Sorry I’ve been so inactive recently, I’ve had exams! But now I’m back! If you guys wanted I was going to do another Tips and Tricks segment on Reading and Revision- let me know if you guys like that idea!
Anyway… That’s not why we are here! Today I had the chance to email one of my favorite authors- Virginia Bergin- author of the The Rain and The Storm which are amazing YA books!
Here’s what went on…
• Hi Virginia! Tell me about your background? What were you like in school? How were you at English?
When I say my name is Virginia and I come from Oxfordshire, people sometimes make assumptions. They’re usually wrong. My family was poor, my parents working class. When I was about 13, we got kicked out of the house that came with my dad’s job and the council had to re-home us. Around the same time, I’d started secondary school, and I hated it. It was big and scary and I got bullied – for being ‘fat’ and for being ‘clever’. I did well at most subjects and I’d always been especially good at English – and specifically at writing stories – but back then it wasn’t the kind of school that would have nurtured that. When I realised you couldn’t do creative writing at A-level, I was devastated. The thing I loved best in the world seemed not to be a career option; people like me didn’t become writers . . .
I never thought I’d be telling anyone else this stuff, let alone putting it out on the internet. For me, there is no point in regretting the past, but what I’d hope is that if there’s anyone out there who is struggling to write, to do whatever – to be who they are! – that they might read this and . . . have courage and hold tight. Find support . . . and don’t give up.
• That is so fantastic and inspirational!
Who or what inspires you? Any authors or people?
PEOPLE! IN GENERAL! When it comes to writing, I’ve read a lot of different authors. There are stand-out books I’ve loved, and some writers whose style makes me swoon with admiration . . . but what I find myself most inspired by is PEOPLE! IN GENERAL! I’m not so interested in the lives of the famous, I am very interested in how the rest of us live; the stuff we go through, and how we deal with it. I find PEOPLE! IN GENERAL! fascinating.
• I completely agree! Everybody has something to offer, no matter whether they’re famous or not!
Ruby is the main character of your books. Can you give us an insight into her character? Is she based on a real person or is she completely made up?
I love Ruby so much! I couldn’t tell you where she came from – I really couldn’t! I haven’t got kids of my own, but I’ve got friends with kids – kids who are now teenagers. They help me out a lot, advising me about all kinds of things . . . but none of them are anything like Ruby Morris. She really feels like her own person, with her own voice. She just rocked up in the very first paragraph on the very first day I sat down to write The Rain, she started speaking – and she wouldn’t shut up . . . !
• I’ve just started writing too and that is exactly what I’ve found with my characters! You don’t write the characters, they write themselves!
What made you become a writer/ what made you sit down and write?
After I realised creative writing wasn’t an A-level option, I stopped. I stopped writing for about 10 years. 10, long, miserable years. I tried to be a psychologist, but I found I was always drawn towards the arts . . . so I tried to be an artist instead. One day, when I was studying fine art/film at Central St Martins, the teacher set a creative writing exercise. I cried my eyes out. I remembered what I’d loved, and I started studying writing instead. I signed up for every course going, wrote poetry, short stories, film and TV scripts. I even started getting paid to write documentaries and corporate films. I knew I loved writing, but I still didn’t really believe my ‘own’ writing could ever be successful. It’s just that I couldn’t stop. I wrote in between and alongside all kinds of jobs. Writing was wrecking my life socially and financially. It got to the stage when I thought I truly had to quit . . . when, unexpectedly, I got a small chunk of cash. I figured I could hold out on it for three months. For the first time in my life, I turned down some freelance writing work. I wrote The Rain instead. In 10 weeks.
• That is amazing! I am very impressed- it is an incredible story! Wow!
Do you ever get writer’s block? If so, what do you do?
I wouldn’t say I get writer’s block – don’t we all have dozens/hundreds/thousands of ideas every day?! I think we do – it’s just listening to them that can be trick, working out what’s useful and interesting . . .
I do, most definitely, get ‘inner-critic block’. I had it with The Rain and The Storm, a voice that says you can’t do this/you’re no good at this, etc, etc, etc. It can cripple you – if you let it.
The thing to do, in my experience, is to ignore it. It might be very difficult to ignore it, but that’s what you’ve got to do . . . just keep on writing anyway, otherwise you will never learn and grow. Or get published!
• That’s right! Perseverance is definitely key! Well, if you can write a book in 10 weeks you really shouldn’t stop!
Do you read much? If so, who are your favourite authors?
The ONLY downside of getting published is the impact it has had on my reading. There have been plenty of new and strange and sometimes somewhat stressful things to deal with . . . but it’s the impact on my reading I have found most difficult. I find it hard to read other people’s work when I am writing, and now I’m writing so – SO – much, my reading has suffered. It’s painful.
What I would say is that I couldn’t be doing the writing without having done the reading. I’m pretty old – I’m 48! – so I’ve read a ton of stuff; some obscure, some what you’d expect. I’ve had reading crushes on authors, fads (eg on Russian literature). At one stage, and for quite a long time, I wouldn’t read anything that wasn’t written by a woman. I wanted to balance up what I’d read.
The writers I go back to and most admire are Raymond Carver (because he looked hard at everyday people and saw things utterly precious and important in those lives, and wrote about them exquisitely) and Cormac McCarthy (his subject matter I struggle with – am often repelled by – but his prose? The sentences in his stories, the poetry in them . . . I have to put down the book to breathe).
•It’s always fantastic to be affected by a book in such a powerful way!
Do you prefer eBooks or paper/hard backs?
The real deal! I do do eBooks – discovered they’re brilliant for instantly looking up new words, rather than grabbing a dictionary and getting distracted – but I prefer having a book to handle. Now that I can afford to buy books rather than borrowing them from the library, I also like having them around to remind me of what I’ve read!
I also love audiobooks! I mean, everyone likes to be told a story, don’t they? Recently, I was lucky enough to visit the studios when they were recording The Storm, and it made me appreciate how much work goes into creating an audiobook – the actor is giving a private performance, just for you!
• I would definitely have to agree with you there! I love eBooks but I love collecting books so much so I can just put them on my shelf!
I love your book covers! Who designed them? Also, do you think covers are important?
Thank you so much – or rather, I should thank Tom Sanderson. He’s the brilliant designer Macmillan commissioned to create The Rain and The Storm covers. I think what I love most about them is how they’re not just visual, but tactile: you can feel those raindrops, touch those bolts of lightning. What’s really interesting is that the US covers – although completely different in every other way – are tactile too! I’d love to ask the designers how they came up with their concepts . . .
Are covers important? YES. We can all say they shouldn’t be, but they are – especially if you’re a new author. People aren’t going to pick up your book because they know who you are – and they may not have read a review – so the cover has to speak to them. I was so happy and relieved when I saw my covers because I knew I wanted the story to appeal to boys and men too. I think the UK covers look a bit ‘Stephen King’ – and there’s no visual hint about the comedy/humour that’s in the story. Same with the US covers – and that’s a very good thing. I wouldn’t want anyone to pick this story up thinking they were in for a light-hearted tale . . . it IS the apocalypse, after all.
• Your UK covers are so beautiful and they really made me want to read them among everything else!
What is your favourite motivational phrase- if you have one?
‘GET ON WITH IT.’
That might sound a little harsh, but it works for me. I can find a million reasons to stall . . . but if you don’t crack on, that story is never going to get written. It’s pretty much the same with everything else in my life. I find it very easy to worry about consequences, about whether I’m making the best decision. Sometimes you only find out by doing.
• Well, that is obviously shown by your amazing books!
How can readers discover more about you and your work?
I’ve got a website! http://www.virginiabergin.com
I’m also on Twitter and I have a Facebook page . . . and there’s a whole load of stuff about me and my books on My Kinda Book, Macmillan’s fab website for teen readers.
Finally . . . thank you so much for inviting me onto your blog, Caitlin!
Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview, you have inspired me so much!
Now guys, you have to check out this book if you haven’t already, it is incredible! All my social media links are down below including the Goodreads link to The Rain! See you all really soon!
The Rain Goodreads- https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21116887-the-rain
My Goodreads- https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/38362004-caitlin