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Wes Brown: Real life inspires writer seeking to encourage new voices
Wes Brown is the kind of author young writers' groups can be proud of. Now he's launching his own. Jane Verity met him.

Wes Brown's first novel, Shark, is a story about the dispossessed. Following the life of an ex-soldier who returns to Leeds to find his community has been unravelled, it's the story of a young man's struggle to fit in.

It's something Wes Brown knows a lot about. Growing up in a council house in Burley, his father a professional wrestler and bouncer, his mother working in retail, writing was not a viable career option. It wasn't until he applied to the Sheffield-based group, The Writers' Squad, at 17 that he found something he knew he could do.

"I was terrible at school. It just never interested me. But working with Steve Dearden and Danny Broderick at The Writers' Squad, I was encouraged to do work placements at Penguin Books and Route Publishing. From there I went on to set up The Cadaverine, a website and anthology publishing work from writers under 25 in the region."

He then spent, "a few years in the wilderness," writing Shark in the early hours of the morning, holding down a variety of day jobs, from selling ice-cream at a cinema to working at a brewery.

"It was a tough time. It's like you're stuck in a room for two years talking to someone, and by the end you're not sure if that person is still listening.

"The image I would use is flying through a cloud in the dark. You've got your compass, but you can't see where you're going."

He describes the first draft as, "the worst novel ever written." And the second draft? "The best."

Brown smiles. He may be joking, but Shark has received wide acclaim. Ian McMillan has described the book as "making the North a marvellous place, a place where art can happen, where epic can feel comfortable." Praise indeed. What are his ambitions? "The Man Booker Prize. No, not really. I'm just going to see how far I can take it. Don DeLillo describes writing as, 'a concentrated form of thought,' and that really rings true for me. I want to write something that really means something. That's the big aim."

For the rest of the article

Yorkshire Post