DRAMA & INTRIGUE
Jan Woolley talks to author David Robinson, who has received five-star reviews for his second novel that takes the reader from wartime Moscow, Paris and Berlin to present day London
Working full time as a hairdresser meant that Ribble Valley author David Robinson took seven years to complete his latest novel Orphan of the State, which he was able to finish during last year’s lockdown.
Since being published to great acclaim, David has sent the novel to actor and film director, Ralph Fiennes, in the hope that it may be considered for a future film: “It’s a long shot but it’s worth a try. My novel revolves around a Russian-born Red Amy soldier fighting on the eastern front during WWII. Fiennes directed The White Crow, a favourite film of mine, which is based on the true story of ballet master Rudolf Nureyev, who became one of the first high-profile Russians to defect.”
As a youngster David was brought up in the rural Lancashire village of Guide, where his parents ran the King Edward VII pub. He went on to get a hairdressing apprenticeship at Alan Rene’s in Blackburn and while working there, completed a two-year Media and Journalism course at Blackburn College, where he was nominated Student of the Year.
He went on to start his own mobile hairdressing business but had always harboured an ambition to become a writer.
“I wrote my first screenplay in the late nineties, which received encouraging praise from Christine Curry, a TV screenwriter for Brookside. I went on to write my first novel Apotheosis, which was a philosophical thriller spanning the Renaissance era in Florence and also set in modern-day London,” explains David, who self-published the novel in 2012.
“It took almost a decade to write and has sold remarkably well as an ebook so I may well do a sequel.”
David’s latest book, Orphan of the State was inspired by the BBC programme Who Do You Think You Are? which revealed the shocking fate which befell singer Marianne Faithfull’s mother and grandmother at the hands of marauding Red Army soldiers in Vienna in the final days of WWII.
“They were raped – it was horrifying, so cruel. It’s hard to understand what went on in those dark days. It resonated with Marianne Faithful on the programme – her mother imposed a very strict upbringing on her and she rebelled.”
Inspired by real-life events, Orphan of the State tells the story of Russian orphan Dimitri Petrov, whose parents died in a car crash when he was a child. Raised in a Russian state orphanage, Dimitri grows up to become a Red Army soldier.
“From an early age he is brought up to believe in the Communist doctrine,” says David. “Just before he goes off to war he meets and falls in love with Moscow ballerina Ava, and when she quizzes him about his parents, he realises that there may be more to their death than meets the eye.”
Orphan of the State takes the reader to Moscow, Paris, Berlin and London stretching through the wartime years to the present day.
“When I initially get an idea for a book I do a lot of research – mainly reading. For this one the subject of WWII was fascinating. I felt like I was revealing the truth and I always like to look for the truth. I also watched a lot of films from that era and listened to Soviet marching songs. As I kept writing, the plot revealed itself. It naturally evolved. I don’t wait for inspiration, I just get on with it and if I wake up in the middle of the night with an idea, I scribble it down.”
Among his favourite authors, David names Ben Macintyre and Tom Rob Smith, who penned Child 44: “That book was what made me want to write a novel set in the Soviet era,” says David, who in the most recent lockdown, began his third novel: “Writing gives me a great sense of fulfilment, it gives me time to think and it educates me. When I start writing I always envisage it as a film, so who knows, one day that might happen.”
Orphan of the State is now available in paperback and as an ebook on Amazon