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Millie Bobby Brown's debut novel 'Nineteen Steps' was inspired by her grandmother's WWII experience

The "Stranger Things" star turned her grandma's bedtime stories into her first book.
/ Source: TODAY

Millie Bobby Brown shared how her grandmother's stories of living through World War II sparked the inspiration behind her debut novel, "Nineteen Steps."

The "Stranger Things" star, 19, spoke with TODAY's Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager about why she decided to "put pen to paper" to share some of her grandmother Ruth's stories.

"When I was younger, I couldn’t sleep and so I would crawl into her bed and I would say, 'Nanny, can you tickle my arm and tell me the stories about your childhood?'" Brown recalled. "And she would tell me these stories about her experiencing World War II."

Millie Bobby Brown
Millie Bobby Brown and her grandmother Ruth.TODAY

"Of course there is a lot of tragedy within the stories that she was telling me, but there is also a lot of humor and a lot of love, community and friendship, and I felt like this could be something really important for people to know about," she continued.

Brown said her mother and grandmother grew up in Bethnal Green, a neighborhood in East London. Her grandmother shared stories of seeking cover from bombs in the Bethnal Green tube station, one of which is behind the title of Brown's book.

"One night there was a faulty sound and their go-to was to go down the steps going to the Bethnal Green tube station. One person fell down those steps, and the rest followed, and over 100 people died, most of them being children," Brown said. "And that’s due to the steps being unsafe — too dark of a light, no hand rails, some tiling problems. It was one of the biggest civilian disasters in World War II not due to the war in England."

Brown collaborated with Kathleen McGurl on the novel, posting a photo with the author on Instagram thanking her and saying, "I couldn’t have done this without you!"

The photo sparked debate about ghostwriters for celebrity memoirs and books, with some critics saying they thought McGurl’s name should have been on the cover, which only features Brown’s name.

When asked what she thought her grandmother, who died in 2020 from Alzheimer's disease, would think of the book, Brown said she thought she would be hesitant about the novel's publication at first.

"She was very empathetic to the situation and very worried about upsetting or triggering anyone’s trauma," Brown said. "I think she would be really hesitant about how it’s explained, but I think she would be really excited overall."

Brown added her family is very excited about "Nineteen Steps," and said that while it's a strange feeling to share such personal stories, it feels "therapeutic" for her and her family.

Brown, who is engaged to rocker Jon Bon Jovi's son Jake Bongiovi, shared she thinks her grandmother would have loved her fiancé.

"She would. She definitely would. I know," she said. "I frequently think about that. My Nan would be like, 'Oh, he’s very handsome.' She would have loved him."