Hello, I'm Susan Colleen Browne, avid gardener and lover of all things Irish!
I weave my passion for Ireland and country living into my Irish Village of Ballydara series, and when not writing, I run a backyard farm in the Foothills of the Pacific Northwest. My two memoirs, Little Farm in the Foothills, and the sequel, Little Farm Homegrown, follows the true-story homesteading journey of my husband and me, from our first tumultuous year in the country to the many adventures and challenges we've encountered since then.
An instructor at Whatcom Community College, I'm currently teaching "Experience Ireland: Along the Atlantic Coast," and "Grow a Homestead-Style Food Garden." So...why Ireland?
My ancestors hail from the Emerald Isle, but my family wasn’t your typical Irish-American crew. In my childhood, my mom was a lapsed Catholic, Dad’s folks had gone Protestant a couple of generations back, and he was a teetotaler to boot. And not one of us kids took step-dancing lessons. Somehow, though, I always knew I was Irish.
As a kid, I read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books a dozen times apiece. I was especially taken with the romance between Laura and Almanzo in These Happy Golden Years—until I discovered more grown-up fare like Gone With the Wind. The story’s Irish-American characters entranced me, but it took several years of writing novels to get seriously bitten by the Irish bug. What inspired me is a long story, involving a mash-up of not only Scarlett O’Hara, but “Darby O’Gill and the Little People,” seeing legendary Irish writer Edna O’Brien, the “Riverdance” TV show, and discovering Irish novels by Maeve Binchy and Marian Keyes. Soon, I’d hit a Perfect Storm of Irishness.
Here I am in Cong, County Mayo, Ireland
The true tipping point, however, was one unforgettable evening, when I was listening to a Celtic music program. A mournful Irish ballad came on the air, about the sorrows of emigration. I’ve never been a cryer, but tears came to my eyes, and I got a shiver up my spine. I realized that these were my people in the song. All of a sudden, I got this indelible sense of what it means to be Irish and I was compelled to bring Irish voices into my writing.
I began to immerse myself in the Irish experience with books, movies, photos, newspapers, maps—I could go on—and after many months of research and writing, I came up with my first Irish heroine: Aislin (pronounced “Ash-lin”), a klutzy single mom who escapes a romantic entanglement by laying low in the little Irish village of Ballydara, in the West of Ireland. Her story, It Only Takes Once, was born. My Village of Ballydara series now includes four novels and two short stories.
I was busy creating Irish stories about love, friendship, and family when my husband and I upended our lives. Lifelong city dwellers, we sold our home and moved to a rural acreage to live a slower, more self-sufficient life. Well, if trying to start up a little homestead doesn’t interrupt your writing, then you’re doing something wrong. Working Berryridge Farm was my new life, a very absorbing one, and I took an extended time-out from novel-writing.
Immersing myself in food-growing was satisfying…But as much as I enjoyed trying to emulate my beloved Laura Ingalls’ early life, after a year and a half, I was hungry to write fiction again. Out of practice, I developed a near-terminal case of writer’s block. Desperate to write something, anything, I began scribbling about our homesteading experiences, and within a few weeks, I’d written my first memoir: Little Farm in the Foothills. Then I came up with yet another kind of book, and developed a fantasy-adventure series for tweens!
But I love writing Irish stories best, and I can't get enough of all things Irish—books and films, travel articles, recipes, slang, politics and culture—a passion that’s only grown after taking my first trip to Ireland. I've interwoven some of my travel experiences into my 4th Village of Ballydara novel, The Galway Girls...and into my 2nd Little Farm book, Little Farm Homegrown!