Wednesday’s YA event was live, which meant that the audience could email questions. Chaired by Hannah Lavery, we met Patrice Lawrence and Bali Rai, both sitting at home in their respective houses.
Patrice’s book, Diver’s Daughter: A Tudor Story, was, as you may have guessed, set in Tudor times. You might think there would have been no black people in Britain back then, but you’d be wrong. Patrice’s main character is the daughter of a former slave from Mozambique, and she’s done a lot of research. Some of that appears to have been started by her own mother, who learned to drive, and then took her family round stately homes all over southern England. Patrice read a chapter about a dangerous crossing of the Thames by boat. And she told us how the Tudors would have cleaned their porridge pans without the help of Brillo pads. That’s the kind of thing we want to know.
Bali’s book, Now or Never: A Dunkirk Story, features a young boy from Rawalpindi, who having lied about his age, came over with the donkeys needed to help shift stuff in the mud in Flanders. Or possibly France. Bali wanted to let the world know that there were non-whites in WWII, unlike some claims he came across when young. He read chapter two, which mentioned a real person, John Ashdown, father of Paddy Ashdown, and who seems to have been rather special. Plus there was Tommy Smith, a communist from Tooting, whose task it was to show that the war wasn’t only fought by white upper class soldiers.
Both Patrice and Bali reckoned they’d never been properly taught about the war. They didn’t know that people like them had also been part of the history of WWII. They had even been told that this had not been the case. Besides, ‘all our ancestors came from somewhere’, as Bali pointed out. People don’t just happen. And people always change things. Patrice regretted not having known about Mary Seacole when she was young.
Asked who they’d like to write about in future, Bali said Bob Marley as a child. Patrice looks up old cases from the Old Bailey online, and is fascinated by the voices of women in Georgian times.
There’s a question about deep diving for Patrice, who says she can’t even swim. Bali talks about the second lockdown in his part of Leicester, and Patrice has fun with the exhausted Italian dogs, expected to exercise with several ‘owners’. It was reading Leicester’s Sue Townsend, and the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, that made Bali a writer. And he discovered Fleur Hitchcock’s books in the darkest corner of a bookshop, and continues to recommend them to everyone.
A final question from Ferelith – who can only be the Ferelith so well known in book circles – and Bali says he’s planning a sequel to City of Ghosts. So, we’re looking forward to that!
Having live questions really made a difference. (If only I’d watched live…)