Q&A with Patrice Lawrence
Welcome back to our author Q&As! Today we’re welcoming Patrice Lawrence, the multi award-winning author of Orangeboy and Voices: Diver’s Daughter – A Tudor Story, the second in a thrilling new series to reflect the authentic, unsung stories of our past.
Why did you decide to get involved in the Voices series?
How did you research the real life events and people mentioned in your book?
My starting point was the story of Jacques Francis, the African diver and first man of African heritage recorded as giving evidence in an English court. I found the story in Miranda Kaufmann’s fantastic book, Black Tudors, that I had bought a couple of weeks before being approached to write the Voices story. Miranda’s research is detailed and carefully referenced, so I used that as source material about Jacques Francis.
I wanted tell a story from a young person’s point of view, so Eve and Joan are fictional. However, I also wanted to reinforce the point that there were people of African heritage in London in the 16th century.
Next stop, Southampton. The librarians in the reference section of the Civic Centre library were incredibly helpful. Tudor Southampton: Rioters, Revellers & Reformers by Dr Cheryl Butler was an essential read. I also found a passing reference to Jacques Francis in a mid-20th century book as ‘a slave who gave evidence’ and realised he was known about but not cared about. It made me more determined to tell his story. I stayed in a hotel there that had been a coaching inn in the 16th century, walked around Southampton’s medieval walls and stared at the Tudor buildings trying to imagine the landscape when Eve was there. The Tudor Revels website was an essential resource, along with The Time Traveller’s Guide to Elizabethan England by Ian Mortimer.
And, a final shout out to the internet. Pinterest – Converted Tudor barns, Tudor kitchens, wherry boats, carracks, Tudor clothes and shoes, London water steps, horse and carts – you didn’t let me down! Then blogs about Elizabethan food, free-diving and the tide patterns around Southampton Water. Plus a special mention to medievalandtudorships.org/database to help me think about why people would come to Southampton and what they would buy there.
Henry the VIII’s famous flagship the Mary Rose is mentioned throughout your book. Have you visited the wreck of the Mary Rose in Portsmouth and if so how did it feel seeing it in person?
What was the most interesting think you learned during your research?
The most dispiriting thing was the extent of Portuguese colonisation and slave trading. It served as a blueprint for other European nations to devastate South American and African countries. The most reflective moment was seeing the new displays in the Maritime Museum in Greenwich. I visited as part of a school trip as a child and I think there was still a ‘Britannia rules the waves’ feel. The current displays ask more ethical questions about icons such as Captain Cook and Francis Drake that challenges their heroic status. They both did deeply unpleasant things. I’m glad the museum is prompting those discussions.
If you could meet one person from history whom would it be and why?
What was the hardest part about writing Eve’s story?
Creating an authentic Tudor world. I had to research everything, from the stalls and entertainment at St Bartholomew Fair to the etymology of words such as ‘picnic’ and ‘lullaby’.
What are your top tips for aspiring authors?
Try writing different genres – it doesn’t matter if you don’t finish, just start. Just stay open-minded about the possibilities.
Have a writing buddy or writing group to encourage you and bounce off new ideas.
Enter competitions. Even if you don’t win, you will have a piece of work that might inspire you on.
What is your favourite book
Sam Selvon’s Lonely Londoners about the Windrush Generation in London. Poignant, anger-inducing but also very, very funny.
Order Voices: Diver’s Daughter – A Tudor Story here
For more fabulous insights into Patrice’s world, head over to her Twitter, or Instagram