Reader Interview on Broken

Reader interview for Broken

Featuring Jules Mortimer Interviewed by Angela B. Chrysler

One reader of Broken reached out to me after writing a review on Broken. After a wonderful conversation, I asked if she would be open to an interview. Thank you, Julie, so much for agreeing to this interview!
 

***SPOILER ALERTS***

This post is meant for those who have read Broken.

 
Angela B. Chrysler: You wrote
Do I trust the author is telling me the truth?
I loved this as that was part of the questions I wanted readers to ask: To question what is truth and to wonder how much of my memory was part of the illusion and how much was real. 
 
I would love to know, at what point did you stop doubting the story wasn’t a lie? Do you still wonder which parts are true and which parts are misconceived? Do you believe the author was lying and had only become an image of her mother?

Jules Mortimer: I’ve read quite a lot of dark psychological thrillers that have a habit of shocking me with a huge twist part way through the story. At the very beginning of Broken I believed every word. Then after a while, as I was becoming emotionally involved with the book, I started to feel unsure. I was fighting my own thoughts and emotions at the time, and didn’t want to remember anything, only to discover the book had all been a lie. I worried it was somehow going to turn out to be fiction. Then I felt guilty for wishing it to be real. How could I want someone to have gone through all of that? Surely it being fiction would be a much better outcome.

At one point I did question “How can any one person manage to get involved with that many cruel men?” I did even question whether all the different men described, were somehow different aspects of one person. However, this is when my memories started coming back at an alarming rate, and I realised quite how many times in the space of a decade during my childhood and teenage years, that I encountered boys/men who did things to me that I didn’t fully consent to. It was at this stage, I allowed myself to believe whatever the author told me.


Angela B. Chrysler: You wrote: I have to be honest, the earlier stages of this book completely messed with my head. I have to ask, at what point did the book stop messing with your head? Did it?


Jules Mortimer: As a reader, in the early stages of the book, I was introduced to a variety of people and awful events. It was a lot to take in over a short period of time. If this happened in a fictional book, I would attempt to distance myself from some of the events I was witnessing, but I had a constant reminder in the back of my mind screaming “This is real.” I couldn’t allow myself to experience the book from a distance, because it would feel like I was cheating the author in some way, by not feeling the full force of what was described. As the story progressed, I no longer had a choice in this, and became very much a part of the author’s world, as certain events within the book started triggering memories of childhood events I hadn’t thought about for many years.

I wouldn’t say this book ever fully stopped messing with my head, but it was probably about half way through the book when I started to feel more in control again. Elizabeth was becoming older and in some ways stronger, and my own mind had stopped surprising me with old memories I had forgotten about.
 
Angela B. Chrysler:  Is there any particular part that stayed with you more than ever? The events, feelings, your own memories?

Jules Mortimer: I would say parts 1 and 2 have probably stayed with me the most. There is a lot of shocking information given in these parts. It is during these parts that I questioned the author’s honesty and my own emotional state and sanity, as taking in that many awful events was overwhelming.
 
A specific scene which is still quite strong in my mind, is when Elizabeth is locked in her bedroom, with her half-brother, Shaun yelling at her from the other side of the door. Just thinking about that gets my heart going. I felt so trapped while reading it, and angry that ‘home’ wasn’t a safe place for Elizabeth. No matter whatever happened to me as a child, I always knew home was a safe place I could escape to.
 
Angela B. Chrysler:  Was there a particular scene you “enjoyed” —such a weird word for this book—more than others?

Jules Mortimer: I can give you the exact sentence in answer to this question.

“Hosea has requested to be your friend.”
 
Angela B. Chrysler:  I can’t read this without smiling.

Jules Mortimer: That was a defining moment in the book for me. I was devastated when their friendship ended, and with the way it had ended. I needed answers. I was so relieved when he chose to connect with Elizabeth again.

Also, another part of the book I enjoyed, was the bond between Elizabeth and her pet cats over the years. Now, if I’m being honest, I’m really not a cat person. They make me sneeze and the neighbours cats torment my dogs and poo on my vegetable patch. Although, I did see a video today of cats being scared of cucumbers, so perhaps the solution is to grow cucumbers next year …all over my garden, ha ha. The bond between Elizabeth and her cats really touched me, and reminded me of my childhood pet dog, Sheba. We adopted her when I was 2 years old. I actually remember the day we picked her up from a farm. It’s one of my earliest memories. She lived until I was 17. I have so many happy memories of affection and adventures with her, and she was there for me when I was being bullied at primary school. She let me cry on her and calmed me down, bless her. I still miss her to this day.
 
Angela B. Chrysler:  Would you consider the ending a happy one?

Jules Mortimer: I liked that there was an option quite far into the book, to close the book there and believe in a happy ending. That was actually quite tempting.
 
Angela B. Chrysler:  I found your response to this quite interesting. To review
 
I should end the story here.
If this were a romance, the story would end here. Part of me wants to end the story here. To send you on your way and tell you that you have your biography, now get out. You’ll hear no more from me. That is how I should end this. Right now, with Hosea and I making love in December rain.
That is how it would have ended if…
Maybe I’ll give you a choice. If you want your happy ending, close the book and stop reading right now. Consider the story over and we lived happily ever after in New York. And I never went to Ireland. I never had a problem that was too great that Hosea couldn’t fix.
Close the book here and pretend I was never broken.
I added this to the story, at the end of Chapter 36 for only one reason. I had always imagined writing my love story out as a novel. There is so much about Hosea that I don’t disclose to readers. How he was beating himself, strangled and almost killed by his mother and father… how he was starved almost to death most of his life. During summer vacations, he would go the whole summer without food. When Hosea saw that I was abused, he related and loved me. More than ever, he became my light in his hell as he was mine.
 
When we finally came together… it was like a fairy tale and I thought our story was done. But when I had my affairs, he and I kissed that fairy tale goodbye. And I hated myself for what I was and what I did to my perfect love. When I wrote Broken, that moment we made love in December rain, I wanted so badly for the story to end there. As I wrote, “This is where the story would have ended if…” That is where the story should have ended. But I could not lie. I had to tell the rest of our story.
 
Adding this option allowed me a moment to pretend he and I did live happily ever after. I never would have imagined the readers to love this as much as they did. And many other readers have commented on this section.
 
Jules Mortimer: I wouldn’t have felt comfortable if the book finished just before the epilogue, as it sort of left me with a lonely and deflated feeling. I definitely needed the epilogue to feel content with the ending.
 
Angela B. Chrysler: Which part/scene was hardest for you to read?

Jules Mortimer: I think most of the sexual scenes were rather hard to digest, and were read with a mixture of fear and anxiety for Elizabeth, and disgust and anger at the men.
 
Angela B. Chrysler: What does the character “Raven” represent to you?

Jules Mortimer: I was unsure about Raven. Sometimes I found it hard to work out which characters were real, and which weren’t, so although Raven seemed to be a positive character for Elizabeth, giving her hope and taking her away from the terrible situations and memories, I didn’t want her to focus on Raven, and just wanted her to be happy with Hosea. Once the book was nearing the end, I needed Elizabeth to stay grounded, and prove to me that she was going to be okay.
 
Angela B. Chrysler: In so many ways, this response fascinates me. I wanted readers to come with me to the other side. I wanted them to question reality alongside me. I wanted them to look at each character and wonder, which side is real again? What does the character “Ian” represent to you?”

Jules Mortimer: Aah, bless, Ian. I liked Ian. He reminded me of Bergen (someone I encountered on Matthew Harrill’s author event on Facebook). I thought Bergen was real at first. Somewhat like I thought Ian was real at first. They both shared the same cheekiness. Ian felt like a ‘light’, a ‘guardian’ within this book. For me, he represented reassurance. I felt a little safer when he popped up within the book.
 
Angela B. Chrysler: *Laughing* Very perceptive! Ian is Bergen. Half way through writing Dolor and Shadow, Bergen’s character became clearer and clearer until I could see him standing beside me, until he was as real as Erik, Angel, and Raven. When I wrote Broken, I had to rename all the characters to disguise their identity. Due to the severity of my dissociation, I renamed Bergen to protect his identity. Oh yeah. I was that far gone. Bergen was named for C.L. Schneider’s character Ian Troy from The Crown of Stones. Her Ian reminds me of my Bergen. What does the character “Erik” represent to you?

Jules Mortimer: For quite a while I thought Erik was real. I thought he was going to end up being the ‘nice’ boyfriend Elizabeth needed. He seemed to just disappear. I thought about this later in the book. Where did Erik go? Was he even real? He was someone I needed to be real.
 
Angela B. Chrysler: Erik did just disappear. One day when I was seventeen, I suddenly realized Erik had gone. Hosea had replaced him. As my therapy developed, I learned that 12-year-old Hosea was as idealized as Erik and they were one in the same. What does the character “Angel” represent to you?

Jules Mortimer: Angel. Hmm, was she another aspect of Elizabeth’s actual personality? She felt like the typical female best friend. The one that mostly agrees with you, but is also the voice of reason when needed.
 
Angela B. Chrysler: Angel, simply put, is my ID. She is still very real and represents my emotions: fear, anger, and sadness. She speaks for the emotions I have suppressed. Imagine Inside Out, which speaks so deeply to me in so many ways. I have Rape Island (fear), Abuse/Torture Island (fear), Cat Island (joy), Hosea Island (joy), I have no Family Island… until now. The majority of my “memories” are fear based who runs my console. I have no sadness and am very confused over this emotion. What does the character “William” represent to you?

Jules Mortimer: Oh, William! The witness. The counsellor that sits there listening and taking in every word. The one responsible for sharing deep secrets with the world. William was the sanity on occasions when there appeared to be none. As a reader, I needed William there. William was the character that always remained calm and grounded no matter what happened. I’m not sure how I would have felt reading this book without William. I guess I would have clung onto Ian a little more. I was very surprised when I discovered who William actually was!
 
Angela B. Chrysler: So fascinating that you call him the “sanity” of the story. Fascinating! Here’s one I’m dying to ask readers… Do you ever see yourself re-reading this book again?

Jules Mortimer: I hardly ever re-read books, due to having so many books to read. However, I do think it would be an interesting book to read again. Mainly, because this book was tied up with a lot of my own memories and emotions appearing unexpectedly. I wouldn’t have that the second time around. I will always remember this book for its emotional intensity, which is something I do not believe I would experience to the same degree if I read it again.

Angela B. Chrysler: Is there anything else you wish to add?
 
Jules Mortimer: I knew this was going to be an emotional and challenging book for me to read, so I wanted to make a little note of how I felt before I began the book. This is it word for word in my little book of scribbled notes:
 
The preface had my heart racing with anxiety. I say this before getting any further. I know this is a book a part of me knows I can live without reading, avoid someone else’s pain and dark past, but another part of me thinks if someone is brave enough to pour their heart out onto paper for others to read, then I’m brave enough to go on that journey with them.
 
Angela B. Chrysler: You are not alone in this. A lot of people have expressed severe anxiety prior to reading this book. I thought it was the blurb. I’m surprised to see it is the Preface and “Who Am I?” that evoked the anxiety. Thank you so much, Jules! I really enjoyed your answers.
Broken

Broken

Finalist for the 2015 Wishing Shelf Awards. Goodreads Reviews "Broken is graphic, shocking, raw, disturbing, intense, appalling, shameful, and so very, very sad." "This story has the complexity of The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy, but written with the flow of Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson." "Your ...

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