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In Conversation With Brenna Nation

last updated 14 December 2023

Interview by Rachel Moffat

We were honoured to chat with Brenna Nation, a Bright author from Baltimore, MD.

After stying English at The University of Maryland, Brenna went on to have her debut novel The Shattered Lands published by Penguin UK in March 2023 at the age of

Brenna’s literary journey was shaped by Gothic tales, English lore, and mythical poems. When she’s not writing, she can be found petting her dogs, getting tattoos, searching for the spiciest food in the room, or crying to Taylor Swift songs while she drives around aimlessly.


Here’s what Brenna’s Agent Katie Blagden has to say about working so closely with Brena: I first came across Brenna on TikTok, where she was sharing her journey writing her debut book, that went onto be published by PRH UK. It was so great to see someone so openly sharing the ups and downs of writing, and doing it with such humour and warmth, and unsurprisingly she amassed a following on this and other platforms!

However, the exciting part for me came when I started working with Brenna professionally and realised the quality of her writing beyond her social media savvy. Brenna is an unashamedly commercial writer, creating wonderfully readable, swoon-worthy sapphic narratives that are a joy to read. Starting in YA romantasy, she’s now found her footing in contemporary queer romance stories.

Brenna brings a wonderful mix of honesty, authenticity and lightness of touch to her characters and plots, making her such a brilliant writer. She works so hard at her craft, and her wonderfully uplifting depictions of young sapphic love are exactly the sort of thing so many teens want to read – I’m so excited to be on submission with Brenna’s latest book now! Watch this space!

What are your first memories of writing?

My first memories of writing were in early elementary school. We had a state competition where you wrote a book, and if you won, they would bind the book for you. I ended up getting my story (about a princess becoming best friends with a girl from a nearby village) bound, and it was a really neat experience. I think that was like my first real taste of how neat it is to have someone “invest” in your work. And I’ve been writing stories ever since.

What brought you too Bright?

Katie Blagden. She’s an absolute gem and a light in the publishing world. This whole gig can be so overwhelming and consuming and terrifying, but Katie gets it, and she gets me, and she goes above and beyond to ensure that I’m still loving what I’m doing and taking care of myself. I really am so lucky to call her my agent and forever grateful she invested in me and my work.

title Katie Blagden and Brenna Nation on her publication day for The Shattered Lands

Where are you from, and how does that affect your work?

I grew up in a very small town in Georgia and now live in Maryland. I think both of these places have impacted my work. The first made me desperate to write queer stories and ensure that people like me saw themselves between the pages of the stories they loved. Made me want to create a safe place for them to exist. Living in Maryland made me brave enough to do it.

How do you translate your thoughts to the page?

Messily. My first drafts are always all over the place, but I know that I just need to keep writing and get the story out. Cleaning up said story can come later, but my thoughts move quickly, and if I don’t move quickly, I’ll lose them entirely.

What is your favourite part of the writing process?

Starting a new book. The excitement you feel, the feeling that there’s a million possibilities. It’s just so exhilarating to start crafting a brand new world and brand new characters and know that basically anything can happen. That feeling does eventually fade, but in the opening, let’s say 20K words, it feels like magic.

title Brenna’s favourite coffee shop to write in

How do you develop your writing skills?

I read. I read in my genre. Outside my genre. I read fanfiction. I read short stories. I read books I love and books I don’t. I attend workshops and ensure I have a thesaurus on hand. But most of all, I have an amazing group of beta readers who give me the most honest feedback imaginable, and I always listen and take their opinion into account.

Katie tells me you’re moving from fantasy to contemporary romance, what has that been like and what do you enjoy about within each genre?

I’ve loved moving into contemporary romance. For me, it’s just more in line with who I am as a writer. I love a happy ending. I love sappy moments. I love love. Contemporary romance gives me a chance to experience all that endlessly. It’s just been so fun and exciting, and I adore it.

As for what I like about each genre… With fantasy, I love strong women who fear nothing. I love that fantasy allows so many different stories to be told and a 1,000 lives to be lived.

For romance, I love that I can write 1,000 happy endings. I love the softness. I love the cartoon covers too lol.

title Brenna’s workspace

What is an average day in the studio like for you at the moment?

Right now, I write from 6 AM - 8 AM, work from 8 AM - 4:30 PM, and then write from 6:30 - 9:30. The book I’m working on right now is sooo fun that I’m basically itching to get back to it always, so this is a rare schedule for me (usually I’ll give myself the mornings), but right now it’s all writing, all the time (except when I want to play Fortnite. Which has been a lot lately).

What’s the difference between working with a publisher un-agented vs. agented?

Both are really cool experiences, but I definitely prefer agented. I think as a debut author specifically, it’s tough to know what exactly you’re signing up for. The language is convoluted, and you’re just excited to be there, and wires can get crossed or you can be scared to say something. But with an agent, you feel protected. You can ask questions and get your answers. You are taken care of, and you know that someone is in your corner without a shadow of a doubt.

(reiterating that Katie is the best here. I wouldn’t have survived my debut year without her.)

title Brenna’s Emily Dickinson tattoos

Who/What have been your key influences?

Taylor Swift. Emily Dickinson. Brittany and Santana’s relationship in Glee. Emily Henry. Tasha Suri. My elementary school gifted English teacher (Mrs. O’Kelly, you’ll never see this but you shaped me in so many ways). All of my friends’ many, many stories. Erin who always seems to believe in me no matter what. My grandmother who taught me how to be brave. And more than anything, all the sapphic people who came before me and paved the road to allow me to tell the stories I’m telling.

What was it like seeing your work out in the world for the first time?

Terrifying. Electric. Mystifying. Anxiety-inducing. A lifelong dream come true? There’s so many emotions connected to a debut year that are hard to identify. But out of all of them, gratitude is what I felt most. Gratitude that so many people were willing to take a chance on me and that my girls are out in the world. I’m just so thankful to be where I’m at with the team that I have.

title Brenna’s Biggest supporters

What advice would you give to a debut author?

Have a support team. You need a group of people in your corner who are going to remind you that they love you and that your worth isn’t tied to any book. Someone that makes you disconnect and go touch grass and remember that there’s a big world outside your computer. Shout out to mine. They typically put in overtime.

Do you have any ‘dream projects’ that you’d like to work on someday?

Hmmm…good question. I’d love to do a “universe” type of thing with characters who cross over into other books and readers get excited when they appear. But really, I just hope I can keep writing stories that people want to read at the end of the day. Makes me feel like the luckiest gal in the whole world.

To work with Brenna, get in contact here.

Buy your copy of The Shattered Lands here.

See Brenna’s Website here.

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