Today I'm delighted to host a guest article from Wiltshire-based novelist, Anna Legat to celebrate the publication by Spellbound Books (on 15th April) of her new novel Broken. Anna is a talented author who writes in range of genres from crime to dystopian fiction. Broken is a domestic noir suspense thriller.
Let's start with the blurb:
What if you lost the memory of who you are?
What if you had to pick up the loose ends of life that wasn't yours?
What if you had to fight somebody else's battles?
What would YOU do ?
Camilla’s life will never be the same after her beloved son Christopher is sent to prison .
Father Joseph’s faith is sorely tested when a deranged psychopath uses the sanctity of the confessional to gloat about his most heinous crimes.
Both Camilla and Joseph are paralysed by doubt and inaction.
But then their lives collide...
BROKEN explores where it takes a stranger to break through one’s bindings and inhibitions in order to do the right thing.
It is a story of a mother’s love for her son and a priest’s blind adherence to the seal of confession.
It is a story about Fate’s intervention.
In this article, Anna explains how hearing about a nightmare experience of an ordinary family in the UK inspired her to write Broken:
The Terminal Flaw of a Mother's Love
A few years ago I watched a programme about a mother who was prosecuted for financing a terrorist organisation, none other than ISIS. She was a middle-class, white woman, a Christian with no political affiliations. Yet she was charged with aiding and abetting Islamist extremists. Why?
It made no sense until it was revealed that the mother had sent money to her son who had, several months earlier, travelled to the Middle East to join Islamic State. He was a young man, still a teenager, probably impressionable and vulnerable to radicalisation. He had quickly realised that war was not for him and asked his mum to send him money to help him get back home. Which she did.
What she failed to do was to report him to the police. He was a terrorist. He had left home to join a murderous sect. He was dangerous. He was an enemy of the state, and any ordinary, law-abiding citizen would have reported him to the authorities. She didn’t. Because she was his mother.
I have given a lot of thought to the concept of a mother’s love and to its inherent flaws and limitations since I watched that programme. It became the lead theme in my book, Broken.
In law, anybody can be compelled to give evidence in criminal proceeding with the exception of the defendant’s spouse or civil partner. It makes you wonder why the same exception doesn’t apply to mothers.
A mother’s love can easily rival that of a wife or husband. Mothers love unconditionally and it is nigh on impossible for them to objectively judge their own children and their actions. Mothers cannot be neutral towards their children. Their natural instinct is to protect them, to believe them and to think the world of them.
Camilla, one of the two main characters in Broken, is the mother of a criminal. Her son, Christopher, is convicted of fraud perpetrated against a number of vulnerable people, and is sentenced to prison. Camilla refuses to accept his guilt. Will her denial go as far as colluding with him and even becoming his apologist, or will she be able to step back and see him for what he is?
Here's an extract from Broken:
In this extract, Camilla visits Christopher in prison:
“Someone has to mind Joshua at home, so Hugh stays behind while I visit Christopher on my own. I go through the indignity of surrendering my handbag and submitting to a body search with my head held high. They won’t break my spirit by bullying me. I explain to the square prison warden with spiky hair and a tattoo that snakes out of her collar on the side of her neck that I’ll keep beeping because I can’t take off my ring. It’s stuck. She retorts that I won’t enter until I stop beeping as I go through the scanner. She adds that I can take off my rings, or my finger, she doesn’t give a monkey’s which. She growls at me in that thick West Country accent to step aside and let the next person through the machine. I head for the bathroom. I lather my fourth finger and begin to work on the ring. In the end I have to resort to licking my knuckle. It comes off. The ring, not the knuckle.
I return ring-free and pass through the X-ray machine without a squeak. I inform the square prison warden with the tattoo that I will be writing to the Prison Governor to complain.
‘Be my guest, ma’am,’ she says.
Christopher is sitting at a small table, waiting for me. He is without colour – sallow complexion and bags sagging under his eyes. I couldn’t even say he looks grey. It’s like all colour has been drained from him. I want to pull him into my arms and breathe all my colour into him – to inflate him with my life force. But I know I am not allowed to touch him. It pains me to sit in front of him at arm’s length.
We hold a very civil conversation. We talk about everything and nothing in particular. I avoid mentioning the appeal, and he doesn’t ask. Perhaps he already knows that the odds are against him. Conroy would have explained it to him. He asks after Joshua. I tell him he’s staying with us. Why don’t I bring him with me next time, I suggest. Phillipa has never once brought him to see his dad. Christopher won’t have it. No, Mum, I don’t want him to see me like this, in this God-forsaken place. His words make my ears bleed.
‘What shall I tell him when he asks?’
‘Does he ask?’
‘Don’t say anything, then. I’ll be out by Christmas next year. I’ll make it up to him.’
So there is hope in this place after all, I discover, the hope of getting out when the time comes. It isn’t forever that my child will stay incarcerated, it dawns on me. And just like that the great weight in my chest shifts and causes less friction when I breathe. I’ve been carrying it around for a year. To begin with, it was sharp around the edges like a brick lodged in my lungs. The sharp edges are being filed down and, blunted, they are now more tolerable. It makes sense. I couldn’t possibly go around being ripped to pieces every day. One day, the serrations were bound to wear off.
Christopher wants me to collect his things from the house before they change the locks. I haven’t thought of it, silly me. I am delighted to be of help. He explains where to find everything he needs salvaging before the bailiffs arrive. It’s mainly his papers and items of sentimental value that need rescuing. Everything else is dispensable, he says. I can see how this conversation unsettles him. I can see the anguish in his eyes. Christopher doesn’t belong in prison. He is too sensitive, too sentimental, too delicate to take it. I wish I could take his place. I wish I could give my boy a fresh start.”
Anna Legat's author biography
Anna Legat is a Wiltshire-based author, best known for her DI Gillian Marsh murder mystery series. Murder isn't the only thing on her mind. She dabbles in a wide variety of genres, ranging from dark humorous comedy, through magic realism to dystopian. A globe-trotter and Jack-of-all-trades, Anna has been an attorney, legal adviser, a silver-service waitress, a school teacher and a librarian. She has lived in far-flung places all over the world where she delighted in people-watching and collecting precious life experiences for her stories. Anna writes, reads, lives and breathes books and can no longer tell the difference between fact and fiction.
To find out more: https://www.annalegat.com
Follow Anna on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/@LegatWriter
Join Anna on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AnnaLegatAuthor
You can download the eBook of Broken at this link:
Thanks so much, Anna, for visiting my blog. I've downloaded Broken and look forward to getting stuck into it.