Meet the novelist Carrie Brown

Author Headshot Carrie Brown

Carrie Brown writes literary fiction and I’ve been a fan of hers since studying with her at Wildacres Writers Workshop several years ago. I hadn’t heard of Carrie before signing up for the workshop, so I read her first novel, Rose’s Garden, weeks before attending. I fell in love with her work and couldn’t wait to spend a week with her. I’ve bought every one of her books since.

In preparation for writing this post, I picked up Rose’s Garden again, it’s been years since I’ve read it, to see if I could pinpoint what it is that makes me enjoy Carrie’s novels. I opened to a random page about halfway through the book, and I was immediately pulled into the story and ended up reading several chapters. So the first reason is story.

There is nothing usual or ordinary in Carrie’s stories. In Rose’s Garden, Conrad, a recent widower, sees an angel in his wife’s beloved garden, and comes to know his wife in a new way through her friends. In The Hatbox Baby, she takes us behind the scenes of the 1933 Chicago’s World Fair and the ‘infantorium’ of primitive incubators for preemies.  The Rope Walk is a coming of age story when two young friends devise a rope walk through the woods, allowing a convalescing adult to enjoy the outdoor world he’s always loved, and the consequences of their good intentions. Within Brown’s stories there are layers that pull the reader deeper, but never smother or overwhelm.

That brings me to the second reason I gravitate toward Carrie’s novels – her storytelling. Instead of feeling like I’m being marched or pushed through the story, with every other page having a crisis or fire that needs attention, Carrie allows the story and her characters to open and reveal themselves. During the week of study with her, Carrie described how she includes backstory in her writing. Think of the narrative as a rolling landscape with valleys. The present is the rolling, and occasionally you dip into a valley of backstory. Carrie slips in and out of those valleys so seamlessly, there are times I have to go back and find where she led me into the past. She’s like a choir master guiding her readers through ‘breathing spaces’ to fully appreciate the pacing and rhythm of the story.

And finally, Carrie spent years as a journalist and maybe her attention to detail comes from that. I recently re-read the poet Ted Kooser’s The Poetry Home Repair Manual. In it he says that attention to detail is what makes a poem or piece of prose authentic, like the writer was actually there and witnessed what happened. That’s what I find with Carrie’s work, the tiny details. From The Rope WalkAlice scrambled to extricate herself from her sleeping bag, scraping her knee painfully on the zipper. In some of my writing critique groups, people might suggest omitting the note about scraping her knee, because it doesn’t move the story along – a common piece of advice. But I love that added detail. Alice is ten-years-old and scraping her knee on the sleeping bag zipper makes such perfect sense, makes her more real.

When I read one of Carrie’s books, it feels as if I’m sitting next to an old friend, listening first-hand to their story.

Here is the link to read more about Carrie Brown and her books.

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