Together with the Women's Prize for Fiction, we’ve launched Futures to highlight the talent of the next generation of female writers and support them to have the long and illustrious careers we think they deserve.
A sabbatical from her finance industry career gave Natasha Brown, 32, the time to finish her debut novel Assembly. Not only did it earn her a six-figure sum from British and American publishers, Bernardine Evaristo called it 'astonishing'. It was shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize 2021 and was named Foyles Fiction Book of the Year.
What was the inspiration behind your novel, Assembly?
I’m deeply interested in the question of whether language can be neutral, and in the ways that narratives can be used — to illuminate, reveal, erase, silence, or even distort. In more concrete terms, I hoped to write a novel that examined the conventions of the “young black woman” fiction genre.
Tell us about your journey to publication.
I followed a fairly traditional path; I submitted the manuscript to agents once I’d finished it. My incredible agent Emma Paterson supported me throughout the process, championing the book, and finding the perfect publishers for it.
What motivates you as an author?
Every now and then, I read a line in a book or newspaper that gives me pause. These dissonant sentences — some subtle, others bold and ringing — can spoil my morning, or keep me awake at night. Yet they often go unnoticed. With my writing, I hope to draw attention to such lines. Why is noticing so difficult? I think that question is my motivation.
What is your favourite book by a woman?
Don’t Let Me Be Lonely by Claudia Rankine. Along with Citizen, these two books expanded my understanding of what language could achieve— in both aesthetic and material terms. I return to them often, and always find something new.
What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever been given?
Write every day. I don’t always manage it, but I’ve found a routine practice helps me with creativity.
What do you think you’d be if you weren’t a writer?
I would still be a reader, the awful kind who underlines books.
Which female author do you find most inspiring?
My answer isn’t static; it changes frequently, depending on the sort of inspiration I’m in need of. For now, I would say Janet Malcolm. Her precision and attention to the nuances of her craft and subjects is invigorating.
Do you have any writing routines or ticks?
I like to start each day with fifteen minutes of ‘free writing’ by hand on loose sheets of paper. After, I usually just throw these pages away. It’s a bit like a warm up.
What’s your favourite Women’s Prize winning book?
The Power by Naomi Alderman. High concept in the absolute best way, reading The Power gave me a truly fresh perspective on feminism and the function of ‘power’ in gender dynamics.
What do you hope to have achieved as a writer in ten years' time?
I’m not one for offering prescriptive solutions. But I am interested in how things are, and in accurately describing things as they are — including how the tools of description (words, in my case) can distort any representation. Careful documentation of our society remains a worthwhile pursuit even today, I think. In ten years’ time, I hope to have contributed as much as I can to that effort.
Vote for the Futures winner
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