Afternoon lovelies! Hope you’re all safe and well. Today I have another fabulous Meet the Author interview for you. I’m talking to the lovely Vivien Brown about unicorns with rainbow hair, IVF, family, writing pressures, being able to live on no sleep and her most recent book, No Sister of Mine…..
Women’s fiction/Domestic drama
Tell us a bit about yourself:
I started my writing career as Vivien Hampshire, selling short stories to the women’s magazines. 150 published stories later and having joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association, I am now concentrating on writing novels full-time. I live on the outskirts of London with my husband and cats, and love spending time with my two adorable grandchildren. When I am not writing I enjoy solving and compiling cryptic crosswords, reading at least one book a week, and watching TV quizzes, soaps and dramas.
What inspired you to start writing and where do you get your ideas?
Writing is something I have always done. English was my favourite school subject. From poetry and diaries in my teens to short stories and articles later on, putting words on paper – the right words! – has always felt magical, and in many ways cathartic too. I have taken so much from reading, picking up tips as I go, on how best to structure a story, add emotion, deliver the perfect ending etc. Mixing with other writers, sharing information and feedback helps enormously in terms of encouragement and knowing I am not alone. Ideas… well, they are everywhere. The news, my own experience, family and relationships, TV shows. There are more ideas than I can ever find time to write about!
How long does it take you to write a book?
The first book always provides that luxury of time. There is no contract, no deadline, and you can take as long as you like to work on improving it. Once there is a publisher involved everything changes! I am certainly encouraged to produce a book a year, and I know some successful writers whose publishers want two. Generally, for me, the thinking and plotting stage takes the longest with the least obvious progress made, as not many words hit the page at this point. Then the actual writing probably takes six months or so, for a 100,000 word novel, followed by several rounds of editing before a cover is produced and promotion begins. I didn’t have a book out in 2019 but there will be two this year, so I am catching up!
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I never had a life plan or any big career dreams. I only wish I had! My dad was unwell and I left school mid-A levels, so I didn’t go to university, but nobody in our family did so that didn’t feel like any great loss at the time. I fell into a job in a bank by accident really, and then moved into local government as an accountancy assistant. It was only later that I realised my heart belonged in words, not numbers, so I started to write and submit my work in my spare time. Looking back, I wish I had realised that writing could actually be a career, and taken it seriously much sooner.
What’s your favourite film of all time and why?
This may seem a strange choice as it’s not a big blockbuster, but I love Sense and Sensibility, adapted for the screen by Emma Thompson in 1995. I have watched it many times, and the cast is exactly right – the young Hugh Grant bumbling along as Edward, Greg Wise, Kate Winslet, the wonderful Alan Rickman, and Emma herself holding it all together as Elinor. Of course, the story is a Jane Austen classic, so plot and characters are just perfect, but there’s a moment where Elinor realises that Edward is not lost to her after all, that makes me cry every single time, and that is purely down to Emma Thompson!
If you were given a boat, what would you name it and why?
I would call it Lily Alone. That was the name of my first novel as Vivien Brown, so it would be a tribute to that milestone in my life. In the book, little Lily has been left at home alone, and is adrift just as a boat might be in a storm, at the mercy of the tides, the crew, and the weather! It’s up to the grown-ups to sort out their problems and bring her back to safety.
What is the best thing you’ve done in your life so far?
Going through IVF five times was the most emotional, costly, risky, traumatic, painful and ultimately rewarding thing I have ever done. Nobody who hasn’t been there can really imagine the rollercoaster it puts you through, especially when it fails over and over again. I ended up with healthy twins, but I knew many women who went through it a dozen times or more and never succeeded. Thanks to IVF, I got myself a family.
If you could have a superpower, what would it be and why?
I hate heights so it certainly wouldn’t be the ability to fly or to scale high buildings. Being able to read other people’s minds and thoughts would be fascinating but I fear I could find out things I’d rather not know. It may not be a recognised superpower, but being able to stay alert and healthy on no sleep might be a good one. It would add 8 hours to every day, so effectively increase my lifespan by a third. More writing time!
You win a million pounds – you give half to charity. Which charity do you pick and why? What would you do with the rest of the money?
I do give small regular amounts to various animal charities, supporting cats, donkeys and elephants, but if I had a huge donation to make I think it would have to go towards research to help save/cure humans from disease. Either the British Heart Foundation (my dad and husband suffered heart attacks) or a breast cancer charity, as that horrible illness has affected so many family and friends. My half of the money would probably go towards home improvements or moving house, a new car, plus some help for my daughters with their mortgages. A world cruise? No, not for me!
If you could be, or meet, any mythical creature, what would you choose and why?
A white unicorn with rainbow hair please! If only for the look on my granddaughters’ faces when I took it home.
What is something you can’t live without?
Chocolate. Yes, I know it’s fattening and rots your teeth, but it is the most enjoyable, tasty and addictive substance in my life. Chocolate makes me feel good. Dark or milk, on its own or on a biscuit, in a cake, or packed with nuts, I love it all. Several times a day, and if I had to choose just one food to live on forever, chocolate would be it. Just not white chocolate, which really isn’t proper chocolate at all.
Do you feel it’s more important to have a) strong characters b) a mind-blowing plot or c) amazing settings?
Character is all. Yes, they need a storyline. Something has to happen, but how the events change the person is what makes the story. I learned that from years of writing for women’s magazines. You don’t need car chases, espionage, murders, to make a story. Family dynamics, emotional situations and relationship ups and downs work for me, as long as the characters feel real and the reader cares about them. I give very little thought to setting, other than which town it all takes place in, and very often that’s a made-up place anyway.
What is your favourite time to write, and why?
For years, I wrote after 9pm, when I was home from the day job, meal made and eaten, kids in bed. Often that meant being up until midnight or beyond. I was younger than and it was the only way to fit writing into my life. Now I can write when I like, so it varies a lot, depending on the diary, the weather and the mood. But I do try to get at least a few words down every day, and that speeds up a lot as a book nears its end. Night writing is a thing of the past though.
What is your favourite word and why?
Discombobulated. That’s a great word! It actually sounds like someone in a bit of a tizz, which we writers often are when too many tasks are piling up all at once.
Your books revolve around complicated family relationships. Which do you think provides the most fuel for fiction?
I have written about the mother/child relationship, from abandonment and adoption to unconditional love, and about sibling rivalry and (of course) marriage, but the relationship with most potential for distrust, fear and getting things wrong is that between step parent and step child. Imagine loving someone enough to marry them but having to also take on their children – often resentful, upset at the absence or death of the real parent or being fed lies by them, and shouting the almost inevitable ‘You can’t tell me what to do. You’re not my real mum.’ Can you love that child as if it was your own? It’s a theme I have touched upon in Five Unforgivable Things, my second novel, and one I may well come back to at some point.
And finally, tell us about your most recent book and where we can find it?
No Sister of Mine is published by One More Chapter in both ebook and paperback.
Two sisters. They couldn’t be more different. Eve, the mature and sensible one. Sarah, headstrong and eager for a taste of life. When Eve brings a new face home for the holidays, Sarah does something that will change both of their lives forever. Something that Eve can never forget – or forgive. But life won’t keep them apart forever and decades later, one of them will have to choose whether to put the past behind her, or to hold on to hate forever…
Where to buy: Amazon
final words from chelle…
What a fantastic interview! Thank you so much Vivien! I always love to learn lots about authors and this is brilliant – there is so much to learn about you. I’m so glad that you got the family you desired after five rounds of IVF – I looked in to it (as I can’t have children) and it looks gruelling. I absolutely love a strong character in a book; and love that you’d want to meet a unicorn with rainbow hair!!
if you have any questions/comments for Vivien, then give her a shout!
Have a lovely evening all