Why I Wrote: Broken

by Barbara Spencer


I am known as an author of YA thrillers and children’s books, and it was a complete surprise to find myself writing ‘Broken’ which is for adults. I had just completed the time-slip novel, ‘Time Breaking’. An instant success which took me to many book-signing events at Waterstones, I decided to use the same time-slip format for my next novel but with a male lead rather than a female. Unfortunately, and I plead total ignorance as to why or how it happened, my pen took off and instead of sending my hero back in time, I found myself investigating rivers and monasteries, peat moors, rhynes and clyces. The result was ‘Broken’ although even that was not what I originally intended. Throughout the writing and editing process, it was always ‘Me and Mrs Jones’, taken from the wonderful version of the song recorded by Barry White.

Two songs are mentioned in the book and although I tried to get permission to quote from them, I didn’t succeed. So, after much soul-searching, I changed the title to ‘Broken.’

So why did I write it?  Mary Anne Yarde who wrote The Du Lac Chronicles, featured here, mentioned growing up with the myths and majesty of Glastonbury. The background to ‘Broken’ is modern Glastonbury, where I happened to be living at the time I wrote it, and its neighbour, Street, although I was born far away in Cheshire and spent a great many years ducking and diving wars on three continents before moving to the West Country.

There are many, many sides to Glastonbury, not only the colourful feast of myths and magic that bring tourists to the town from all corners of the world, but also its religious significance as home to St Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury, over a thousand years ago. And don’t forget Joseph of Arimathea. According to legend when Joseph arrived in Glastonbury with his twelve companions, he climbed Wearyall Hill and planted his staff in the ground whilst he rested. The following morning the staff had taken root and it grew into the miraculous thorn tree.

Even in modern Glastonbury myths abound which, hopefully, will remain in existence for another two thousand years; such as the rumour that Jesus Christ had lived there, a resident kindly pointing out the house at the end of the High Street where he had lived. It’s also a well-documented fact that some people cannot climb the Tor, pushed back by its powerful ley lines.

Sadly, though, the history of this small area is not always so wondrous. There exists a seedy downside in which drugs and messed-up families prevail, keeping both police and social services on their toes. My daughter swam for Street Swimming Club and when driving her to the pool for training we would pass groups of youngsters sitting on the kerb, and on our return journey two hours later, we would pass the same children on the same kerb, there being neither buses nor anything to do in a small country town apart from staying in with mum and dad to watch telly.

Although ‘Broken’ is an adult read, the main character is Jem Love, a fourteen-year-old schoolboy, who tries to keep his family together after his mother overdoses. The Mrs Jones from the original title belongs to Katrina Jones, a hard drinking, wise-cracking, social worker, with problems of her own; and there is an unforgettable third character, my all-time favourite, Spooky Jarvis, Street’s most famous hooligan, who runs foul of the law as often as he has birthdays.

It sounds dire, doesn’t it? But I can promise you ‘Broken’ is anything but dire. It is funny and outrageous, uplifting and full of hope.

About Barbara Spencer

In 1967, Barbara Spencer hi-tailed it to the West Indies to watch cricket, the precursor to a highly colourful career spanning three continents, in which she was caught up in riots, wars, and choosing Miss World. Eventually, she settled in Somerset to bring up a family. In 2010, the publication of Running, her new teenage thriller, has taken Barbara countrywide. Passionate about the importance of books in today’s society, Barbara is happiest working with young would-be writers and is frequently invited into schools to talk about creative writing.  The Kindle edition of Broken was a Finalist in the Fiction category of the Book Excellence Awards.

For more info on Barbara find her at barbaraspencer.co.uk

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