Today I'm delighted to bestselling author Mandasue Heller to my blog as part of her blog tour to promote her latest book Broke. Mandasue kindly agreed to answer some questions so I'll hand you over to her...
Tell us something about yourself that your readers probably don’t already know?
I have worked at many jobs, from phone-tarot reader to pharmacy assistant, but my very first job was meant to have been as a trainee mortuary technician. I was offered the position and was shown exactly what happens in an autopsy, and what I would be expected to do, but changed my mind at the last minute and moved to London to live with my sister for a year instead.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to be a crime writer?
I’ve always been fascinated by the darker side of life and, in my younger days, was an avid reader of anything that was considered taboo. I’d always enjoyed writing, mainly poetry which I later turned into lyrics for my songs, but had never considered making a serious attempt to write an actual book until illness forced me to take a long break from singing. Crime was the natural genre for me, as I had witnessed and experienced so much of it throughout my life. My first piece was an account of having been attacked by a man who broke into my house and hit me on the head with a claw hammer while I was holding my then 10 week old son in my arms. I wrote about it years later in the hope that it would release the fear, pain, and anger I’d suffered ever since. It did exorcise some of the demons, but it was too personal for anyone else to read. I had enjoyed the act of writing, though, so I decided to keep myself out of it and write about fictitious characters instead. And I used the Hulme Crescents as my setting, because that was where I had experienced most of the stuff I subsequently put my characters through.
Can you tell us a little bit about your latest book Broke?
Broke is about a couple who married too soon, had kids too young, and found themselves in the spiral of debt that comes from living hand to mouth. When the hubby loses his job and gets himself involved with a loan shark, things go from bad to worse – as is the way of these things, sadly. The greatest compliment I received for this particular book was from an actor I very much admire, who likened it to a modern-day Cathy Come Home. I absolutely love that!
Where do you get your inspiration from for your stories?
It’s a combination of my twisted imagination and the real-life stuff I’ve seen and experienced.
Percentage-wise, how much time do you spend researching and how much time do you spend writing?
I hardly ever research unless I need to know an absolute fact. For my next book, Respect, I needed verification that what I’d written about a certain type of job was correct, so I googled local firms who specialised in that line and rang one to ask – simple as that.
Are there any writers that have influenced you as a writer?
Not consciously; I just wanted to write about the things I had witnessed and experienced: gritty, hard-hitting, realistic tales of ordinary people in difficult situations. As a teen, I absolutely loved Catherine Cookson’s book The Fifteen Streets. To me, she is the original grit-lit queen, and I guess she must have influenced me as my mum recently told me that Broke reminded her of CC.
How do you relax/unwind after writing gruesome scenes?
By doing mundane stuff, like watching soaps, doing cryptic crosswords, and playing on my DS - sad, but true. I occasionally do a bit of artwork, but my pictures tend to be a bit weird and dark - like my writing. I just don’t do light and fluffy, apart from where my family are concerned. To them, I’m an absolute pushover.
Are you one of those writers who wake in the middle of the night with ideas for plots, new story etc.?
No way! I sleep deeply and dream vividly, so I’d be most upset if a ‘thought’ woke me up. I
tend to get my ideas first thing in the morning. They pop into my head while I’m having my coffee, and I mull them over for a while to see if there is any mileage in them.
Have you ever had writer’s block?
Many, many times, but I’ve learned that there’s no point trying to force something that isn’t ready to come. Instead, I go over what I’ve already written, and wait until my head clears and I feel inspired again.
If you weren’t a writer, what career path would you have chosen to follow?
I’d have stuck to singing, which I did professionally for many years. I also did a lot of TV work in my younger days, and was a scriptwriter, too, until I got my book deal and decided to concentrate on the books instead. I’ve also always had a deep interest in medical matters, and worked for a time in a pharmacy, so it’s possible that I might have trained to become a pharmacist at some point.
How long did it take you to get your first book published?
I was fortunate enough to be taken on by the first publisher I sent my work to (Hodder & Stoughton), and am blessed to have been with them ever since.
Do you have a set daily writing routine?
I tend to start as soon as I get up in the morning, and carry on until dinner time. I break off to cook, then might go back to it for a while – if I’ve got the energy.
If you could write another style of genre, what would it be and why?
I wouldn’t. I’ve tried, but everything always reverts back to dark and dirty, no matter how light I intended it to be. I once started a Mills & Boon style one, and was so bored I wanted to kill both of my lead characters by page 6!!
If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?
To never think about who might eventually read your work, because you will subconsciously
write it to please them instead of allowing it to live and breathe.
Are there any crime fiction books that you wish you’d written?
Not crime, I know, but I wish I had dreamed up the Harry Potter series - purely for the money, though, because I don’t personally like that kind of thing. I absolutely love Stephen King, though, and wish I had the imagination to write a book like Pet Semetary, Christine, It, etc. But I don’t, so I guess I’ll just stick to my grit.
When you’ve finished writing a book, do you treat yourself to a reward?
God, no! I wander around chewing my nails to the quick as I wait for my editor’s verdict. Then I go into guilt mode, feeling as if I should still be writing. Then real life takes over for a while, before the cycle starts again and a new book gets started.
Broke by Mandasue Heller is published in paperback on 15th August by Hodder & Stoughton. Thanks to the lovely Emilie at Hodder & Stoughton I have 2 copies of Broke to give away to a couple of you lucky readers (UK only), follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter form below to enter.
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