Lydia Ruffles, author of The Taste of Blue Light and Colour Me In, takes us on a tour of some of the places that inspired her second book.

Colour Me In is about friendship and first love, mental health and masculinity, art and adventure. None of the locations in the book are named but places, maps and globes play a big part in the story. Here are some of the photos I took while I was researching it.

“On this rooftop no man’s land between the city and the clouds, Arlo has almost everything he wants.”

The story starts with 19-year-old actor Arlo and his best friend Luke on the roof of their building, working on a secret project and howling across the skyline. It’s where they talk and hang out, away from everyone and everything. I wanted it to feel as if they had created their own world up there, with just the sky and the cranes for company.

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“The black and white stripes of the crossing are shiny with rain, reflecting the whole neon jungle back on itself.”

When something irreparable happens and familiar black weeds start to crawl inside him, Arlo flees to the other side of the world, taking only a sketchbook full of maps. He wants to get as lost as possible and ends up alone in a neon city, thousands of miles from home. The city in this picture is Tokyo, Japan, where I wrote some of the book, but Arlo could be anywhere.

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“On the other side of the troubled water, the mountains are just dark shapes now.”

While he’s trying to outrun his past, Arlo meets fellow traveller Mizuki. Something about her feels more like home than he’s felt in a while. They decide to get lost together, but what is Mizuki searching for? Readers have described the story as an indie romance and I loved the idea of some of their journey happening in places that were unusual and off the beaten track.

 

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“The corkscrew shapes of a rollercoaster mark low lines in the sky.

‘Have we got time to climb it?’”

Creeping around this out-of-season theme park got me thinking about all the quiet, derelict places around the world and what might have happened to make people abandon them. Colour Me In is about getting lost to find yourself so I wanted to explore some overgrown and spooky locations as part of the story.

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“If there’s one thing his and Luke’s games have taught him, it’s that everything looks different on maps. Huge adventures look tiny; places are not as they seem or aren’t there at all.”

Like Arlo and Luke, I partly grew up in seaside towns. I wrote some of the book by the sea and when I saw this boat waiting for the tied to come and lift it up, it helped fill in some of the gaps in the story. Without giving away any spoilers, I knew Arlo needed to resolve some of the things that happened in his childhood in order to move on.

As well as photos, I collected other images and art to build the aesthetic for Colour Me In. Take a look at the Pinterest board for a deeper look into Arlo’s world.