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  • Barbara Copperthwaite

What’s Their Secret? Anna Mansell @AnnaMansell confesses! #HerLastSecret


To celebrate #HerLastSecret going on sale, I’ve asked authors to share their secrets with me… Today it’s ANNA MANSELL, author of How To Mend A Broke Heart and The Lost Wife.

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 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, or her second: The Lost Wife. Anna lives on a dairy farm in Cornwall with her two children, her husband, and her ex-racing greyhound, Olive Dog.


Secret writing ritual…

Oooh, but it’s top secret…! Okay, it’s not, it’s just that I know people will think I’m bonkers. Okay, so I wire in to whatever album it is I’m listening for that novel. It’s a different one each time. Currently Feathers by Poppy Ackroyd. Then, I grab my author stone, gifted by a magic friend, it sits in the palm of my hand, by my chest. When not typing, it sits snugly in my palm. And then, I type. For about ten minutes at a time before I start panicking it’s all rubbish and have to take a breather. Seriously, it’s that neurotic a process for me. Perhaps I should have made something up here….

Secret writing snack…

I don’t tend to eat and write. I am v focussed when I am writing, albeit for the aforementioned short bursts, so tend not to sit and snack whilst working. I make up for it at lunch and dinner, mind you. And ALWAYS have a cup of peppermint tea on the go. Or black coffee, caffeine free!

Secret celebration when you finish a WIP…

Oh! I think I need to work harder at these, I don’t have a secret celebration… I think because I know I’ve either got a TON of rewrites to do, or I realise people are going to read it and I want them to like it. Perhaps I should come up with something. I look forward to reading everyone else’s and adopting a combination of celebrations to make them my own! Actually.. sleep, I probably sleep! I find sleep somewhat disturbed with ideas and problems when writing.


‘Guilty secret’ read…

Twitter!  And Facebook. And Instagram. I find myself absorbed in the minutiae of random threads and love to see what my friends are getting up to. In terms of reading books though, it’s more my guilty secret ‘not read’! I am a rubbish reader, I do read, I read a lot, but I find so many books so difficult to get through. It’s definitely me, not them. From classics to Richard and Judy book clubs… there are so many books I wish I could read and several that I wish I’d loved when I didn’t. I’m so relieved you didn’t ask me what books I’ve hated that the world over, truly loves. My answers might spark the end of any future career I might have!

‘Guilty secret’ tv programme…

Now that I can answer easily. It’s First Dates!  I LOVE watching sparks fly. Or not. I love to see people learning about each other, those that are honest, those that aren’t. The stories people tell and the lives they’ve led. How brave people can be, how judgemental. How funny, how shy. The dynamics can be beautiful and I can watch that for hours, very, very happily.

Shared secret…

Well, I’ve already shown myself to be a rubbish reader, with severe neurosis and a penchant for magic stones… what else can I tell you that would come as a surprise? Okay, here goes… I firmly believe that I knew my son before he was born. I was attuned to level 2 Reiki about a year before I fell pregnant with him. During the process, there was a tiny, funny, charming little energy to the left of me. He practically took me by the hand and led me through the ceremony and from that day onwards, he was forever by my side. I can’t explain it, just that he was there. Until I gave birth to my eldest in 2005. After 36hr labour and a lot of swearing, this tiny bundle of gorgeousness was nestled in my arms. As I looked down at him for the first time, drinking him in, I realised the energy to my left had gone, and was now ‘snuffling like a truffle pig’ in my arms. (A line used in my debut novel, How to Mend a Broken Heart!) Nobody will ever be able to convince me this is not true!

Secret peek into your new WIP… 

Okay, this really is an exclusive excerpt as it is so WIP it’s at the ropey first draft stage. It needs so much work that when I think about it, I want to cry. And it is full of plot holes and problems. I’ve no idea how I’m going to fix it yet, but I know I will because it’s heart is right and the rest will follow. Eventually.

Okay, here goes…. Don’t judge me! Working title: Grit, Graft and Paper Diamonds…


Monday 6th January, 2014

I may have been shortlisted for Bus Driver of the year 2014, the first woman to do so since the awards inception in 1979, but it’s hard to be celebratory when on the same day, I scraped one of the Optare Solos on a particularly tight corner, up by the ‘dimples’. I had to fess up to the bus company owner, Mr Ali, who – according to my line manager, Janice – has already marked my card for regularly letting James on without paying. As I explain all of this to best friend Clare, she looks more and more confused…

‘So, I said to Janice—’

‘Janice?’ checks Clare, picking at the crisps we’ve shared.

‘Janice!’ I repeat, ‘my line manager.’ Clare’s not long since had a baby so is forgiven for not remembering who Janice is. ‘You remember her, she’s the one who… you know!’ I wink, and nudge, to try and jog her hormone riddled memory. 

‘Your line manager… right,’ she drawls, searching but failing to make the connection.

‘The one who reads Cosmo over her husband’s shoulder when he’s… you know…’ I cuckoo whistle to make myself clearer and Clare’s eyes widen with recollection.

‘OH! That Janice!’ she says, grinning.

I try (and fail) to avoid the image now forming in my mind: my boss letting her husband get his conjugal rights whilst she completes a Cosmo quiz on the multiple orgasm. Apparently she’s mostly A’s – I’ve no idea what that means.

‘So anyway, I said to Janice, “Look, James is broke. He’s cold! Surely we can manage a bus fare once in a while?”.’ I lick my finger to dab up the last crumbs from our (third) shared pack of crisps.

‘I guess reading it over his shoulder is better than whilst on all fours… for example,’ says Clare, lost in thought. ‘He’d see her flick the pages if he was coming from behind.’

Secret Santa… (If you could give a happy ending to any character who would it be, and what would you do?) 

I always thought the witch came to a sticky end in Hansel & Gretel. Seems such a shame not to have had the opportunity to learn from her mistakes, to grow as a human being and apologise for imprisoning the children having lured them with sweet treats. Perhaps, had we shown her some love, she might have seen the error of her ways… Maybe…!


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HER LAST SECRET is out on Friday 13th October. Lucky for you – unlucky for the Thomas family…

To pre-order or find our more, use the links below.





There are some secrets you can never tell.

The last thing to go through Dominique Thomas’s head was the image of her teenage daughter’s face and her heart lifted. Then the shot rang out.

They were the perfect family. Successful businessman Ben Thomas and his wife Dominique live an enviable life, along with their beautiful children; teenager Ruby and quirky younger daughter, Mouse.

But on Christmas Day the police are called to their London home, only to discover a horrific scene; the entire family lying lifeless, victims of an unknown assailant.

But when Ruby’s diary is discovered, revealing her rage at the world around her, police are forced to look closer to home for the key to this tragedy.

Each family member harboured their own dark truths – but has keeping their secrets pushed Ruby to the edge of sanity? Or are there darker forces at work?

This dark, gripping psychological thriller will have you holding your breath until the very last page. Fans of Behind Closed Doors, Sometimes I Lie, and The Girl on the Train will be captivated.

See what readers are saying about Barbara Copperthwaite:

‘My heart and guts were gripped and squeezed so tight I had trouble reading!…This broke my heart into so many pieces…I was left speechless by the flawless narration and the harrowing emotions that rushed through me until the very end.’ Chocolate and Waffles

‘A darkly addictive and creepy page turner that had me on the edge of my seat…the last few chapters were breathtakingly shocking with developments I hadn’t been expecting and the final pages were absolutely brilliant, leaving me with goosebumps!’ My Chestnut Reading Tree

‘Compelling, claustrophobic and horribly believable – a great read!’ B.A. Paris, author of Behind Closed Doors and The Breakdown

‘It grips you by the throat and doesn’t let go. A tense, edge-of-your-seat, nail-biting ride’Robert Bryndza, author of The Girl in the Ice and Last Breath

‘Vividly written and absolutely gripping. I couldn’t put it down!’ The Genre Reader

‘There are plenty of twists and turns that will keep you guessing, leading all the way to a jaw-dropping ending that left me spinning.’ Novel Deelights

‘Gripping and shocking. Had me completely enthralled in the action…a story that got under my skin.’ Rachel’s Random Reads

‘A dark, compelling and unforgettable read that had me hooked. The final paragraph haunted me, long after I had finished reading.’ Brew and Books Review

‘Addictive, Thrilling, Captivating! I could not put this book down, it captures your interest from the very first page until the very last.’ Book Reviews by Nicole

‘It really did make for some very emotional reading…There was a twist which totally rocked me.’ By The Letter Book Reviews

‘Plenty of red herrings and twists…If you like psychological thrillers, you’ll love it.’ Consumer reviewer

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