An Interview with Best-Selling Author Dorothy Koomson

Evie Coley interviews author Dorothy Koomson on how Brighton has influenced her creative journey.

An Interview with Best-Selling Author Dorothy Koomson
Source: Dorothy Koomson

Brighton has been used as a backdrop to many novels over the years, from Bethan Roberts’ My Policeman to Murder on the Brighton Express by Edward Marston. The city is full of bustling streets, gorgeous natural landscapes and iconic landmarks, and sometimes the city does feel more like a fictitious paradise than an everyday stomping ground, writes Evie Coley.

Dorothy Koomson is a Brighton-based best-selling author who is celebrating her twentieth year as a published author this year, alongside the release of her new novel, My Other Husband. I was lucky enough to get a sneak preview into protagonist Cleo Forsum’s world and talk to Dorothy about her upcoming release and how Brighton has influenced her creative journey.

Being a Brighton newbie myself, having moved here last September for my final year of university, I was desperate to find anybody who felt the same way about the city as I did. I loved reading about Brighton: the people who fell in love with the seafront and the lanes just as I had. So, when I came across local author Dorothy Koomson, who not just wrote in Brighton, but also used Brighton as the settings for her novels, I knew that I had to get her take on the city, and why she chose to write Brighton into fiction.

There is nothing more satisfying than reading a book and coming across concrete details like the park you drink your morning coffee in, or the independent shop where you buy your favourite shoes. That amongst the whirlwind of fiction, of heart-stopping murders, of dreamy romance, there are moments of reality. Where Brighton Station is named, and Queens Park is strolled through, it is a wonderful feeling to orientate yourself into fiction and feel like you could be part of the story. Koomson refers to specific hotspots of Brighton throughout many of her novels, and her latest book, My Other Husband is no exception.

Koomson spoke about how she has always been ‘politically active’, and that the first time she came to Brighton was to protest the introduction of student loans and that she fell in love with the city, despite living in Leeds at the time: 'The sea was there, and the city was right there'. Eventually it became a matter of ‘why not’, and she decided to stay.

It’s just a really good place. There’s lots of really great things and there’s great places to be. Part of my heart is still in Leeds and part of it is still in London, but me as a person is in Brighton.

She was certain to mention Brighton's inclusivity and that 'it's a lot more accepting than people realise and I hope that continues'.

I asked Koomson about Brighton as a writing scene, and whether she has found the city to be a space that supports and encourages creativity. She says that 'there’s lots of writers down here' and that 'it’s a good place to come and be and if you want to get involved in stuff'. She mentioned the success of last year’s book festival and its upcoming date in June 2023.

We’ve got coming up the Brighton Book Festival again, which was a really fantastic festival that started last year in 2022. It’s great because so many different people involved, and it was so diverse and so inclusive and that’s really important.

Koomson’s books are known for their gripping plot twists and on-the-edge-of-your-seat crimes, which to people like me - who see Brighton as a sanctuary - these themes feel quite incongruent. But Dorothy had the perfect response when I asked her why she felt that Brighton was the right place to set these heinous crimes.

She says: "When I was younger and read a lot of the commercial fiction which I love and which I write, I found that they were all very London centric. They talk about bits of London like everybody should know them. I was very conscious that the UK was bigger than London, so I wanted to make sure that I set books outside of London."

She’s found that Brighton is 'a great place to set a book': "You’ve got the sea and you have the beach huts and the pier, you have the bandstand, you have the Laines, the Downs, the station."

All of these details when woven together make for an immersive read that is applicable to an audience outside of the UK’s capital city.

Dorothy’s new novel, My Other Husband is released as paperback on April 13th by Headline and this is her eighteenth publication. I feel honoured to have received a copy ahead of this release and I absolutely devoured it within a few days during my commutes to work across the city. It’s a crime thriller with a twist in every passing chapter and at every corner of Brighton’s familiar streets. Find more about Dorothy and her work here.

Evie is in her final year studying Creative Writing at the University of Brighton. She works in Hove as an assistant art teacher for children, but hopes to enter the publishing world after graduating this summer. She can’t imagine herself anywhere other than Brighton—where she loves walking her sisters dog, Franc the cockapoo, along the seafront every week.