- Tell us your biography in three sentences or fewer.
I always wanted to be a writer, but did nothing about it for years Following a stint as a teacher, an MBA and a brief period as a marketing exec at an oil company, I finally accepted the inevitable. I’ve been writing and teaching writing for years now and although I should be good at it, I am very bad at marketing.
How and when did you begin writing, and what was your first published piece?
I always liked writing but apart from a bit of student journalism at Oxford and some horrific teenage poetry, I only wrote in school. Then my dad died just before my thirtieth birthday. He was a gifted painter but gave up exhibiting to support us. It made me realise that life is too short to put things off. My sister, who is also a painter bought me an expensive word processor she couldn’t afford to encourage me. I felt so guilty, I started writing. I sent several of my children’s stories to Barry Cunningham who was starting a new list. He liked them, rang me up to arrange a meeting and commissioned my first children’s book: ‘The Extraordinary Lightening Conductor.’ I was very lucky.
What’s so special about writing speculative fiction?
I’m not sure I know how to write anything else. Even my stories for very young children included a space bug who spoke in nonsense words and an alien who translated them.
My first degree was in philosophy and theology. I’m most interested in ideas and how what people believe constructs their world and the way they live in it. Thinking about how things could be other obliges you to look at how things are now and I think that is really exciting. I love the fact that the only limits on what I can write about lie within my own imagination and my own lack of knowledge, though both are more limiting than I’d like. I love the openness and freedom the genre offers. Starting a new book is jumping into the unknown. It makes writing incredibly special.
What life skills and experiences, other than writing, do you bring to your work?
Um. I like reading. I am good at concentrating and my typing is not as bad as it used to be? I am a strategic thinker, I suppose, logical and inclined to explore an argument to its conclusion. Teaching creative writing has improved my own editing skills I think. I was brought up in Lancashire by Welsh parents and as a bookish girl at a not very bookish comprehensive school, I always felt an outsider. That seems to be quite common in writers. I’ve brought up four children and thus far had a fortunate life and perhaps that makes even my bleak stories optimistic at their core.
Tell us about your most recent publication or current writing project
I have just published my tenth YA novel with Kristell Ink/Grimbold publishing. It’s set in a drowned London after global warming has destroyed our current society. Some people have seen it as dystopian – and everything is broken – but my main character, Ollu, a barger, and her allies Buzz, a genetically engineered boy, and Ratter, an ex slave from the toxic old City, don’t see their world that way. It’s an old fashioned adventure story with positive messages about the value of friendship, courage and sticking to your guns when everyone is trying to take them off you. The critic Amanda Craig, described it as a terrific, watery Mad Max adventure and that’s pretty well what it is. It was fun to write.
I haven’t done a story with magic for a while so I’m currently working out the details of my secondary world for another portal fantasy. This one is also about families and fate – finding one and escaping the other – but I’m only a quarter way through so the details are still a little unclear. It feels like it could be good though.
N M Browne has published ten YA novels.She has been twice nominated for the Carnegie medal and translated into Italian, Spanish, Dutch, and German. She has published eight books for young children as ‘Nicola Matthews’ and has had poetry published in a number of literary magazines as ‘Nick Browne’ and is working on a debut collection. She acts as a manuscript doctor and writing mentor and is currently teaching for Oxford University Continuing Education department as ‘Dr Nicky Browne.’ Apart from these multiple identity issues, she lives an unremarkable life in SW London with her husband and whichever of her four children needs a bed.