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Keeping Good Company

Writer Carrie Brown explores loneliness in her fifth novel.

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“We read each others work exclusively,” Brown says. “We’re the only people to read the work before it’s sent to our respective editors. Neither of us sends off manuscripts until we are as done with them as we know how to be. John’s been writing fiction much longer than I have, and he’s just been tremendously helpful to me.”

Brown’s latest book touches on loneliness, a reoccurring theme in her work. “Making connections with other people, trying to discover who you are and how you want to live in the world is something that occupies all of us,” Brown says. “All the characters in my books are confronting the issue of who they are and how they want to live.”

Brown didn’t begin to write fiction until about 10 years ago. Working as a journalist for a small paper in Laurel, Md., she spent her time covering town news, not writing novels and stories. It wasn’t until Brown’s husband published his first novel and transplanted the family that she began to write fiction. When he became head of the creative writing program at Sweetbriar College in Lynchburg, Brown found herself in yet another small town, but this time without a job.

“That was when I started writing fiction,” Brown says. “You know, I always wonder, ‘Gosh, if I’d never found myself here under these circumstances, would I ever have written these books?’ And I guess that’s just one of those unanswerable questions.”

The mother of three children, Brown was glad to have more time with her children, but that wasn’t enough. She started writing her first stories the summer they moved to Lynchburg. Soon after, she enrolled in the M.F.A. program at University of Virginia and sold her first novel the second year she was in the program. If averaging a new book every two years sounds like a whirlwind pace, well, it is. But Brown credits her journalism roots for her motivation.

“I think I’d been just storing up material without realizing it,” Brown says. “I was feature writer and covered everything from the courts to the police. A lot of my ideas come from my days at the paper. And, of course, it’s great training for writers to be journalists, because you learn how to write fast, clearly and even if you don’ feel like it, because editors aren’t interested in whether you have writer’s block or not. It was great. It was a kind of crash course in life.”

After writing five books, Brown says that she still ponders some of the characters she’s created. “I think about all of them from time to time,” Brown says. “It’s a strange fraternity writers create for themselves, all these people they dream up. I miss being engaged in their worlds. I’d never write a sequel but occasionally I miss their company.” S

Carrie Brown will be reading and signing books at Fountain Bookstore, 1312 E. Cary St., on Tuesday, June 8, at 6:30 p.m. Call 788-1594 for more information. Also, Brown will be reading from her work on Thursday, June 17, at noon. at Library of Virginia, 800 E. Broad St. Call 692-3722 for more information.

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