Today I’m starting a weekly post highlighting authors I’ve met and read via Twitter’s #writingcommunity. I’ve discovered some great people and incredibly talented writers. I’ll initially focus on authors from the wonderful island of Ireland and first up is Derry’s Lauren Robinson, whose exceptional World War Two debut, ‘The Boy Who Saw In Colours’ was one of my top reads of 2020. Tell us a bit about yourself and your home town?
Hi Lauren. Firstly, tell us a bit about yourself and where you come from?
I’m a 25-year-old final-year journalism student and a full-time daydreamer. I’m always trying to be better — spiritually, emotionally — every day finding new ways of doing it. Possibly punching-above my weight. I’m from Derry, Northern Ireland, which is a beautiful, little postcard town with a complicated history, filled with complicated people that I both love and hate.
The Boy Who Saw In Colours is an incredibly unique historical novel. Tell us how you first got the idea for it?
I’m deeply fascinated by children living on the knife-edge of having life bash the magic out of them. I think that comes from my past and seeing people I love dearly in horrible situations, but they keep going because they have to. Josef (the main character) is a child who is living a somewhat horrendous life, but he continues to be optimistic — escape into his magical world of colours —and that’s one of the more heartbreaking parts of his character. How much he wants to believe in hope.
You learnt German as part of your research for the book. How difficult was that?
It’s not as difficult as you might think initially. I remember seeing words like Freundschaftsbeziehungen and thinking “what in God’s name is that, and how am I supposed to pronounce it?” But when you break it down, it all seems less daunting. German is actually a very beautiful language, with many words that criminally don’t exist in English! A couple of my favourites are Verschlimmbesser, which is when you are trying desperately to fix something but you only seem to be making it worse, and Weltschmerzz,a mental depression or apathy caused by comparison of the actual state of the world with an ideal state.
How much of yourself did you pour into your characters?
Oh, so much, which I think can be said for any author. I had all this stuff stuck down in the bottom of my stomach for year’s and I knew I had to get rid of it somehow, so I just put it all in TBWSIC. Shortly after publication, I had many thoughts of “what the hell have I just done?” But I honestly think I was put here to write Josef’s story. And I know I have more stories inside. Many people ask me about the dedication at the beginning, and that is for my Aussie friends. Some people don’t understand my almost obsession with Australia, But what people fail to understand is that I was a broken person when I arrived in Australia, and those friends quite literally saved my life and helped shape me into the person I am today. The person who’s brave enough to publish such a personal, bat-shit insane novel for the world to see. You have no idea what it’s like to love people who had such an impact on your life when they don’t even know it.
A lot of side characters who, to me, are everything but side character, are loosely based on some of those friends, so they are very special to me. The one thing I love the most about the story is that it contradicts many stereotypes. One of them being that German people we see in the theatre are often portrayed as these arrogant, loud-mouthed, selfish idiots who all look alike, and nothing else. But these children are all of that and more, and you see each of them as individuals and there are so many grey areas in them, which is the same for all of us if we’re being honest.
Where is your favourite writing place and why?
The library in Derry. I spent so many hours sitting at the desk — laughing, crying and experiencing every emotion in-between. I wonder if the staff thought I was nuts?
Have you ever experienced a writing block and, if so, how did you overcome it?
I think we all have. There are moments when I sit down and all I can seem to write is “the sky is blue.” It’s been happening a lot more in 2020, which is unfortunate, and I have no idea how I overcome it. I think peoples thoughts on TBWSIC inspire me. It’s like electricity.
Do you have any interests other than writing?
I love the gym and keeping active in general. Whether that be walking, running or weight-lifting. I love it!
What do you like to read?
I like to read ‘Skelly’s Square’ and ‘A New Jerusalem.’ In all seriousness, those two books are brilliant and I’m very excited to see what happens next! Not my usual genre, either, which is odd. Usually, I love historical and contemporary fiction. My favourite novels are Lord Of The Flies and Boy Swallows Universe.
Tell us about your next writing project?
It’s gonna be another quirky one! I somehow get more personal and honest in this novel because it’s about a young Irish woman, Elizabeth, and set in my hometown of Derry predominantly during The Troubles. It features a child who views the world with a kind of naive optimism, and whose life is shaped by trauma and complicated adults. It’s a beautiful novel that invites the reader to believe in miracles and just let go. Also, the narrator is an almost personified version of Derry itself, so…yeah, it’s quirky.
Where can we find more Lauren Robinson?
My new website is currently under construction, so you can find me on Facebook at @lauriethecolourful, on Twitter; @L_L_Robinson and on Instagram as @laurenrobinsonauthor. Talk to me. I don’t bite!
Thank you Lauren. ‘The Boy Who Saw In Colours’ is available to read now on Amazon and I can highly recommend it. Next week I’ll be talking to Belfast thriller author, Paul McCracken.