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BookSmart - Interview with Patrice Lawrence

We hope you enjoyed our first episode of BookSmart and our interview with Sara Barnard. We are very happy to announce that episode 2 is now live! 

 

The lucky winner from last month is Maisy Tindle! She wins a signed copy of Sara Barnard’s book Destination Anywhere

 

This time on BookSmart YA author Patrice Lawrence joins us for an exclusive interview. We find about her life growing up, her opinion on representation and equality and even talks a bit about The Mandalorian (spoilers!) and K-Pop! She has written some of the UK’s most popular teen books, and won awards including the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize for Older Children and The Bookseller YA Book Prize. For a chance to win a signed copy of Patrice’s latest book; 8 Pieces of Silva make sure you comment on the video and use #BookSmart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We really enjoyed chatting to Patrice! Follow Patrice on Twitter.

 

Below is a transcript of the interview and a list of her books. 

INTERVIEW WITH PATRICE

A: It’s lovely having you here today, Patrice. Nice to meet you.

 

Patrice: Thank you

 

A: How are you today?

 

Patrice: I’m fine, it’s sort of murky and I’ve been sitting here going through edits for my new book. But feeling quite happy because the cover for my new book, we did a cover reveal on Instagram and Twitter today. So it’s lovely to get that out. 

 

M: So we have that question planned for later on but I’d love to ask, so could you tell us about your new book at all?

 

Patrice: Yes, the new book’s called Splinters of Sunshine and it comes out on the 19th of August, had to remember that! It’s got one of the characters from 8 Pieces of Silva, so DNA Dad who turns up in 8 Pieces of Silva, he goes to his next son. So the son who is next in age, Spay, he lives with his mum, wakes up on Christmas Day to find his dad that he’s never known asleep on his sofa. They go on a road trip from London down to Brighton and then Hastings to find a friend that Spay knew from Nursery school who’s in trouble. It’s kind of like a tale of fatherhood, friendship, forgiveness, lots of wildflowers and a little bit of Freddie Mercury. 

 

A: So, in your book 8 Pieces of Silva, both Becks and Silva are K-Pop fans. I was wondering are you a fan of K-Pop?

 

Patrice: Yeah, to be slightly serious, I actually get really annoyed when people are snobbish about things that people like. I always liked Pop music. Because I’ve never been cool it’s never bothered me what people think and one of the joys of being an adult is you just don’t care, because there’s no one to impress!

 

A: That’s a good motto! 

 

Patrice: When my daughter, my daughters 21 now, so when she was 13 or 14 she first got into Japanese Pop and then into K-Pop and we’ve kind of swapped music. She got into  some of the different bands, a bit of BTS a bit of some of the other ones. And then we both got into Korean Indie Music which is really good. You know, I look at some of the choreography that some of the K-Pop bands do, particularly also the women, who have to do it in high heels and hot pants which men don’t! 

 

A: Like Black Pink, the dance is crazy!

 

Patrice: Yes! Absolutely! So you know, they have a serious work ethic as well. I liked a few tracks from BTS Love Singularity, and that one where he’s sitting on a little gang plank. High production videos! So yes, I do. I wouldn’t honestly put anything in a book that I don’t like. I wouldn’t ever want to sneer at anything either. 

 

M: That’s awesome.What would you say overall is your top genres of music? If you have Spotify, I think if you go on search there’s 2 top genres.

Patrice: I do go on Spotify and what’s really funny is each year you know it comes up with your most listened to tracks, so looking at mine it was Korean Indie music and some of it was New Jazz like Michael Kiwanuka that sort of thing. I like some of the Korean Indie sounds almost like cinematic and I also like listening to it because as they’re singing in Korean, and I can’t speak Korean, I’m not so distracted by the words. I like music that has that slight cinematic feel to it. I like some old Rock music, like Led Zepplin, I love Bruce Springstein, I’ve got my Blondie tshirt on because Blondie features in Indigo Donut a lot.

 

M: I absolutely loved Indigo Donut and the music in there I really love. 

 

Patrice: Thank you! They’re all songs I just really like. I remember when Guns ‘n’ Roses came out when I was a teenager and I still love Sweet Child of Mine. I see people playing it on their ukulele on YouTube which just makes me smile. Because those tunes just change and evolve into different things. But yeah, on my Spotify it came up primarily, and another thing I like, which is in Rose, Interrupted, I do like Musical Theatre. So it’s kind of random songs like Jesus Christ Superstar or Hamilton will pop up as well. Quite eclectic. 

 

M: Yeah, very collectic! That’s awesome though, it’s good to know lots of different things, like being educated in all styles and not being snobby because that’s really annoying. 

 

Patrice: Absolutely. 

 

M: What’s your process when you write a book? How does that work?

 

Patrice: Well I usually have loads of ideas stewing in my head at the same time and it’s kind of how I put them together. So with 8 Pieces of Silva, this book came out called Incurable Romantic and it’s written by a psychologist or psychotherapist and bits of it were reviewed in the newspaper, kind of like case studies, all around love. The one that got featured in the newspapers quite a lot was about a woman who, about my age and she was married, she went to the dentists and she was under a general anesthetic and when she woke up she was madly in love with her dentist. It was like chemicals had shifted, she was absolutely obsessed with her dentist. She still loved her husband but she would stand outside the dentist’s office doors and his wife started getting a little bit annoyed so they eventually moved to Dubai. When he went, she still had a little shrine, a shoebox with leaflets from the dental practice. So I kind of felt sad but also there was another study in there about a guy who was married as well but he would go for meals with other women and have other girlfriends and as soon as they said ‘I love you’ he’d dump them, he was in love with people falling in love with him. I thought what would happen if somebody who was obsessed with someone, fell in love with someone who is obsessed with someone falling in love with them. That kind of was a structure and then with Becks I really wanted to write a black working class lesbian, I’m really interested in representation. I grew up in Sussex and went to school in Haywards Heath and grew up in Brighton. When I was at school I was one of the only black kids in Warden Park, you were never in books, never in the curriculum. So for me different types of representation are really important and I think all of us, regardless of who we are, like reading about different people. I wanted somebody like that as my main character and then I gave her the stuff I like, I gave her K-Pop and Marvel films. I also wanted her to have friendships and I wanted her to have love, so I started building my layers of my character and Silva came next. Originally, it was all going to be in Becks’ voice but there’s also something about I didn’t want Silva to be a victim, so even though she’s a bit sad I wanted her to have her own voice.

 

A: Have her own narrative.

 

Patrice: Exactly. So kind of building those two together. Then I thought I wanted something old-fashioned like clues so you have to go into the forbidden territory of her sister’s bedroom and actually find clues. I’m not usually that structured so it’s a real challenge for me as well to do that. I just wanted to write a proper mystery with clues. I was quite influenced by, again, a lot of personal things. There’s a picture of my daughter when she was a baby, a Mother’s Day picture in a frame, I remember taking the back off and I was like ‘Oh my gosh, there’s a little curl of her hair in there I forgot that!’ and thought ‘Ah!’. So it’s like a jigsaw, you’re bringing all these little things together. That’s usually my process but character always comes first and whatever the situation is comes after. So characters, but also the situation. With Indigo Donut I had to write a book in a year while I was working so I started off with indigo as a colour and thought ‘okay, indigo, indigo, rainbow. What if she had siblings all named after the colour of the rainbow?’ So you’ve got Scarlett, Coral, Primrose, Teal, Blue, Indigo and Violet, but what if she didn’t know them? You do a lot of ‘what if’s?’ and I thought ‘what if she’s scared of being loved and scared of loving someone? Better have a love interest!’ It builds in layers like that. 

 

A: Especially in Indigo Donut I had a question of who was your favourite character to write Bailey or Indigo?

 

Patrice: I think Indigo because I just think she has gone through so much and she’s really struggled. Before I was a full time writer, I worked for different charities when I first moved to London, and quite a lot with young people who had been in care or who were in care or parents were going through that process and foster parents and grandparents – it’s a tough life. A lot of young people get moved several times and when I first started writing, the laws changed now, the law was that if a young person was in foster care when they were 18 then they had to leave that foster care. I remember just thinking, my daughter who was 16 or 17 at that time, and she’s really independent, she could cook, wash clothes, but I could never imagined saying to her, when you’re 18, ‘okay – go’. It just seemed an awful thing to do to young people. It’s changed now for young people in foster care to 21 but not in residential homes. There’s usually something where books make me feel quite cross, that I feel that I’ve got to comment on. But I just liked Indigo, I thought she was sparky, she’d been through a lot, great choice in music.

 

M: I particularly love how her hair was based off Blondie’s Parallel Lines cover. That was really funny and the outfit she went on the date was really funny. 

 

Patrice: I did a lot of research, I spent ages looking at the Parallel Lines thinking ‘it’s a white dress. Would she wear those heels?’ Because Indigo hasn’t got much money, so it’d be easy to get a cheap white dress and get the look I suppose. I think Indigo is one of my favourite characters. Becks is there and I think Tish in Orangeboy as well because she’s like the 15 year old I really wanted to be. No spots, excellent hair and a really big mouth on her!

 

M: In your book Orangeboy, Marlon gets sucked into gang culture sadly, how do you prepare for writing that?

 

Patrice: I mean the whole book actually was an accident. I’d been trying to write children’s books, so for younger age groups, for quite a while and I just wasn’t good at it. I could always think of a story and I could write descriptions etc. quite well but to have an arc of a whole book I really struggled. It’s one of those things that you have to practice just like anything. So I went on a crime writing course and I was going to write crime for adults because I’ve always loved crime books. I actually thought when I was starting it that I was writing a crime book for adults, I didn’t know YA existed! I’ve read books by Patrick Ness and others but I didn’t see it as YA, I just saw them as good books. On the crime writing course we had to pick writing prompts out of a hat and the one that I got was ‘he woke up dreaming of yellow.’ Is that like apocalypse in The Simpsons? But there’d been a teacher strike when my daughter had just started Year 7, and being a really responsible parent I took her to Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland, which is so expensive! We just walked around all the time complaining about how expensive it was, we had a great time. Then we needed to buy a hotdog so we had enough coins to get one between the two of us and then ‘ah, mustard!’ So that’s what I thought of and because it’s a crime book, there has to be a crime at the end. I wasn’t originally writing a book, I was just writing a piece of writing. I wrote it and then Sonya goes ‘the girl on the ghost train dies’ and I want to know what happens next. It took me quite a long time to find the story because I was really conscious, I don’t want to write a book about a black boy that gets involved in crime because that would be every stereotype going. But at the time I was living in East London there was quite a rise of knife crime with often black and brown boys hurting each other and quite often the newspapers often report it as ‘so-and-so was an aspiring rapper or footballer’ and people are much more than that. I wanted to understand what would make a lovely boy who was a bit of a geek, into the Matrix, inherited his dad’s vinyl, his mum’s a librarian. I wanted to know what would make lovely young man do something like that. For me, something that’s part of all us, is how far we go to protect our families. I sometimes at school visits tell about, I’m much older than my brothers and one brother is 15 years younger than me, and the cul-de-sac we lived in in Haywards Heath, we all moved in more or less at the same time, they were new builds. So we all knew each other and my neighbours went to the same school mostly. A grown up man called my little brother, who was about 7 at the time, a racist name. His friends brought him back to my mum and my mum was in a silk kaftan and smelling of expensive french perfume, she wafted out the house and knocked on this man’s door and said ‘Did you call me son a …?’ and he said ‘Yeah, what are you going to do about it?’ so she punched him in the nose. I just thought ‘I get that.’ I was really quiet when I was a child and teenager but if somebody said something to my brothers I got really protective about it. I think sometimes we care more about other people than we do ourselves. I think that was part of it and trying to tease that out of Marlon. The gang stuff came afterwards. I always try to read a memoir, a biography when I’m writing books so I can really get into the head of the people I’m writing about. A book called Prisoner of the Streets by Robin Travis and it was his memoir of growing up in Hackney, I know where that is, it’s where I live, and he got involved in gangs as well. I took elements of his life because it really gave me an insight on why some young people get involved in that.I read lots of investigative journalists on gangs but actually just reading the memoir of a young man who himself experienced it was actually much better for me to do that. I do that with all the books, I read memoirs to get the details and help me get inside my characters heads. 

A: That’s really interesting. How has your creativity and flow been affected by lockdown?

 

Patrice: It was really awful for the first lockdown, I think for a lot of people as well because I think it’s hard to find any headspace when you don’t know what’s going on. I remember standing on the station, just before I moved down to St. Leanord’s and I came to look at this flat I’m in now, as I was I ready to go back to London, every email on my phone was cancelling everything. So I’d got in the World Book Day things just before, it was like ‘what on earth is going on?’ It just felt so terrifying. There was no headspace. I couldn’t read-read fiction, so I read quite a lot of History books, I want to write a Georgian fantasy set in London, 18th century. The film Inception meets the book Rivers of London. So I’ve read loads of books about Georgian London and listened to loads of audiobooks as well. I watched lots of crime series on Amazon Prime, I went back and looked at all the Sherlock’s and then I looked at Elementary which is a New York version. I just worked my way because I think crime, if it’s formulaic, I wanted formulas, I wanted to know that this happens there, they’re going to do this, they’re going to find a bad person at the end because there were too many uncertainties. It was hard because I had a deadline for 8 Pieces of Silva but the editors were being furloughed, nobody knew what was going on. So it was really stressful. What about yourselves? Were you able to read at all? 

 

A: I think I read quite a bit but I found that it was harder to, because of everything going on, it was harder to relate to the books as well as I would’ve maybe without but I tried my best. Sometimes there wasn’t much to do because you can’t go out, it was nice to sometimes snuggle up and read a book.

 

Patrice: Yeah, that’s what I felt with audiobooks. I just struggled with fiction because the outside world was too bizarre. So that’s why I ended up reading quite a lot of History books. Listening to audiobooks was comforting because it was like somebody telling you a story. I’ve been listening to Steven Fry, the books he’s done around greek mythology. Mythos and Heroes I’m just about to read. You read some of those greek legends and just think ‘really?! I didn’t remember that bit!’ 

 

M: A lot of the greek myths they get really dark really quickly.

 

A: Like ‘hang on, did I read that right?! Hang on a minute!’

 

Patrice: It’s like that with Stephen Fry. Stephen Fry is saying ‘did what?! Venus did what, again?!’ 

 

M: Yeah, Zeus is doing a lot of strange things over here…

 

Patrice: Bit of a misogynist! 

 

A: And Herod’s putting up with that! 

 

Patrice: Exactly! Well no no, she’s not that good herself! As I’ve learnt. She’s done some horrible things to the women, not to Zeus. Do it to Zeus! Nobody comes out of those myths well do they? They end up, you know, pushing boulders up hills for eternity.

 

A: Even Hercules, it’s a myth where he completes all these great tasks but by the end he’s murdered all his family. 

 

Patrice: I know! The way Stephen Fry reads them, it sounds, I don’t know, a bit like a farmer. Sort of accent, sort of Hagrid-y. He comes a bit as all muscles, a bit stupid. He storms in and starts beating people with his big club. 

 

M: Like Asterix and Obelix. A bit like him from it.

 

Patrice: I can imagine he’s probably based on it, I just think that image.The big guy with the club and just goes straight in. They’re a bit different from the books on greek myths that I read as a kid. There are bits of them that I didn’t quite expect! 

 

A: So what kind of audiobooks have you been reading? Well listening to?

 

Patrice: I listened to those and there’s a series of books called Rivers of London which I love and they’re written by Ben Aaronovitch, he initially described them as sort of like a police procedural but if Harry Potter grew up and he was a constable in the Metropolitan police except there’s a department that deals with weird magic stuff. It feels like a real London book but with this odd stuff that goes on as well. He’s like a trainee wizard. But it’s still really down to earth. Love those books. So I’d read all the series and I’ve been listening to a lot of those on audiobook. There’s a series of books, I can’t remember what it’s called but the writer is Mike Carey and he wrote a script called The Girl with all the Gifts which is a film that involves zombie-ish type things. He’s originally from Liverpool and he writes different odd fantasy series and one of them is about a freelance exorcist. A friend told me about it. He’s originally from Liverpool but lives in a slightly alternative London where zombies are looking to get rights. I listened to these and the stories are great but for some reason they chose to get an American actor to try and do a really bad Liverpuddlian accent.

 

A: Oh no!

 

Patrice: Why would you do that? And also he says things like ‘and I picked up my A-Z’. No! It’s an ‘A-Z’. This actor, and I presume the producer must be American as well and know nothing about London or the UK, so whenever anybody in a book is flagged up as being Asian or Black, he just puts on this really awful accent. I’m thinking Asian and Black people in London are Londoners generally. They sound like me! 

 

A: They have the same accents as everyone! 

 

M: Yeah exactly they speak like…

 

Patrice: Londoners! Or Sussexers. And you just think ‘oh my goodness’. But the stories were so good that I actually managed to listen to all of them. While I was shouting randomly at my earbud. 

 

M: Terrible accents!

 

Patrice: But the worldbuild, I love books where you do get that quirky worldbuilding. So I listened to all of those. Have you read any of the Leigh Bardugo Six of Crows?

 

A: Yeah, I have actually! I’m a big fan. I quite like her books.

 

Patrice: Audiobook is really good. So I listened to the first two of those and I’ve got one more. There’s two isn’t there, there’s Six of Crows and the other one, Crooked Kingdom which are a duology and I’ve gone to listen to the trilogy of the one before that. They’re really good, I love those. Amazing worldbuilding. 

 

A: Oh definitely. I think I read one quite recently by her called Shadow and Bone.

 

Patrice: That’s the one I’m reading at the moment. They’re quite thick aren’t they! 

 

A: Yeah they are quite!

 

M: I actually had to go back to that one because at the start of lockdown, I found it hard to read really fantasy books. Because it is very fantasy based. But reading it again it’s actually really good and interesting and engaging.

 

Patrice: Yeah, I don’t think I could’ve actually physically read it. I think just simply, because in lockdown it was hard to focus and concentrate and I think the size of it and actually just focusing on the words. But actually having someone tell me the story and in Six of Crows, because it’s multiple points of view, they have a different actor for each point of view. I think that works really well. So you know who you’re with, which really helps. I was really impressed with the worldbuilding on that it was just fantastic. I think they’re making a series of it, aren’t they. Because I looked.

 

A: Yeah, I think they’re adapting it as a series.

 

Patrice: That’d be interesting! 

 

M: I hear they’re also remaking the Percy Jackson books as well to be a series because the film messed up really badly apparently. 

 

Patrice: I started watching the first one but it was just a bit mmm. It’s like I’ve been trying to watch the Artemis Fowl movie on Disney. 

 

A: Oh right, yeah the Disney+ series. 

 

Patrice: Yeah and it’s a pity because the books, I mean the books came out ages ago before I was a writer, but I remember when I was doing the research for thinking about what sort of writing is out there, and it was described as Die Hard with fairies. I thought ‘yeah…’

 

A: Yeah, that’s a bit of a misjudgement on the film.

 

Patrice: It is, it’s like how! And I’ve met Eoin Colfer a couple of times who wrote them, he’s such a lovely guy and I thought ‘why would you do that to this man?’ It was like they took everything that was fun and edgy out of it and try turn into something that’s very sanitised,  but also something that’s really stereotypical. So everytime you see Ireland there’s like pipe music. It’s like ‘oh come on!’ A friend of mine said he tried to watch it and he said when Judi Dench came on and said ‘top of the morning!’ a goes ‘I’m done.’ 

 

A: Just going on those Irish stereotypes.

 

Patrice: I suppose they literally Disney-fied Ireland. It’s such a pity because there’s such good storytelling, there’s such scope for it. And they made the main character, Artemis Fowl, not intriguing or compelling, just really obnoxious. I was like I don’t care what happens to you or your dad! I think I turned off and watched The Mandalorian instead which I really liked.

 

A+M: I love The Mandalorian!

 

M: They shouldn’t have done any face reveals though, they should’ve done one at the end when he was saying goodbye to Grogu.

 

A: Oh, you might have spoiled something!

 

Patrice: I haven’t seen the second series yet, but I presumed.

 

M: Oh! 

 

Patrice: No it’s okay, they’re going to make a third series. So something’s going to happen. I actually don’t mind knowing spoilers. I came to it quite late. Mainly because I was just saving it.  But there’s that little scene where he’s holding, in the first series, where he’s holding his little thing on bone broth and the two were fighting and I thought ‘aww!’

 

A: He’s so cute, they did such a good job. I don’t know how they could create something so adorable.

 

Patrice: It’s good, and it’s lovely and I suppose it’s the opposite of Artemis Fowl about how you take something with such high expectations and just keep it really good and the production. But they also riff off the idea of the old western films, the Clint Eastwood figure, so they blend these different genres together plus what we know from Star Wars, like ‘yes it’s the bar and the ones with funny tentacles!’ you know and all that. But managing to keep everyone satisfied. Really good female characters as well, you know, which is really good! I’m saving the second series until I’ve finished the edits on my new book.

 

A: That can be your reward.

 

Patrice: Absolutely. They’ve also got women directing some of the episodes as well so it’s  interesting a friend of mine said to look out for the episodes where a couple of the women have directed because actually they tend to be more emotionally involving where the men are more action. Where the women have the action but actually get more emotion in there as well. And the artwork at the end – you can see I’m really geeky, I really am geeky.

 

A: No I’m really interested in the artwork at the end and how they actually film it. The sets and how they do that. They’ve got like a big screen that goes behind and I think that’s really interesting from the traditional way things are usually set, I thought that was quite strange but also quite interesting. 

 

Patrice: It just looks really realistic doesn’t it? I actually believe they’re on hover bikes going through the desert. You know the wind. They’ve not skimped on production values, have they? It’s great. 

 

M: Well thank you very much for coming on here it was really nice speaking to you.

 

A: Yeah, really lovely!

 

Patrice: Thank you so much for interviewing me! I hope you’ve had a good half term and I hope the rest of your year goes well, this uncertain year goes well!

BUY PATRICE’S BOOKS HERE

 

Indigo Donut

 

Buy from Amazon

Kindle Edtion: £2.99

Paperback: £6.55

Audiobook: FREE with Amazon Audible

 

 

 

Rose, Interrupted

 

Buy from Amazon

Kindle Edition: £4.99

Paperback: £5.00

Audiobook: FREE with Amazon Audible

 

 

 

Orangeboy

 

Buy from Amazon

Kindle Edition: £4.99

Paperback: £5.00

Audiobook: FREE with Amazon Audible

 

 

 

Eight Pieces of Silva

 

Buy from Amazon

Kindle Edition: £4.99

Paperback: £6.00

Audiobook: FREE with Amazon Audible

 

 

Find all of Patrice’s books here.

 

OUR BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

Rosina: Hi, today to mark the centenary of the author’s birth, I’d like to recommend The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith. She’s one of my favourite authors. In hindsight she probably could’ve done with psychological help but nevertheless a great book. If you want a gripping read then this book is for you.

 

The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

 

Buy from Amazon

Paperback: £4.23

Kindle Edition: £4.02

Hardcover: £13.38

Audiobook: FREE with Amazon Audible

 

 

 

Caitlinn: Hi I’m Caitlinn and I’m going to recommend Northern Lights from the book trilogy His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman. It is set in a fantasy world where people’s souls take the form of animals beside them. It follows the pursuit of gateways to other worlds against the laws created by the overpowering church. There is also a television series on the BBC based off of this book series, with the final series dedicated to the last book having been confirmed for next year. So if you love action, adventure and watching TV you’ll love this book.

 

Northern Lights by Philip Pullman

 

Buy from Amazon

Paperback: £4.99

Hardcover: £10.19

Audiobook: FREE with Amazon Audible

 

 

 

 

Evie: Hi, I’m Evie and today I will be sharing with you My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult. This tear-jerking book is an incredibly thought-provoking read. With a controversial plot line, asking the question; do you own your own body and have the right to decide what happens? Or if you’re a child; can your parents chop you up like spare parts?

 

My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

 

Buy from Amazon

Paperback: £8.15

Kindle Edition: £5.99

Audiobook: FREE with Amazon Audible