Wednesday 7 December 2016

A Conversation with Denny Brown

Denise Brown was originally an Essex girl and is now settled in Dumfries & Galloway. Denise pursued her dreams of being a writer after a friend recommended she read JK Rowling’s Harvard commencement speech on the ‘Benefits of Failure’. She studied Advanced Creative Writing with the OU, balancing writing with a full-time job and being mum to five beautiful children. In 2014, Devil on Your Back, her gritty YA novella set in inner-city Britain, was published in ebook format by Salt Publishing. She has since had short stories published in Rattle Tales Anthology 4 and various online magazines, and was long-listed for the Mslexia novel competition with the first draft of an unpublished novel.

Denise writes about things that disturb her. She once lived on a dismal estate similar to that featured in the forthcoming I am Winter, and made bearable only by the surreal effect of being surrounded by woods. It was the lack of hope in the faces of the local teenagers that were the inspiration for her novel.

One day she wants to live in either a book shop or Hogwarts, with a Rottweiler and the complete works of Thomas Hardy. 

Tell us of your journey as a writer

I think it all began with my dad. We used to go to the library together every three weeks when I was a teenager. I loved books. I always wanted to write but never considered it as a possible career so I left school, worked in a bank, got married and had lots of babies. It wasn’t until my youngest daughters were growing up that I decided to take the plunge and study (Advanced) Creative Writing with the OU. I was instantly addicted and started entering short story competitions – I won the first competition I entered which was a tremendous ego boost – and worked my way up to writing my first novella which was based on a short story submitted for one of my course assignments. When I saw Salt’s call for submissions for their Modern Dreams series I sent them my novella Devil on Your Back and three weeks later signed a contract with them. Seeing my photo on Salt’s website as one of their authors was so exciting! Since then I have continued working on several novels, been long-listed for the Mslexia novel competition and recently signed a contract with Cranachan Publishing so it is a very exciting time for me.

How do you see your role as a writer and what do you like most about it?

I see myself as a crazy woman with lots of people living inside my head. No seriously, what I love most about writing is having a character that might begin as simply a face with a few freckles across the nose, and watching them develop into someone with history and passion, with likes and dislikes and family and friends, and a story to tell.

Have you ever created a character who you dislike but find yourself empathising with?

Yes all the time! I think we all have the potential for good and evil; it is life that moulds us into the people we ultimately become, and it is the situations that people find themselves in and the way that they deal with them,that I tend to write about. Things that sadden or disturb me.

What has been your experience of writing about diverse characters?

We all know or have encountered a plethora of diverse characters in real life; it would feel unnatural to not carry this knowledge across into my writing.

If you could be transported instantly, anywhere in the world, where would you most like to spend your time writing? And why?

At home – I am exactly where I want to be because home is where my family is.

What is the one book you wish you had written?

The Secret History by Donna Tartt – thanks to my son Dan who gave me a copy for my birthday. It gets under your skin, slowly, subtly, unnoticeably at first, and then you feel as though you’ve become embroiled in a world so sinister and disturbing it cannot fail to go horribly wrong. Immaculate writing and utterly un-put-down-able.

What advice do you have for would be novelists/writers?

Read, write, persevere, don’t give up. My first novel was attempted during Nanowrimo. I say ‘attempted’ because even though I completed the novel in the month, it wasn’t until I read it back that I realised how mind-numbingly awful it was. And still is. It’s unsalvageable but it proved to me that I could write a novel.

What are you currently working on? What can we look forward to reading?

I am Winter will be published late 2017 by Cranachan Publishing. It is a contemporary coming-of-age novel about Summer, a teenager whose mother’s tempestuous relationships leave her feeling unloved and abandoned until she discovers a bear-dog living in the local woods. I feel incredibly lucky to be working with Cranchan’s Helen and Anne to tell Summer’s story, as they share the same passions as myself about the novel.

Who is your favourite literary character from childhood and why?

I’m not sure I have a favourite character from childhood. When I was fifteen I read Forever Amber and Amber St Clare remains to this day the character from a novel I would most like to be.

I am Winter is published by Cranachan Publishing

Follow Denise on Twitter @DeniseBrownUK

1 comment:

Barbara said...

I loved reading about Denise! As a fellow Cranachan author, I can't wait to meet her. Like her, I also won the first short story competition I entered. By now I have entered countless others, with few other wins, but like Denise, that first one made me feel I should keep going. So interesting to read this interview.