I am really happy to be talking today to Viv Brown who lives in Uxbridge, Middlesex, with her husband and two cats. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and a Council member and Fellow of the Society of Women Writers and Journalists
Could you tell us about yourself.
I have been writing short stories for the women’s magazine market (under a different name) for more than twenty years but always knew I wanted to try my hand at novels. So four years ago I gave up my day job (which I loved) working with very young children and their families in children’s centres and libraries, to give myself the time to make a go of it. I love spending time with other writer friends, talking all things fiction over a nice lunch or afternoon tea, and attending the annual Romantic Novelists conference where I can learn and have fun at the same time, although noisy stand-up industry parties have never really appealed. I am a fellow of the Society of Women Writers and Journalists, celebrating its 125th anniversary next year, and I look after their social media presence and administer their writing competitions. Away from writing, I am an avid reader and love tackling tricky cryptic crosswords.
When did you first decide to write and what got you started?
I started with poetry as a teenager, and enjoyed playing with words and making rhythms and rhymes that worked, while also learning how to put emotion onto the page. I then sold my first short story to Woman’s Weekly magazine and won the Mail on Sunday Best Opening to a Novel competition while I was at home bringing up my children. Those small successes gave me the confidence to go on.
Do you plot your stories or do you write and see where it takes you?
I usually start with a vague idea of theme. Maybe loneliness or jealousy or the pain of infertility. Then an opening paragraph pops into my head, and that will introduce me to my main character. From there, I have to learn all about her, and that tends to happen as the story unfolds. So, I know who it is about and what it is about, but the rest evolves over time!
What is the best part about writing, and the worst?
The best part is being able to work from home, the garden, a holiday cottage, or just about anywhere, and to be free to set my own timetable, having days off when I want to, and working manically for hours on end when I need to! Of course, publishers’ deadlines can put paid to all that at times. The worst part has always been the rejections. I have had my fair share of those in the past, which makes finally finding a publisher and seeing my books in print even more wonderful.
Tell us about one of, or your most recent book
My second novel, ‘Five Unforgivable Things’, published by Harper Impulse, came out in e-book on 26 July, with a paperback edition to follow in October. Much of the research and emotion I fed into this one was born out of my own very chequered history when it comes to having babies: years of infertility treatments, tubal surgery, an ectopic pregnancy, five rounds of IVF, frozen embryos that failed to implant, and then finally twins! Here’s a potted summary of the novel:
Almost thirty years ago, Kate’s dream came true. After years of struggling, she was finally pregnant following pioneering IVF. But the dream came at a cost. Neither Kate nor her husband Dan could have known the price they would have to pay to fulfil their cherished wish of having their own family. Now, years later, their daughter Natalie is getting married and is fulfilling her own dream of marrying her childhood sweetheart. Natalie knows she won’t be like most brides as she travels down the aisle in her wheelchair, but it’s the fact her father won’t be there to walk beside her that breaks her heart. Her siblings, Ollie, Beth and Jenny, gather around Natalie, but it isn’t just their father who is missing from their lives… as the secrets that have fractured the family rise to the surface, can they learn to forgive each other before it’s too late?
What are you currently working on? How long before release?
My current work in progress takes place over twenty years and is about two sisters who both love the same man. The story opens at his funeral, but why has he died and what secrets, grudges and misunderstandings are going to be revealed now he’s gone? This one still has a long way to go, so no news of a publication date yet.
What are you currently reading?
I love doing the Goodreads challenge every year, setting myself an annual target of 50 novels to read and review. My tastes vary a lot, from Elaine Everest’s wartime sagas to Clare Mackintosh’s thrillers with their unexpected twists. As I write this, I am just starting on ‘Missing Pieces’ by Laura Pearson and ‘Dear Mrs Bird’ by A J Pearce. I like something with a real emotional pull, an intriguing hook or some light humour, depending on my mood.
Which of your books would you like most to be made into a movie?
One review of my debut novel ‘Lily Alone’ did suggest it would make a good film. It’s about a young woman found unconscious after a road accident and the toddler she has left at home alone – just for a few minutes, but how was she to know she would not be coming back? It certainly has a varied cast of characters of all ages, a recognisable scenario of separated parents and neighbours who hear things but don’t want to get involved, and the emotional tug at the heart strings that mean it could just work on-screen! I do think it would be hard, though, letting someone else’s script and vision turn my story into something I might not recognise or even like!
Any funny cat stories you would like to share? Or for that matter any funny cat photos?
I have two cats called Pixie and Dixie, found abandoned, with two more siblings, when they were tiny kittens and rescued first by Cats Protection, and then by me! Pixie is quite shy and nervous, but Dixie is certainly the more adventurous of the two, making friends with other families down the road, scrabbling up tall fences and roofs without being sure he can get down again, and seeing off feline intruders in ‘his’ garden. But he is also the most affectionate, and often spends time with me in my study, trying to find space on my lap as I type. His favourite pose is flat on his back with his legs in the air and his privates (or what’s left of them after being neutered) on display!
You mention Cyprus on your twitter account, do you like to travel? Where is your favourite holiday destination?
I am not a great traveller and often wish I could just wave a magic wand and find myself there in an instant without all the hanging around at airports and stations. But despite hating long flights I have been to Hong King, Singapore, Thailand, Jamaica and Barbados – all beautiful and fascinating in their own way. I much prefer European destinations though, with all their history and charm, especially Italian cities. Rome, Venice, Florence…all wonderful. My last holiday, in April, was to Cyprus. We went there for my stepdaughter’s wedding, a really romantic and unusual ceremony down near the beach, with the sounds of the waves in the background. Unfortunately, a month after coming home, my husband Paul had a heart attack, followed by open heart surgery, and is still on the long road to recovery, so I don’t think there will be any more trips abroad for quite some time.
You recently announced the arrival of your granddaughter Olivia Alice, congratulations! How many grandchildren do you have?
Olivia is my second, after Penelope Jane Rose (known as Penny), who is now three. When their mum is at work I usually do at least one day of childcare a week, but for now she is still on maternity leave, so I am not needed quite so regularly. We do have some fun times together though, at home, in the garden, and at various swimming pools, theme parks and zoos. Peppa Pig World is our favourite!
Any fun facts about you that you would like to share?
I have a thing for TV quizzes and game shows, watch loads of them and have appeared on three. The first, called Brainteasers, was on Channel 5 many years ago and was broadcast live! I beat the three male contestants and came away with a small cash sum which paid for portable TVs for my daughters’ bedrooms. In the last couple of years I have been on Perfection with Nick Knowles (involving a trip up from my London home to Glasgow) and The Chase with Bradley Walsh. I thoroughly enjoyed both experiences but sadly did not bag the jackpot!
You can find our more about Viv on her WEBSITE and her books on Amazon.
I’m two thirds of the way through Five Unforgiveable Things and can’t put it down. There are so many layers to this family and it is interesting to watch as they peel slowly back to show what is beneath and what makes the characters tick.
Thanks Elaine! I hope you enjoy the final third of the book as much as the first two! I always try to get the ending of a story just right.