This month we’ve been banging on about all things ‘The Rain’ and the brilliant Virginia Bergin. In this interview Virginia reveals all! We officially love her.
‘The Rain’ is the first book in a thrilling new series. Without giving too much away, what can we expect from it?
The works! I go around telling people it’s a sci-fi apocalyptic dystopian thriller horror story, with comedy and a Chihuahua. Yup; I’d say that sums it up nicely! But seriously, the story of ‘The Rain’ is told by a 15-year old girl called Ruby who finds herself trying to survive a global environmental apocalypse that occurs when a deadly bacterium from outer space contaminates our skies and falls to Earth in the rain (geddit?!), killing . . . well, most of the world’s population very quickly indeed. It sounds terrifying. It is terrifying . . . but it is also a tiny bit ‘tongue in cheek’, with lashings of surreal humour. And a Chihuahua.
What was your inspiration for ‘The Rain?’
Well . . . three things:
1. I’m so annoyed that I can’t remember the original article, but I’m pretty sure I must have read something about bacteria from outer space in New Scientist magazine! A friend of mine gives me his old copies and I love them because they are packed full of brilliant ideas. (Totally recommended, especially if you’re interested in writing sci-fi.).
2. A teen friend gave me a copy of the Hunger Games; she said I should read it because it’s brilliant. I read it – it was brilliant – but I was also pretty shocked at how scary and horrible it was . . . O WOW! I thought, If teen readers can handle this, I’VE GOT A SCARY AND HORRIBLE STORY I COULD TELL . . .
3. I’m from the UK, and we’re obsessed with the weather.
Is there a character in the book that you can really see yourself in? Granny Lycra?! Ha! I’m just kidding! (She’s this cat-suit clad member of King Xar’s Court: a gang of wild party people who rock up in a pink stretch limo driven by a kid.) For me, the thing about writing is that you have to be able to identify with each of your characters – even the ones that are not nice. I think it’s a writer’s job to do that, and it’s part of what makes writing so emotionally tiring, because you have to use your own feelings to work out what a character would say and do.
Did you base Ruby on anyone you know?
No. I have got teen friends (my consultants!), but Ruby just appeared . . . she spoke the very first line of the book . . . erm, and then she wouldn’t shut up! I think she annoys some people (!), but I love her so much . . . what you have to remember is that she’s writing her story in a state of extreme shock, confusion and grief; and I don’t think she seriously thinks anyone is ever going to read it; she’s just telling it to herself – so she doesn’t hold back (much). But as a reader I think you have to weigh up what Ruby SAYS against what she DOES. I think she has a good heart. . . and I think that’s true for a lot of teens. I was one myself once, and I think I said some fairly dreadful things. (I might have done some too. Ha!)
Have you always known you wanted to write for a living?
YES!!!!! But I had NO CLUE AT ALL about how to make it happen. No – it’s worse than that; I didn’t think ‘people like me’ could become writers . . . by which I mean I didn’t come from the kind of family or go to the kind of school (it has changed!) where the idea that someone could ‘become a writer’ even existed. (So I’ve done tons of different jobs, but never quite settled to anything because all I was really interested in was writing. Up until Macmillan bought The Rain, I would have said that, in many ways, writing had ruined my life.)
What is your writing process? If you have one
It’s called ‘get on with it’. I worry a lot and things haven’t always been easy (eg NO MONEY!), but you have to just block everything out and lose yourself in the story or you’ll never write a thing. The only problem I have is that I seem to need acres of completely undisturbed time = no music, no email, no internet, no phone, no plans/appointments. I could never manage to do what people like JK Rowling did, writing in cafés, etc!
What advice would you give to someone if they wanted to be a writer?
Get on with it?!
Apart from that, three things:
1. Other people might advise against this, but I would say you need to write what’s in your heart. Don’t worry about what will sell – or even what kind/genre of story you’re writing. Just write what’s in your heart!
2. And be brave about it! Don’t imitate; originate! Don’t be afraid of writing the way you want to write (you’ll find ‘your voice’) and don’t be afraid to show other people (not just family and friends) what you’ve written. Even if they hate it, listen carefully to what they have to say – and always say thank you! (Appreciate all readers!)
3. Read . . . whatever you fancy – and maybe some stuff you don’t fancy! Investigate . . .
Lastly, are you scared of storms? We are after reading your book!
I LOVE storms!!!!