Today’s interesting interview comes from author Helen Brown, author of Cleo The Cat Who Mended a Family and her most recent book Cats and Daughters. After laughing and crying with Helen throughout her memoir Cleo I was intrigued by her storytelling abilities as well as her life story. Brown was able to elegantly weave her story of grief with Cleo’s love of life. I want to thank Helen for taking the time to answer these questions. Please be sure to like Helen Brown’s Facebook Page and also Follow her on Twitter!
When did you decide you wanted to become a writer?
My mother said I couldn’t have sex before I got married. She also insisted I couldn’t get married until I had some sort of career training. I really wanted to be an artist, but the art course took four years. The journalism course was just one year. For a sex crazed 17 year old it was a no brainer.
What was your first story about?
The first creative writing I benefited financially from was to our local traffic department. When they gave me a ticket for parking illegally outside a pharmacy I wrote in saying I’d been forced to park there due to the sudden, unexpected arrival of a monthly occurrence in a woman’s life. They let me off and saved me $60.
Where do you draw your inspiration?
Inspiration comes from chewing gum on the pavement of everyday life. Family, friends; sorrow, joy and beauty.
What is your favorite thing about writing?
Writing has brought wonderful friends into my life. I treasure the relationship I have with some readers. They’ve comforted me through tough times. In return I hope I’ve done something to help them.
How did you feel after your first rejection letter?
As for my first rejection letter, I was naïve enough to believe the editor who said he enjoyed my story but unfortunately didn’t have enough space for it. By the time I received my 25th rejection letter I was seasoned enough to feel gutted.
You were brought up with a journalistic background. How do you feel this has affected your writing?
Having a mother for a journalist meant I didn’t romanticize the trade. I approach writing as a craft. I’m highly self-critical and hate reading anything I wrote last year, or 10 years ago. Every sentence can be improved.
Your book Cleo documents a very personal time in your life. Why did you decide to allow the general public to get such an in-depth look at your life?
I wrote Cleo with a view to providing hope and comfort to others who had lost a child or were undergoing trauma of some other kind. To do that, I had to be open about what we’d been through. Fortunately, my husband and children were very understanding – though none of us dreamt the book would become an international best seller.
What was your approach to writing Cleo and Cats and Daughters?
With both Cleo and Cats and Daughters, I wanted to share our family story and honour the animals in our lives.
What do you hope your audience can get from reading these books?
I like to think there’s room for tears and laughter in both books. They take the reader on emotional journeys that ultimately end happily. I hope the books encourage people to feel more resilient, optimistic and worthy of love.
What are your thoughts on epublishing versus traditional publishing?
I don’t mind how people read my books – on paper or on screen. As long as they enjoy the stories.
Would you now consider yourself more of a cat person than a dog person?
As an animal lover in general, it’s hard for me to say I definitely prefer cats to dogs. Our golden retriever Rata was like another mother to our two sons.
On the other hand, I owe a debt of gratitude to cats. Not only did they see our family through difficult times, the success of Cleo and Cats and Daughters has changed my life. When I meet a cat out on a walk I always stop and say thank you. Yes, I’m a cat person.
Do you have any new projects that you are working on?
I’ve started writing fiction – loving the freedom of it.
Do you have any advice for writers-to-be?
If you’re an aspiring writer:
- Buy a large tube of glue
- Apply it to your backside.
- Sit down and write.
And don’t be disheartened by rejection. The editor probably genuinely doesn’t have enough space.
Thank you again Helen Brown for the interview! You can keep up-to-date with Helen on her website.
Be sure to read our other interesting interviews!