Seeing the Fringes of Society from both Sides of the Bars
Mary, now retired and in her 80s, has launched her debut novel, 'I used to be', published by Fantastic Books Publishing 10th December 2017. Though the book is not about prison life, 'I used to be' takes a lot from Mary's experience of working in prisons. Although she always worked in men's prisons, 'I used to be' focuses on women. Told through the eyes of an older woman, the novel tells the story of an adolescent, Kayleigh, and her group of friends, the 'Krew'.
'I met many men in prison,' Mary says, 'who could have been the fathers, brothers or uncles of Kayleigh and her Krew. They were an inspiration, particularly in the way they supported and helped one another despite everything.'
This theme of mutual aid runs through the book, though never smoothly. This is not a tale of loveable rogues, it is a real story of people rejected by society, pushed aside and disregarded. There is no mawkish lack of realism. Kayleigh's plight is starkly told through the eyes of an older woman, Maude, who is as much a reject as Kayleigh and her Krew. Maude and Kayleigh both sit on the fringes of society, but they are on different fringes with no apparent overlap; two rejects who would normally pass each other by without a glance.
But Maude is forced into the Krew's sphere and from there we learn the harrowing details of her journey from a conventional family life to the grief and loneliness that have pushed her outside what modern society considers normal.
The original idea came to Mary after she had heard William Golding talk about Lord of the Flies at the Cheltenham Literature Festival many years ago. 'I don't deny the book's literary merit,' she says, 'but I disagree with Golding's views of how the children would have behaved. I vowed at the time that one day I would write a book about a group of girls stranded on an island.'
A triangle of waste ground that Kayleigh's Krew call the Tip is their island, and the girls' situations strand them from 'normal' life just as much as Golding's boys. The one apparent anomaly is the story's narrator, Maude, who is in her 70s.
'I did not invite Maude to the island,' Mary tells me. 'She just arrived one day, quite early in the writing process, and I realized that her story was another side of the same coin.'
'I used to be' is ultimately a story of hope, and of belief in the innate goodness of people from all walks of life, but readers should arm themselves with tissues. It's an emotional rollercoaster.
'As soon as we saw Mary's first draft, we knew what a powerful story we were reading,' says Dan Grubb, CEO of Fantastic Books Publishing. 'I had two of my editors look at the manuscript, we asked Mary to do some work on it, and we've ended up with a gem of a book.'
About the book
'I used to be' was officially launched on the10th December 2017. http://Tinyurl.com/
About Mary Brown
Find out more about Mary Brown on the Fantastic Books Store: https://www.fantasticbooksstore.com/
Further information and contact details
Further information can be obtained from Fantastic Books Publishing
Dan Grubb - CEO