Architect-turned celebrity speaker, Vincent Wright, is determined that nothing and no one is going to stunt his ambition - not disability, not agoraphobia, nor the half-brother he despises, or even the haunting spectre of a misguided adolescence.
But fourteen years on, old friend and partner in crime, Langston Bola, returns with a lust for revenge fuelled by a life of hard knocks. With his past staring back at him, Vin suffers a panic attack that sends him fleeing to the sanctuary of his penthouse flat, but as Carnival Weekend approaches, a mysterious, young home help arrives at his door who, unbeknownst to him, has the power to destroy his career for good…
Q & A:
What is Trespassers about?
Essentially, Trespassers is about a disabled, agoraphobic architect-turned public speaker fighting to regain control of his life when an adolescence crime comes back to haunt him. I was keen to write a book that really reflects the diversity of modern London, so I decided to set the story in Notting Hill against the backdrop of the impending Carnival, grounding the characters in their environment while emphasising conflicts in class, race, culture and identity.
How did the story come about?
The story stemmed from an early idea I had about a teenage boy whose family is ripped apart by the arrival of a half-brother he never new existed and the subsequent effect this has on their lives. I was interested in how circumstance plays a huge part in the choices people make which, in turn, impact their destinies. From very early on, I’d earmarked Vin as a control freak and the theme of control is central to the book; more specifically, what the characters choose to reveal or withhold in order to retain control. I wanted to create a feeling of uncertainty as to what the truth is, who is telling it and to what extent.
Who or what inspired the character of Vin?
Vin always struck me as disabled, but when I was developing him, I considered an able-bodied man and stuck him in a wheelchair. I wanted him to come across as exceptional despite his physical impairment; a high achiever who sets no limits on himself. His real issue, then, becomes not his physical disability, but rather the emotional dysfunction that threatens to destroy him.
What ideas influenced the character of Langston Bola?
There is always the fear this type of character may seem clichéd, which, naturally, I was keen to avoid. With Bola, what I wanted was someone who, in almost all respects, was Vin’s mirror image, so both are from broken homes, highly ambitious, oblivious to the hurt they inflict on others and control freaks by nature. Bola, like Vin, is battling physical and emotional trauma beyond his control. I wanted him to have a more vulnerable quality whilst at the same time being larger than life and coming across as someone not someone to be messed with.
How did you come up with the character of Goldie?
I researched musicians in bios and magazines. His dreadlocks are golden and the name already has a precedent in pop music so that worked. Everyone loves a rock star and he is that and more, a hedonist, a talismanic front man, unsure of his place in the world both in terms of his familial roots and racial identity, determined to sabotage himself every time it looks as though he might be on the verge of achieving success. One of the key sub-plots in the book is about whether or not Vin and Goldie can reconcile. Deep down, the thing Goldie craves most is acceptance and forgiveness
from Vin, but guilt over the betrayal that left his brother paralysed is constantly eating away at him. Goldie is a real Gemini with all the associated inconsistencies and opposing forces.
Can you say something about the role of women in the book?
The women in Trespassers have a tremendous influence over the male characters and plot as a whole. The challenge for me was to give them authentic modern voices that not only conflict with those of the males, but also with each other. I love Kyshia, in particular, above all the characters in the novel. To me, she represents the conscience of the book. She is central to almost everything, her brash, street savvy contrasting with childlike vulnerability. But she also has inner strength, a survival instinct and an unshakeable belief in real love. And men always weaken in her company. For one so young, she has a genuine hold over men, as do all the women in the book, to varying degrees. Throughout, there is a recurring theme of men struggling with their emotions around women; a real conflict between their love for them set against a need for control, leading to aggression and, in some cases, brutality.
Overall, how do you feel about Trespassers?
I’m very proud of the book as it has taken many years and several edits. For a relatively short book, Trespassers has a lot going on, mainly because the reader is thrust into the action as things are about come to a head. Spending so much time with these characters has been both joyful and difficult, but one of the biggest pay offs is that whenever I walk around Nothing Hill and Ladbroke Grove, I can really see these characters, large as life, going about their business. I’d like to think that it’s the same for other authors too.
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