Writer Spotlight : Patrice Lawrence
With the Writer Spotlight Series, we create a positive image for Black girls to refer to, by having conversations with different writers and illustrators. This month we have been doing Q&As with many writers, to get to know more about them
and they work. Here, we are showcasing all the questions we have asked Patrice Lawrence the author Granny Ting Ting. You can find more book reviews in our first issue, available to buy here
What's your favourite childhood book?
Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows. I didn’t live with my mum until I was four as she needed to finish her training to be a nurse. We became close through books – she’s a big reader and would read books first then pass them to me so we could talk about them together. She gave me The Wind in the Willows when I was six, but I struggled with the language. I read it when I was nine and loved it. Why? The friendship between Ratty and Mole, the picnics, a badger in a dressing gown and slippers…
Although I loved reading, there were no books with children that looked like me. The first time I was called a horrible name, I was only five. I knew there was something different about me, so to enjoy all the books I was reading, I had to pretend I was white. The Wind in the Willows was about animals, so it was different.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
I loved Enid Blyton’s The Adventures of the Wishing-Chair and remember crying my eyes out when the flying chair’s wings were cut off. I was probably about seven. Books still make me laugh and cry.
How long do you spend researching before beginning a new book?
There’s no set time as usually it’s not until I start writing that I realise how much I don’t know! For Diver’s Daughter, I had already read a book called Black Tudors by Miranda Kaufmann which included the real-life story of Jacques Francis, a diver from Africa who was employed as a deepwater diver to recover expensive items from sunken ships, including Henry VIII’s warship, the Mary Rose. That really helped.
But there was still so such I didn’t know! The Mary Rose sank in 1545, but my story is set in 1570. I read about both periods. I looked at old maps of London and visited the Museum of London to see the displays on Tudor houses and clothes. I went to the Mary Rose Museum in Portsmouth, of course, and to Southampton, where much of the book is set to walk around the old walls and see the Tudor houses that are still standing. I even had to research what people in Tudor times had for breakfast and used to scrub their pots! I’m quite geeky so really love the research.
What are you currently reading?
I’m a judge for the Costa Children’s Award, a famous book prize. I have to read 50 books and choose three to put through to a shortlist. I’m really enjoying reading so many different types of book. I’m also reading a book by a mother whose son went missing as research for a book I’m writing for teenagers. It’s incredibly sad.
Describe your writing place?
I’d love to say I have my own office and special writing chair, but I’ve never really had a set place. When I was writing my first books for teenagers, I also had another job, so I’d often write on the bus to work! At the moment, I either write on a big table in the kitchen or at a desk in the bedroom. The kitchen has lovely high windows that look over trees to the sea, but it also faces the morning sun that burns through the glass and turns me into a fried sausage. The bedroom is cooler, with great views of the sky which is currently brimming with heavy grey rain-laden clouds…
Granny Ting Ting
by Patrice Lawrence and IIIustrated by David Dean
You can find more about Patrice here