Helen Brown was born in New Plymouth, New Zealand, where her father managed the local gas works. After an unremarkable school career, she followed her mother’s footsteps into journalism. Helen went to Wellington Polytechnic School of Journalism then trained as a cadet reporter on The Dominion.

She moved to the UK in the early ‘70s to become a teenage bride and work on The Woking Review along with other magazines. When the couple returned to New Zealand to have two sons, Sam and Rob, Helen started writing regular columns about so-called ordinary life. She also wrote television scripts, current affairs for national radio and was a regular guest on TVNZ’s Beauty and the Beast.

Her life was torn apart on January 21, 1983, when Sam, aged nine, was run over and killed. Amid the emotional devastation, a black kitten called Cleo was delivered to her doorstep. Cleo helped the shattered family take the first steps toward healing.

After Lydia’s birth in 1985, the family moved to Auckland where Helen worked as a feature writer for the Sunday Star. Her columns were collected in a series of eight books. She was awarded a Nuffield Press Fellowship to Cambridge University, UK.

Following her divorce, Helen met a handsome ex army officer who was meant to be a one night stand. They married in Switzerland and had a daughter, Katharine. Nearly three decades later, Helen and Philip are still together, surely creating the longest one night stand in history.

Helen’s memoir CLEO took the world by storm in 2010. A New York Times best seller with two million copies sold, it’s in more than 17 languages. A major movie is in development with Australian-born director Kate Woods, producer John Barnett and a screenplay by Jodie Molloy.


The sequel, AFTER CLEO CAME JONAH (CATS AND DAUGHTERS  and/or JONAH in the US), (2012) was published in many languages and embraced by readers and critics alike.

Her first novel TUMBLEDOWN MANOR (2016) follows the adventures of a woman who reinvents herself after a disastrous 50th birthday. A best seller in Australasia, it was released in the UK and the US in May 2016.

Another memoir BONO – THE AMAZING STORY OF A RESCUE CAT WHO INSPIRED A COMMUNITY  (2018) is based on Helen’s Huffington Post blog read by more than 22 million people. BONO is  available in English, Russian, Chinese, French and Italian.

The long-awaited children’s version of CLEO, CLEO AND ROB, bounced on to bestseller lists when published by Allen and Unwin in 2019.

Helen lives in Melbourne, Australia, with Philip and their crazy, blog-obsessed Jonah (rumoured to be writing a book of his own). When she isn’t scribbling, Helen feeds magpies in her garden, knits badly and makes lemon slice.



  • Recipient of the Nuffield Press Fellowship, Cambridge University, UK.
  • Qantas Columnist of the Year 2009
  • Columnist of the Year 2008
    Magazine Publishers Association of New Zealand
  • Columnist of the Year 2007
    Magazine Publishers Association of New Zealand.
  • Columnist of the Year 2005
    Magazine Publishers Association of New Zealand
  • Best writer, Sunday Star Times –
    Auckland Metro magazine’s readership survey.

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