Meet Junto: L.M. Brown, Literature Editor

Hi there, my name is Lorna Brown, but I write under L.M Brown. I am delighted to be part of the Junto team. I grew up in Ireland but now live in Massachusetts with my husband and three daughters. I met my husband in Japan and we were together a few years when I asked him if he could agree with me not working, but writing full time for a year. I said that I’d write a bestseller and then he could take time off, and he said why not. It didn’t quite work out that way, but three daughters later, a master’s degree in Creative writing and many years of practice, I’ve published Debris, got a short story collection forthcoming and have an agent for my latest novel. It just took twelve years instead of one. Thankfully, I have the most supportive husband possible.

I don’t remember any specific moment that sparked my desire to write or any time when I didn’t want to. We didn’t have many YA or classic books around her house growing up. I’d read everything I could get my hands on from cornflakes boxes to our neighbor’s Mills and Boons. I remember being in my cousins and everyone playing, while I hid upstairs and read their comics, and it might have been moments like that that made me want to write; the idea that it was possible to disappear in the page and the pure delight in finding words to read.

I started to write my first book when I was twelve. It was a story was about an orphan and as I was writing I realized I knew very little of the world. From this stemmed my desire to travel. When I was finally setting off after college and working for two years to pay off loans and save, I asked my Dad if he remembered me talking about traveling. He said he didn’t remember a time that I didn’t. I had a one way ticket from Ireland to Australia and I said I’d see my family in five years. My mother didn’t believe I’d be gone that long. My father did. I spent a year in Australia, three months working on farms and hitching around New Zealand and was in Japan a year when I felt I needed to go home. A friend picked me up from Dublin airport and I surprised my family. I stayed for seven days. My younger brother was in England playing music, and my older sister was in Virginia, but there was my twin, my younger sister and of course my parents. It was a lovely holiday. April 1998. I flew back to Japan on the Tuesday and on the Sunday I got the phone call that my father had died. I still am so thankful that I spent that time with him. I could have ignored my need to go home and I don’t think I would have been able to forgive myself.

I met my husband in Japan. After Japan, I went to South East Asia for three months, then home for our first Christmas. In February I joined Matias in Boston. That May we married and spent six months traveling South America.

We’d finished the trip when my younger brother passed away when his heart stopped. He was a singer/song writer, musician, and beautiful. After William, I swore I’d start writing properly. I would not let his loss leave me unaffected so I began writing full time. I had a lot to learn.

Many drafts and rejections later, our daughters were 7, 4 and 1 when we moved to Massachusetts from Ireland to spend time with Matias’ family. We planned to give it five years and go back to Ireland, but for various reasons ended up staying. We bought a house two years ago. When we were packing up to move, my daughter found acknowledgement card from a college my brother William had applied to twenty years ago with his name and address in his hand writing. I’d never seen the card before, not when we moved from Ireland to Matias family’s house, then to the house in Winchester and back to my in-laws, and suddenly it was there when I was having doubts about whether or not we made the right decision to stay. It could have been coincidence, a chance finding, but I prefer to think it was my brother telling me we were doing the right thing. A year later my first book was published.

A critic of Debris wrote that in the US, there is societal bias against grieving. If someone dies, people are expected to be sad for a brief period of time and then to get on with our lives. They tend to focus on the future rather than the past. But when we lose people close to us, we don’t forget about them. In Debris, a fourteen-year old boy, Andre, and a fifteen-year old girl, Erin, are obsessed with mothers who have died or disappeared. This obsession sometimes takes the form of seeing and feeling the spirits of their mothers and I reference Irish mythological figures, because I believe there is some magic in trusting that the people we loved remain with us.