Author Interview: Danielle Brittain – Warriors, Or The Family That Rows Together…

October 31, 2021

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Danielle Brittain’s two sons won Olympic medals for South Africa in rowing, all four of her sons have rowed at top levels, and she is currently the team doctor for the SA rowing team. She faced her own battles with cancer and then watched as her son battled Hodgkin’s Lymphoma during his Olympic training before overcoming it and going on to win silver.


When, and under what circumstances, did the idea for your latest book come to you?

I was in Rio at the Olympic Games when one of the journalists told me that Matthew and Lawrence were the first brothers in South Africa to win medals at the Games. Lawrence had also come through illness and his path to the Olympics had been extraordinary. I was the team doctor for the rowing team and my mind started working at telling the story.


Did it initially feel like something to commit to, or was that something that took time to develop?

I began writing the story there and then in Rio, but it took a further four years to finish it as I only wrote during breaks. I also realised quickly that the story was bigger than the medals and that I needed to go back into our family a little more.


How did you conduct your research or other preparation before writing – was it more experiential or more academic or desk-based?

I spoke extensively to my sons, David my husband, and all the rowers and the coaches. I made notes while they spoke and then wrote freely once I had their insights and experiences.


When considering influence, do you find yourself wanting to write like someone (in terms of their style, tone or use of language), or aiming for a kind of perspective or storytelling approach you admire or enjoy?

I could not begin to list the writers whom I hold in high esteem for their writing. I underline endlessly when reading. In general I am inspired by the use of language and descriptive writing.


What’s in your to-read pile – and what upcoming book (other than yours!) are you most looking forward to?

At the moment I am reading Frances Mayle’s book Every Day In Tuscany. I love travel writing, biographies and memoirs, sport literature, and in particular mountaineering literature. I also love anything Barbara Kingsolver writes. Sitting on my bedside table are two books waiting to be read: The Adventurer’s Son by Roman Dial and Extreme Eiger by Peter and Leni Gillman.


Do you have a favourite character that you have created? Or if you’re writing non-fiction, do you have a specific topic that you find endlessly fascinating?

There are other people’s extraordinary stories I would like to write about that deserve a book all to themselves. I am also fascinated by the demands of high performance sport and would like to look at some aspects such as depression in sport.

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