Book - Broken Things

Acclaimed author George Mann has a new fantasy/horror novella out called Broken Things, published by Absinthe Books and we're delighted to be taking part in his book tour. Today he gives us an insight into the story's development in this article, Durstan and the Great Escape...

The goddess Amaranth, Queen of the Broken, has been reborn for the first time in generations and now resides once more in her distant tower, observing the world through her strange, fractured eyes. Three pilgrims set out on the trail to find her, each for their own reasons: Pallor, the Knight of Perish, who wishes to die by a worthy hand and will challenge the goddess to a fight to the death; Nok, the tribal Wolkin, who carries her brother’s bones to beg Amaranth to restore him to the afterlife; and Ambrose, the monk, charged by his Order to seek the answer to the unanswerable question at the heart of his faith. Each of these pilgrims will be tested on the road to their inevitable convergence—and each will be granted answers, of a sort, from the Broken Queen…

Ask my wife and she’ll tell you: half the time I’m away with the fairies. I live my life dreaming of other worlds and other times. Sometimes these ideas solidify and become concrete things, going on to form the basis of new novels and stories, while other times they just seem to circle in the ether and remain unused, always just out of reach.

Durstan, the setting of my new novella Broken Things, is one such world that’s been growing and developing for some years. Notes jotted hastily on my iPhone, scribbles written in one of several notebooks, characters and places and descriptions and snippets of phrases. It’s a world that I’ve been desperate to visit, inhabited characters I’ve been desperate to meet.

And yet, I’ve never felt ready to take the plunge. It’s always seemed like such a big thing, an all-consuming project. And so it’s remained there in the notebooks, growing, evolving, but always unused.

Perhaps, in truth, I was a little afraid. What if Durstan didn’t live up to my expectations of it? What if I couldn’t write this kind of fantasy the way I wanted to? What if no one would be interested in reading it? After all, it’s very different from the alternative history or spooky stories I’m known for. It’s something I’ve never tried before.

And besides, there was always something else that demanded to be written first.

So it went on.

Fast forward to March 2020. A date none of us are likely to forget in a hurry. The start of a long period of global uncertainty. Of absent friends and family. Of lockdown. Suddenly, the world seemed silent. We all took a breath and held it while we waited for the new world order to slowly begin asserting itself. Projects were paused while we tried to navigate the Zoom calls and information overload.

Like many of us, I found myself in need of an escape. To focus on something just for me. To keep myself busy. And Marie O’Regan, the lovely editor behind Absinthe Books, had provided me with the perfect excuse—she’d asked if I’d be interested in writing a new novella for the launch of the imprint.

I knew immediately that I wanted to do something new and different. That would be the best way to keep my mind occupied—to dive into a new world, with new characters. To go and explore.

There seemed only one logical choice: to finally pull out those notebooks and brave a visit to Durstan. To test the water and see how I liked it. This, I reasoned, was an experiment. If it felt good, then perhaps I’d do more with these characters and this setting. And if I didn’t? Well—I could always write something else.

So it was that I set out in those early days of lockdown, taking my first tentative steps into this world that had been living for so long in my head.

And the words just flowed.

It’s a gift to a writer, and a rare one, when the story just seems to take on a life of its own and run away with itself, but that’s exactly what happened with Broken Things. Every morning I would sit at my keyboard, and the day would pass in a pleasant blur. I had found that escape I was looking for. And before I knew it, I had a book.

Nervously, I sent it off to Marie. What would she think? Was it the sort of thing she was expecting? Would it fit what she was planning for her new imprint?

Thankfully, she loved the story, and Durstan’s fate was sealed.

Now, I find myself anxious to get back to those distant shores. There are many more stories to be told. And many more notebooks to fill!

Thanks again very much to George Mann for this fascinating insight. His novella Broken Things is out now from Absinthe Books. Order a signed hardback copy here.

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