Today we chat with Katie Brown, 23-year-old Irish author of ‘The Night Belongs To Us’, an LGBT romance chronicling the relationship between two teenage girls in Dublin in the 1990s.
Katie chats to us about what inspired her to write a Lesbian romance novel whilst in lockdown in Ireland. She also shares the type of LGBTQIA+ representation she was looking for growing up and how this reflected in her writing The Night Belongs To Us.
Find out more about The Night Belongs To Us by reading our New Release segment here:
The Night Belongs To Us
It doesn’t come as much of a surprise to Alex Ryan when she finds herself falling head over heels for Connie O’Reilly. How could she not?
Connie’s the most popular girl in the school, wealthy and admired. Status and reputation might mean nothing to Alex but to Connie they are everything.
But when rumours spark and new faces enter the picture, they’re both set to discover that while it may be easy to walk away, it’s a lot harder to move on.
Let’s first get to know Katie…
Katie is a postgraduate research student in the field of Biblical studies. She lives in Dublin with her family and attends Trinity College Dublin, where she also received her BA in 2019.
Katie also works in Glasnevin Cemetery Museum as a tour guide and has a keen appreciation of modern Irish history. She began her debut novel during the lockdown in Ireland after sharing a sample of her writing with two friends who bullied her into finishing it.
When she isn’t using her writing as an excuse to procrastinate on her PhD work, she can usually be found taking a nap. Her favourite book is Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell and her favourite movie is Shrek 2, though nobody actually takes that seriously!
Could you tell us what The Night Belongs To Us is about and what inspired you when writing?
I’ve known for a few years now that I wanted to write a book about coming-out. Such books aren’t everyone’s cup of tea and I constantly see people complaining that we have too many books focused on this particular theme. I’d love to know where they’re finding them! When I was beginning to come to terms with my sexuality I could find very little representation anywhere and I struggled a lot mentally as a result. I suppose I followed the age-old advice that is ‘write a story you’d want to read’.
When Ireland went into lockdown last year as a result of Covid-19 I picked up writing as a hobby for what felt like the first time in years. I used to write stories constantly growing up but as a result of my rather tumultuous college years, it faded into the background of my life.
I shared a short story extract with my girlfriend and then my best friend, who both, in turn, pestered me into writing more. They re-named our group chat ‘Book Club’ and constantly demanded I send them more of my work.
At times I could have sworn I was only writing to get them off my back. My novel underwent a lot of changes over the course of 2020, with the only consistency being Alex’s character."Alex's eagerness to come-out and be her authentic self paired with her simultaneous reluctance and anxiety is something I think a lot of LGBT+ people understand, and it was something I struggled with quite a lot." Tweet This
Writing was hard and I felt like giving up every time I reached any sort of obstacle but ultimately, in the end, my utter boredom with lockdown persevered and I managed to pull through.
In terms of what inspired me, I think some of my own life experiences would serve as very loose inspiration. Alex’s eagerness to come-out and be her authentic self paired with her simultaneous reluctance and anxiety is something I think a lot of LGBT+ people understand, and it was something I struggled with quite a lot.
I have been told that Alex is basically just a projection of myself, which is simply not true, but I do see the similarities after they are pointed out. In a way, I think Alex acts and thinks the way I would act and think in such situations.
There’s also her complex relationship with Connie and the confusion their initial friendship causes her; that question of ‘am I right in thinking there’s something there, or am I just being naively hopeful’ is definitely always a tricky one. Of course, this book is not in any way an autobiography and nothing in it is directly inspired by my own life, but there are definitely themes that could be extracted from my own life.
So Katie, when did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?
To misquote Ray Liotta in ‘Goodfellas’, as far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a writer.
As a child, before I was even capable of writing, I would make up characters in my head and draw out pictures of what I imagined happening to them; there was always this yearning desire within me to compose stories."I equated being a writer to being a football star, or an astronaut, or an Oscar-winning actor; practically impossible. I never thought it was something I could actually achieve and yet here I am!" Click To Tweet
I had a somewhat feral addiction to reading as a child and always read far above my appropriate age level. I just could not get enough of fiction, and I was never limited in terms of genre. I read romance, fantasy, drama, psychological thrillers, literary fiction–the only genre I didn’t read was horror.
So, yes, I knew I wanted to be a writer, growing up. My whole life, that has been perhaps my one consistent ambition, the only thing that stays unchanged.
But I equated being a writer to being a football star, or an astronaut, or an Oscar-winning actor; practically impossible. I never thought it was something I could actually achieve and yet here I am!
What do you think makes a good story?
My favourite stories have always tended to be character-driven and character-focused, rather than those that revolve solely around a particular plot.
I’m far more interested in emotion and an exploration of the psyche or the human condition than I am anything else, but that’s just me.
I could easily read a full-length novel in which literally nothing happens, but in which the language and the writing employed are beautiful.
I’m a big fan of ‘pretty’ language; eloquent waffling, as my old English teacher would say. But I think that all stories have merit. Every story has its strengths and weaknesses, and it all comes down to finding the right audience.
Why do you think we need more LGBTQIA+ representation?
We need more LGBT+ representation because so many people in the LGBT+ community, even now, have to dig quite deep to find themselves portrayed in the media.
Growing up, I struggled to find good books with LGBT+ leads or themes that were appropriate for my reading level but weren’t erotica.
Not that there is anything wrong with that genre–it simply wasn’t what I, an unsure and curious sixteen-year-old, was looking for! I was a rather snobby and pretentious reader and found most Young Adult LGBT books weren’t ‘waffle-y’ enough for me, or that they were too childish."I wanted to see characters that were like me, going through the same problems as me–growing up, coming out, navigating friendships.." Tweet This
And when I did find books that fit my very specific criteria, they tended to be about men. I wanted to see characters that were like me, going through the same problems as me–growing up, coming out, navigating friendships–and I couldn’t find them.
Thankfully things are changing but I still feel there is a gap between ‘Young Adult’ and ‘Adult’ LGBT literature that will hopefully narrow in time. We are also starting to see more LGBT+ representation in film/TV, but when I was coming-out, and we’re talking less than five years ago here, such representation was still so scarce.
The more prominent LGBT+ representation is in the mainstream media, the better it will be for society.
What can we expect from you next?
I’m currently working on a story set in the English countryside during the Second World War. The story revolves around a lonely upper-class young woman who befriends and ultimately falls in love with the owner of the local bookshop.
It’s quite different to ‘The Night Belongs To Us’ in that both characters are sure of their sexuality and don’t undergo any sort of ‘coming-out’ narrative.
I’ve also just started writing a rivals-to-lovers romance story about a bubbly young doctor who volunteers with the hospital’s fundraising team and who is forced to work with a cold and pedantic politician to secure her support for a new clinic.
It’s been a pleasure to learn more about Katie and get a little insight into what we can expect from her in the New Year! Thank you for taking the time to speak to us, Katie!
Lucy is Marketing Assistant to Niamh Murphy. You can contact Lucy via the ‘Contact’ page if you have any questions about Niamh’s books, website and newsletters.
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