Book review: TaintedComment on this story
Described as a re-imagining of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the novel Broken, written by AE Rought, has been optioned for a TV series by ABC Family. But Rought has been busy, and November saw the release of Broken’s sequel, Tainted, in which Alex Franks has to deal with the consequences of his evil scientist father’s actions in bringing him back from the dead – at a high cost.
When Rought decided which Gothic horror she wanted to re-imagine, she never intended for it to be a mere retelling. She says: “I pored over Frankenstein, the mythos as seen by others, the wiki pages, movies, and so on.
“Moments and traits stood out, and I wrote them down. Then I turned them, twisted them, found a way to use them that fit my characters.”
Many of the characters in Tainted are motivated by selfish-ness in their actions, putting their own desires before the good of others.
Rought explains: “For me, that selfishness harkens back to my take on Shelley’s Frankenstein. Victor was so bent on creating life; whether he should or shouldn’t didn’t enter the equation. It was all him, his wants, achieving his goal. I used a reflection of that to taint the Franks men.
“Also, I believe we’re products of our environment, and Alex has a dark, dark shadow to climb out from. His father, in some ways likened to Shelley’s modern Prometheus, had been grooming Alex his whole life.
“The changes made in him before the series opens set him on a path to traversing from selfishness to nobility and sacrifice.”
Of course, in a tale where morality isn’t always black and white, it helps to have a villain to surpass expectations, and this is provided in the form of Alex’s ultimately creepy ex-girlfriend, Hailey Westmore.
“Hailey was a blast to write,” says Rought. “I think her intelli-gence and deviousness were the most fun.
“I even interviewed the local chief of police, to fully understand how she could get away with what she did. Even if every little detail didn’t make it into the book, they live in a notebook on my desk.”
Another aspect of Tainted that quickly becomes clear is that Alex’s ability to solve his problems is paralysed by his over-reliance on others, such as his mentor Paul, at the laboratory on which he relies for his weekly “fixes”.
And it’s understandable, that after all that he’s been through, he just wants to live a normal life – but that’s not to be.
Rought elaborates: “I purposefully tied Alex’s hands when I plotted the novel. It wasn’t believable to me that an 18-year-old boy be put in charge of everything. He’s smart and wealthy, but he is still a teen.
“I also use this to show that outside a book’s pages, in the real world, teens have rules to follow, protocols they can’t escape. Those fetters can cut and chafe when teens are going through growing pains, trying to find their place in the world.”
As for what she loves the most about her genre, Rought says: “I once told my agent I wanted to write a light, happy contemporary romance. She sniggered a bit, and replied: ‘Oh, honey. You’re dark.’ She’s right. I’m not happy as an author unless I’m making my characters miserable, the evil is real, and there’s a little ‘more’ to the story. How can I break their hearts? How can I inflict pain?
“For Broken and Tainted, the Gothic horrors provide so many avenues to explore when it comes to character torture.”
Tainted finishes with loose ends, but Rought at present has no plans for continuing her characters’ story.
The author concludes: “I left the ending as open as I did because life isn’t tidy, everything doesn’t end when you’re finally with the right person, have the right job, and so on. “Events still unfold, a deeper dark can still lurk in the shadows.”