Northern Highlight - Susan Brownrigg



Why did you become a writer?
I have always loved reading, it is a way of travelling to far away lands and meeting a whole host of characters from the comfort of your own settee. My favourite lessons were when we were read a story or better still we could write one of our own. Soon I was passing my stories around the playground. I knew I wanted to be an author and I am thrilled that soon I will have children reading my book.

Tell us about where you live.
I live in Skelmersdale with my husband. It’s a new town with a reputation for its many roundabouts! Despite being a series of estates there is a lot of greenery and the Tawd Valley cuts right through the town and is a lovely, quiet place to walk. I grew up in Wigan so I’m a pie-eater at heart. I didn’t have a lot of books when I was little, although I was sometimes treated to an Enid Blyton from the market or Smiths of Wigan. My nan and mum loved jumble sales, so that’s where I got most of mine. As a teenager I used to go to the children’s library at the Wiend and borrow Judy Blume books, and I worked my way through all the Sweet Valley High series! It was brilliant being able to choose for myself. My mum also bought me lots of comics. I started off with Twinkle, and then moved on to those classic girls magazines – Mandy and Bunty.

Where do you work?
I’m Learning & Community Manager at Norton Priory Museum (though currently furloughed). I am so lucky to have a creative role that is different every day. I really love working with children and families. I deliver workshops to schools covering history, nature, gardening, art and stories. I also deliver family activities during the school holidays which often means I have to dress up. Our storywalks are pantomime-esque, with families enjoying a woodland walk while meeting different characters. I’ve been Goldilocks, Dorothy, an old lady, Maid Marion, Stinkerbell and a pirate, among others!

What for you is the 'spirit of the North/Scotland’?
For me its about being down to earth, friendly and witty. Northerners work hard but don’t take themselves too seriously. They have each other’s backs. Food is a big part of who we are too - chips and gravy, Eccles cakes, hot pot, scouse, haggis…

Has this spirit influenced your work?
Definitely. My debut book Gracie Fairshaw and the Mysterious Guest is set in Blackpool and you can’t get more northern than that! The tradition of Wakes Week, when whole towns would shut up shop and descend to the seaside, is fascinating. Blackpool had it all – golden sands, pleasure palaces – the Tower, Winter Gardens, theatres, piers and the Pleasure Beach fairground – trams, the Illuminations, the Golden Mile, and unlike a lot of resorts those treasures are still there now! I’m currently working on a new Gracie book inspired by the 1930s northern filmstars Gracie Fields and George Formby – I first became interested in them when I was studying my degree in Journalism, Film and Broadcasting, in fact my dissertation was about Gracie! It is incredible how popular they were.

Illustrated by Jenny Czerwonka, published by UCLan Publishing. 

Who for you are the great Northern/Scottish writers or illustrators?
There are so many talented writers and illustrators from the north it’s hard to single out individuals. I love Frank Cottrell Boyce, Katherine Woodfine and David Almond.
I am also in awe of fellow published SCBWIs Barbara Henderson, Anna Mainwaring, Dom Conlon and Marie Basting.
And thanks to Children’s Books North I have many more authors and illustrators to discover!

If you could be transported to anywhere in the North/Scotland right now,
where would it be?
Blackpool, of course! I can't wait to take a stroll along the prom, breathing in the sea air, with a bag of chips in my hand! I am still keeping my fingers crossed that the Illuminations will happen this year and that eventually I might be able to have a small book launch there.

What would you like to see from children's publishing in the North/Scotland?
I love that authors, illustrators, publishing professionals, librarians, and independent book sellers work together. I am also really proud of how UCLan Publishing (my publisher) works with MA publishing students. It was through three students' Major Project that Gracie found a home, and I enjoyed the process so much that I am working with three new students this year. I think a willingness to share experiences, advice and feedback is really important.

What's your favourite children's book set in the North/Scotland?
Can I only pick one? I really loved Karen McCombie’s Little Bird Flies. It is about a young girl, Bridie, who lives on the Scottish island, Tornish. Her world is turned upside-down when a new Laird takes over – but change brings about opportunity. The sequel is amazing too. 

You can find Susan online at and on Twitter @suebmuseum


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