IT was a dark chapter in her life which turned Mandasue Heller into an author.

The Warrington-born bestselling novelist was left with scars – both physical and psychological – when a man broke into her house while she was asleep with her 10-week-old son in her arms.

She was left with a fractured skull after being attacked with a claw-hammer and although she fully recovered the trauma ‘shadowed everything’ in her life.

Then the former Penketh High School student revisited the incident in an unusual way when she fell ill and was rushed to hospital years later.

Mandasue said: “I was misdiagnosed and told I was having stress related migraines. So I thought I was a hypochondriac and left it for a year but it turned out I had a tumour behind my eye.

“I was rushed into hospital for a massive operation and I couldn’t get out of bed for weeks so I decided to write about a very traumatic experience I’d had while living in Hulme Crescents.

“I had insomnia and it was because of that experience. Even though it had happened years before it had shadowed everything in my life.

Warrington Guardian:

“I was attacked by a man with a hammer while I was asleep with my baby. I couldn’t sleep because I was constantly worried somebody was going to break in.

“So I decided I had to write what happened down because people say it’s therapeutic – and it was.”

Mandasue used her time in hospital to do just that on a word processor bought for her by her mum Jean.

She added: “It was very emotional but it did release a lot of its hold on me. It kind of puts your thoughts in order because it’s just there and jumps out at you in every situation.

“I didn’t want anybody to see that because it was too personal but I enjoyed writing so I decided I wanted to write about the Crescents because it was so crazy there.”

That led to her first published novel, The Front.

Mandasue said: “I decided to use the place but create my own characters so that’s how I wrote my first book and got my publishing deal.”

Rewind back to her Warrington childhood and Mandasue’s career writing books never seemed on the cards.

She had stars in her eyes from a young age as her glamorous mum was an actress and comedian and she wanted to follow in her footsteps.

Mandasue added: “My mum had a lot of showbiz friends so I would grow up with people like Acker Bilk and Kenny Ball who would often stay with us. I had that right from the beginning, the showbiz link.

“But I used to be extremely shy so I’d sing to myself in my bedroom before mum eventually persuaded me to go on stage.

“My favourite place was the Co-op Hall. I used to go there because my mum was in the adult drama group and I was in the junior one so we used to do all the pantos.

Warrington Guardian:

Mandasue's mum Jean, left, was in the female comedy duo Wanda and Starr

“I was in the Warrington Guardian years ago as Cinderella and my nana saved the cutting which I’ve now got.

“My two favourite performers were Barbara Streisand and Elvis and then I got into Northern Soul which was another reason I loved the Co-op Hall as we used to have the Northern Soul discos every week.”

Mandasue’s career went from there so before writing 18 crime thrillers she toured with her mum in the country and western band, Missouri Sunshine.

During this time time she also appeared on the likes of Coronation Street and Brookside.

Mandasue, who lived in Warrington until she was 20, also found her love of writing from her mum Jean.

Mandasue said: “She had an old Royal typewriter – one of the really heavy manual ones. At that point we didn’t have much money and we had this really horrible shed outside.

“But it had a table and a chair and I loved typing there. I taught myself on this typewriter by copying my mum’s books and thought I would be a secretary when I grew up because I loved typing so much. I turned that shed into my office.

“Then I started to type my own poems and I turned them into lyrics in later years.”

Writing and stories always came natural to her.

The mum-of-three added: “I’ve always have stuff going on in my head. I can sit and stare at a brick wall and see things.

“It was always a natural thing but I didn’t think I’d become a published writer. That never came into the equation. It was always about the music at first.”

Now it is the other way around – the author has hung up her mic to put the books first – but music is still part of her life thanks to her musician partner Wingrove Ward, who she records albums with.

She said: “What we tend to do is he composes an album’s worth of music while I write a book and then when I finish the book I go and write a song and we’ll record it that night and so on.

“We’ve not done anything for the past three years as I was looking after my mum when she had cancer.

“The last one we did was a jazz blues album but there is stuff waiting for me to do when I do get a chance.”

Mandasue has also been keen to return to the live scene, particularly as her daughter Azzura is now a singer as well, but it has never quite worked out.

She added: “We were going to get another band together at one point but then we got burgled which took me straight back to the vulnerability of that attack.

“I’m not sure I’d want to go travelling around the country again. It’s very intensive but I do like recording and we have karaoke parties at my daughter’s house which kind of satisfies the need.”

Meanwhile, Mandasue will be giving a talk at Orford Jubilee Neighbourhood Hub tonight, Thursday, from 6.30pm.

She said: “I do quite a lot in Warrington in terms of book talks and I still have friends there.

“I went back to my old primary school with my sister a few years ago and just saw how tiny it was. It always seems so big when you’re there.

“That was Penketh Primary and my mum taught at the infants’ school across the backfield from me so that was nice.”

As a nod to Mandasue’s former life as a performer, she is known to sing from time-to-time at her talks.

She added: “It just depends how the mood takes me and if somebody asks me to do it…”

Tickets to Mandasue Heller's talk at Orford Jubilee Hub cost £3 and include refreshments. They are available at any of Warrington’s libraries.