Sixteen-year-old Marlon has promised his widowed mum that he’ll be good, and nothing like his gang-leader brother Andre. It’s easy when you keep yourself to yourself, listening to your dead dad’s Earth, Wind and Fire albums and watching sci-fi. But everything changes when Marlon’s first date with the beautiful Sonya ends in tragedy; he becomes a hunted man and he has no idea why. With his dad dead and his brother helpless, Marlon has little choice but to enter Andre’s old world of guns, knives and drug runs in order to uncover the truth and protect those close to him. It’s time to fight to be the last man standing.
Interview with Patrice Lawrence
Why did you want to write Orangeboy?
I didn’t plan it! I went on a crime writing course planning to write a series of whodunnits set in 1940s Port of Spain. We had a writing prompt exercise – hide the sentence ‘He woke up dreaming of yellow’ in a paragraph. I thought of mustard and fairground tokens, then, as it was a crime novel, something awful had to happen. So, it did! But there is a grim fascination about what makes lovely people do less-than-lovely things. (And I also wanted to write something where I could mention ‘The Matrix’.)
Which character from the book do you think is closest to you?
A cliched answer, I know, but I’m written across the whole thing. I’ve got Marlon’s geekiness (and Isaac Asimov fandom), his mum’s bookishness and Jonathan’s ability to not quite get things. Now Tish, she’s the one I want to be!
Best & worst thing about being a writer?
- Best thing – seeing stories come to life. Realising that you can make up worlds and characters that others want to read about. Meeting other writers.
- Worst thing – lots and lots of juggling for me, work, writing and family life. I’ve also just sent the first draft of my second book to my editor and I’m terrified.
Most surreal moment on your publishing journey (so far)?
When I found out my partner knew a coroner. I suppose it had never really come up in conversation before, until I asked. I wrote about it in my blog. I suddenly realised that there were all these things I needed to know about as I wrote the book and so many people willing to help.
Tell us something about yourself that not many people know:
I have a slight crush on Odo, from ‘Deep Space Nine’.
What do you think are the differences between UK and US YA?
US YA existed in my consciousness long before UK YA. An English teacher made us read Paul Zindel’s ‘The Pigman’ when I was 12 or 13, and I was hooked. I borrowed everything I could by him from our wonderful library in Haywards Heath, then progressing on to S E Hinton. I don’t remember seeing UK YA the, but I did have my nose buried in the Stephen Kings. Also, as a black teenager, living in a very white area, I doubt whether any UK books would have come near to chiming with my experiences at a time that I needed the most reassurance. Better slasher clowns and zombie toddlers.
Now, there is such a wonderful range of UK YA, rather shamefully, I haven’t explored contemporary US books.
What is the question you wish people would ask and never do?
‘Patrice, please can I tidy your house?’ In the world of juggling, housework is the first thing to fall.
In my writing life, ‘how do you write such authentic white characters?’ I’ve nicked it from a discussion on Twitter, but it completely grabbed me. When discussing diversity, the conversation often focuses on how the majority (be it straight or white or non-disabled) writers get over the fear of writing characters not like them and ‘getting it wrong’. Meanwhile LGBTQ writers have been writing straight characters for years, likewise writers of colour have reams of white characters in their wake. I think a discussion around authenticity by writers who have regularly written characters so different from them would be sparky, enlightening and a bit different.
Born in Brighton to Caribbean parents, living in London, I have been writing since I could. I’ve run the gamut of painful rhyming couplets, existentialist teenage diaries and – er – true romance.
I’ve published some serious stuff, about equality and rights, as well as adult and children’s short stories through Hamish Hamilton, A and C Black and Pearsons, amongst others. I’m good at running workshops, talking to lots of people and training. I’m not good at seeing departure boards (or people I know) without my glasses or whistling. I’m represented by the Caroline Sheldon Literary Agency.