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  • Lynne Shelby

How Family Feeds My Fiction - Vivien Brown - This Writing Life #16

Today, I'm delighted to welcome Vivien Brown to my blog, with a fab guest post.

Over to Vivien …

How Family Feeds My Fiction

Vivien Brown

Since giving up the day job and becoming a full-time writer, it’s been hard to separate the two halves of my life – family and work. After all, they exist side by side under the same roof. My ‘office’ is a bedroom upstairs, my ‘works canteen’ is my home kitchen, and a call arriving on the phone on my desk is just as likely to be from a friend or relative as it is a writing contact. It’s a fuzzy line (and I don’t mean the phone connection!) which is only too easy to cross when I move away from my laptop and within a few yards find myself in front of the TV, getting distracted by a crossword or newspaper, or popping the laundry into the machine. But, on the plus side, I don’t have to ask a boss for time off or have a daily commute to worry about. I can even work in my pyjamas if I choose to!

They say you can only really write well about what you know. I don’t fully support that theory, as research and imagination can always fill in the blanks. Still, even before I was surrounded by it 24 hours a day, what I know best is family life, and that’s why I write about domestic themes and the drama that goes on, often unseen, within the walls of ordinary homes.

In my first novel, ‘Lily Alone’, I explored the mother/child relationship in its many incarnations – a lonely elderly woman estranged from her son; a young single mum who grew up in care because her mother was an alcoholic and is now struggling to cope with a toddler of her own; a middle-aged widow still wondering about the child she gave up for adoption forty years earlier; and a career girl about to get married but not sure she is ready to take on a step-child.

In ‘Five Unforgivable Things’, I looked at what it felt like not to be able to hold that precious longed-for baby. I wrote about infertility and IVF, miscarriage and still birth, and their lasting effects, not only on the would-be parents but the wider family network. It’s the story of a long marriage too, from young love through heartbreak and betrayal to the brink of divorce. I have experienced many of those things myself, and although it is not my story, a lot of the background, and the emotion, came from real life.

And now there’s ‘No Sister of Mine’, a novel about two sisters, very close as children, yet very different in temperament and ambitions, and of the man who tears them apart. My family is packed with sisters. My mum, myself, my daughters, and my granddaughters, all grew up in two-girl households. No brothers at all. So, of course I know about sisters – the closeness, the rivalries, the fallings-out, maybe even the revenge – and that’s why I just had to bring their story to the page!

Thank you, Vivien, for such an interesting post about your writing life.


The gripping and emotional page-turner from the author of Lily Alone.

Two sisters, both emerging into womanhood, but they couldn’t be more different; Eve, the mature and sensible one. Sarah, headstrong and eager for a taste of life.

Eve is struggling to recover from a bad experience with a boy at a party and embarks on university life determined that nothing like that will happen to her again.

Sarah can’t wait to grow up, she’s sick of Eve’s lectures and is determined to make a grab at life despite being barely out of school.

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…

If you would like to purchase No Sister of Mine, please click on the following link or copy and past into your browser:

Amazon link:


Originally trained in finance and banking, but more recently working with young children and their families in libraries and children’s centres, Vivien started her writing career, using her then name of Vivien Hampshire, with a 150-word paragraph that won the Mail on Sunday ‘Best Opening to a Novel’ competition in 1993. Since then she has sold more than 140 short stories to UK women’s magazines and 250 articles about working with children to professional nursery and childcare magazines, and has had two novels and a pocket novel published as Vivien Hampshire, along with a book about how to ‘crack’ cryptic crosswords.

As Vivien Brown, she has two women’s contemporary novels, ‘Lily Alone’ and ‘Five Unforgivable Things’ published by Harper Impulse in e-book and paperback, while her third, ‘No Sister of Mine’ is being published by One More Chapter in January 2020. Vivien lives in Middlesex with her husband and two cats. She has IVF twin daughters, now grown-up, and two young granddaughters who keep her busy and entertained. When not writing she loves reading, watching TV quizzes, hospital and period dramas (Holby City, Call the Midwife and Poldark are her favourites) and tackling and compiling tricky crosswords. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and a fellow of the Society of Women Writers and Journalists (SWWJ).

To find out more about Viven and her writing or follow her on social media, please click on the following links or copy and paste into your browser:




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