Q&A with Laura McPhee-Browne

LAURA MCPHEE-BROWNE is a writer and social worker from Melbourne, Australia. She is currently working on two things at once: a novel about two young women from Melbourne living in Toronto, and a collection of ‘homage’ or ‘echo’ stories inspired by the short fiction of her favourite female writers. You can find her at lauramcpheebrowne.com
Her short story ‘The Day I Sat with Janis in the Garden and She Gave Me Her White Fur Hat’ appears in The Suburban Review #8.
AP: You’re currently writing short fiction in response to women writers you admire. How do you inhabit their words, but also make them your own?
LM: The short stories I write in response to stories already written are attempts at homages, and thus hold some small element of the original story close (a tone, a theme, a message). I find that this process can lead to playful writing that comes up seemingly out of nowhere, but is of course coming from something that has already been. I’m not sure I am successful at inhabiting the words of these authors and making them my own, but I try! It’s a pretty experimental process most of the time, and seems to work best when it’s fun.
AP: Has editing fiction made you more conscious of your own practice?
LM: I’ve been volunteering as a fiction editor for Verity La over the past year or so, and have found that the responses I have when reading and editing the work of others are often responses that I trust more than those I might have about my own work. This has reminded me to try and step back as far as possible when reading and editing my own work—to forget about why I am writing something and to focus on the story that is forming.
AP: You’ve written about how your career in social work often motivates your writing, are you inspired by specific situations you’ve witnessed? Or is the link more subtle?
LM: I think when I first started writing stories I was heavily influenced by my work in homelessness and addiction and mental illness and the bravery and hope and pain I witnessed every day. I think I certainly was inspired by and tickled by so many of the people I came into contact with, and I tried to weave their wit and chaos into my stories.
These days it might be a bit more general: I’ve had countless connections with people who are struggling, and I’ve witnessed the human spirit sinking and rising and sinking and rising, and I try to write about that in a way that isn’t incredibly corny.