
Knowing he can never ask his wife the truth, Ed is struggling to cope. When the secrets threaten to tear his whole family apart, Ed turns to Rachel, the one person who sees him as more than just Ellie’s widower.
But then Rachel discovers something Ellie was hiding, something that would break Ed’s, heart. Can Rachel help Ed to find peace without the wife he lost – and a second chance at happiness?
‘Real You’ ~ Anna Mansell
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.
- 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.
- 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!
The Lost Wife ~ Anna Mansell ~ Excerpt
The Lost Wife Extract
My wife gave me strict instructions in the event of her untimely death: no crying, no drinking, no sympathy sex with an ex. Her final crushed-velvet curtain should fall before a congregation wearing ‘Glitter-red shoes and sky-blue gingham, make that bit obvious on the invites, Ed.’ We didn’t establish the protocol regarding funeral invites as such, because, you know, why would we?
A big fan of The Wizard of Oz, she also wanted the original version of ‘Ding-Dong! The Witch is Dead’ played for a cast of perma-tanned small people to dance down a specially installed yellow-bricked aisle. I didn’t consider the logistics, or how impossible promises would be, because she wasn’t going to die. And now my head pounds, disbelieving tears replaced with dry, gut-wrenching sobs of pain and reality, which means I’ve broken promise one: no crying.
Despite crisp winter air stealing my breath, I can still detect the stench of whisky and wine and anything else I’ve found around our house, searching for something to dull the pain. Except no amount of alcohol works, it just makes me feel guilty that I’m drunk in charge of a baby. Promise two: no drinking… broken.
Maybe I should be grateful that I’ve no energy, will or inclination to break promise three. Ex or otherwise. Four pitch-black-suited men lower her walnut casket six foot under-ground, and I resist sinking to my knees. I want to go down with her. I want to hide six foot under. I want this all to be over. I want the pale and solemn faces that surround me to leave. They’re another reminder that I did not do what she wanted: no gingham, no red shoes. I feel the punch in my heart again; on each and every level, I’ve got this wrong. I’ve blocked out the vicar’s words, until now: ‘Let us commend Ellie Moran to the mercy of God…’ It’s too much.
My head feels a safer place. Sifting through memories that keep her alive, if only for a few more moments. Ignoring the questions I have about how we came to be here. Today is not the day.
The night she tabled her dark-humoured request was our house-warming, not more than nine months ago, a night of love and laughter and friends. After years of graft, we’d finally finished our forever home. We were on our third bottle of Chianti – drink shared among the group – and conversation flowed as easily as the wine. Ellie’s laughter infected us all to the point we could barely string a sentence together as we threw equally dark suggestions into the mix: a wake on a ranch-style farm; wind machines; a crafted prairie-house coffin; and my personal favourite – ashes scattered by Glinda the Good Witch. It’s easy to be flippant when you’re invincible.
‘We now commit her body to the ground…’
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