Young Hackney writer lights up thriller genre

StreetFeast Dalston Hackney London E8 280913 ©
While the white folk relax, as here at Street Feast in Dalston, and other hipster venues, wayward youngsters are out in the night, seeking adventure... and danger
Patrice Lawrence (supplied)
Patrice Lawrence: always writing

A YOUNG HACKNEY mother has just had her first novel picked up by a major publisher.

Last Man Standing is to be published by Hodder next year 2016 as part of a two-book deal for the care-charity worker.

Her agent, Caroline Sheldon, said: “Patrice Lawrence, a writer of Caribbean heritage, brilliantly captures the mores of modern-day Hackney as her hero, Marlon, is caught up in a spiralling series of events that catapults him out of his role of well-behaved, conscientious schoolboy.”

Lawrence, who has previously written two children’s stories, Granny Ting Ting and Wild Papa Woods, told Loving Dalston: “I am really interested in what would make someone very moral start behaving in ways that are not moral.

Born in Brighton, she moved in 1997 to Hackney, where she feels “both a tourist and a resident”.

She said: “I really enjoy writing about places that I know well.

“A recent stabbing in Homerton High Street made it to only about page 19 of The Guardian… unless the story involves a girl, or a bystander, it seems that this behaviour can become normalised.

“But what enables one young person to plant a knife in another? I know many parents, of all ethnicities, who worry that in spite of everything they do, their sons will get sucked into a harmful lifestyle.

“I also know young men who have.”

Lawrence, who is married and has a teenage daughter, writes whenever she can… on a laptop in a spare room, in a notebook on the bus or even “on the back of conference papers if a speaker’s going on a bit”.

When she wants to escape her urban environment, she pops along to her gardening allotment by the River Lea. “I go there not to think,” she said.

She started writing her novel four years ago, making five or six drafts before she showed the agent the 90,000 or so words she eventually felt happy with.

The agent did more editing and then it was ready to be offered to publishers, among them Hodder Children’s Books.

Emma Goldhawk, of Hodder, said: “I knew I wanted to acquire Last Man Standing before I’d finished the first chapter.”

Lawrence has always loved English and had great encouragement from secondary-school teachers “Mr Gallichan and Mr Travett”.

What would she say to writers seeking publication?

“Read, read, read, and just write because you love it.

“If you want to be published traditionally, enter competitions and attend events where you can meet agents and get feedback.”

David Altheer 040215

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