And welcome on the second leg of my journey with Patrice Lawrence. This feature is in partnership with the YaShot blog tour and for those who do not know yet what it is, here’s the lowdown:
YA Shot is an author-run, author-led Young Adult and Middle Grade festival that raises the money and resources to run a year-long programme pairing libraries and schools for free author events to foster a love of reading, inspire a passion for writing, and encourage aspirations to careers in the Arts.
YA Shot is a one-day annual festival based in the centre of Uxbridge (London). The 2016 festival will take place on Saturday 22nd October 2016. Around 70 authors are involved in a programme of workshop, panel and ‘in conversation’ events (plus book-signing sessions) in the Uxbridge Civic Centre, Waterstone’s Uxbridge and Uxbridge Library. There is also a programme of fantastic blogging and vlogging workshops. YA Shot is run in partnership with Hillingdon Borough Libraries and Waterstone’s Uxbridge.
Now going back to my interview with Patrice.
This time I took great pleasure into grilling Patrice with a few questions and she kindly took the time to answer.
1. While I was browsing “The Lawrence Line” I wondered, are you the first writer in the family? Do you know of others? Maybe you share your love of words with someone else?
I come from a story-telling Trinidadian family. One aunty – my mum was one of twelve siblings – writes, but the rest of them can spin a good yarn. My Aunty Baby is especially good for folk tales and family history. Likewise my Italian stepdad. He relives the moment with no second of drama left unplundered.
I was also an early reader. I was fostered until I was four, while my mum finished her nurse training. My foster mum taught me to read when I was three or four. My mum has always been an avid reader and the love of a good story was easily instilled into me. My biological dad was into Marxist tracts and Star Trek books.
2. Why did you want to tell Marlon’s story? What was your inspiration behind it?
Funnily enough, I didn’t know what Marlon’s story was until I was working on about my fourth draft! The book was conceived when I went on a crime-writing course, all set to develop a series set in 1940s Port of Spain. From a short writing prompt, a whole scene tumbled out about a 16-year-old-old boy on a date in a fair. As it was a crime writing course, I kept adding jeopardy, and then a bit more. Oh… and… yes! The end of chapter one! After that, came the police station scene and the chapter where they visit Andre. So, I had Mum, Jonathan, Sonya, Tish, Marlon and Andre quite quickly. But I didn’t have a clue what to do with them for ages.
3. Drugs, gangs, interracial relationships are 3 main prevalent topics in Orangeboy, did you know right away those were topics that would be in your novel or did you just go with the flow?
They just flowed. Drugs were initially a plot device, but in the past I’ve interviewed families affected by drugs and know what a tough situation it is. I’ve also spoken to people who work with young people imprisoned for drug dealing and gang-related activity. There are so many complex issues around identity, expectation, peer pressure, loyalty, rebellion and plain old excitement. And then – add ‘race’ and parental anxiety.
In terms of interracial relationships, I have always lived in households where people are different colours. My daughter has one white dad and one black (step)dad. When the four of us are together it raises a few eyebrows. Many of my friends are in mixed ethnic relationships so it’s natural for me to explore.
4. What was the most difficult topic out of the 3 to explore and why?
Gangs. I am writing about a black boy and there are gangs. Are we entering Stereotype Country? It was a big worry.
Gangs know no racial boundaries. I was researching the history of Hoxton for a pamphlet on Hoxton Hall and read about the race course gangs that the area was known for, fighting over territory with the Italian gangs. They were an inspiration for the gangs in Graham Greene’s ‘Brighton Rock’. The Krays, the Richardsons… all gangs. But somehow ‘gang’ has come to be defined as a group of black boys. I didn’t want to perpetuate the stereotype.
However… there are groups of young people connected through neighbourhood and family who become involved in violence and crime. It can become intergenerational, sometimes with tragic results. While I was writing ‘Orangeboy’, 15-year-old Shereka Fab-Ann Marsh was shot dead by her 15-year-old boyfriend who was posing with a gun he was keeping for someone else. How the hell can this happen? How far can we trace back the roots of something so destructive?
That’s why I wanted to write about three sets of brothers who were drawn into that world.
5. Marlon the main character in the book has a very good friend as a sidekick in Tish. Are we likely to read her story in the future?
6. Where does your love of history come from?
My mum. She’s a real Anglophile. Most Sundays and school holidays we were bundled into the car and visited stately homes and castles across southern England. She still goes off on coach trips to historic villages. One of the reasons I love London is because of the layers of social history. And don’t get me started on cemeteries. I love a good cemetery. And priest holes. I like them too.
7. If you could meet a now departed great for a day, who would it be and why? What would you do in those 24 hours?
Josephine Baker. My daughter is named after her. I am fascinated by her courage, her beauty, her survival instinct and her sense of rebellion. I would request two walking and talking tours – one of Harlem and one of Paris.
8. Can you tell us “10 things” we don’t know about Patrice Lawrence?
1. I have a reverse name. My first name is after my father, Patrick. My family name is my mum’s.
2. As a child, our landlady was Benedict Cumberbatch’s maternal grandma. She’d babysit me occasionally too.
3. I once had a dog called Napolean…
4. … and rabbits called Scratch and Sniff. I didn’t realise they’d been bought for eating purposes. I learnt the hard way.
5. I swear well in Italian.
6. My favourite film is ‘Moonstruck’. I am still working through a lifelong crush on Nick Cage.
7. I’m a bit Indian. If I had my father’s surname, I’d be Patrice Singh.
8. I know all the words to Springsteen’s ‘Thunder Road’, The Jam’s ‘Going Underground’ and an impressive number of Madness songs.
9. Blancmange makes me throw up.
10. My oldest best friend, Lucy, has been my best friend for nearly 45 years.
9. Did you ever get those “Patrice’s Afro” pictures back?
Money will have to change hands before that happens! But my hair is one of the wonders of the world…
10. For you, what is a perfect day?
Homemade pancakes for breakfast. As in, someone at home makes them for me and brings them to me in bed. Possibly with a glass of prosecco? A walk – favourites include the South Bank in London, Kew Gardens, or out of London, up to Glastonbury Tor or the South Downs. On holiday, I love being able to read and read and read. So a post-walk chill out with a good book, followed by more food and a spot of cocktails.
In the afternoon, something arty or history. In Venice, my daughter and I loved a tour of old synagogues and pottering around the Biennale. Or give me an old ruined abbey or castle. Bodiam Castle was always my favourite. There was something about it being a ruin that fuelled my imagination.
The evening will involve dancing and gin.
Thank you Patrice!
If you missed the Patrice’s stop on UKYACX click here
You can find Patrice on Twitter at @