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INTERVIEW: Virginia Bergin, Author of H2O

Virginia Bergin

Virginia Bergin
Photo by Cate McRae

Virginia Bergin learned to roller-skate with the children of eminent physicists. She grew up in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, in a house tied to her father’s job. Her parents, the children of Irish and Polish immigrants – and one Englishwoman – had moved from Liverpool to the south of England in search of work. Virginia studied psychology but ruined her own career when, dabbling in fine art at Central St. Martins, she re-discovered creative writing. Since then she has written poetry, short stories, film and TV scripts and a play that almost got produced – but didn’t.

In between and alongside more jobs than you’ve had hot dinners, she has worked as a writer on TV, eLearning and corporate projects and has 22 broadcast and non-broadcast TV credits, from children’s favourite Big Cat Diary Family Histories (BBC) to the award-winning series Africa (Tigress Productions for National Geographic). Most recently, she has been working in online education, creating interactive courses for The Open University.

Virginia Bergin’s debut novel was released as The Rain in the UK through Macmillan Children’s Books and as H2O in the U.S. You can read an excerpt from H2O on the author’s website or watch a book trailer on YouTube.

Follow Virginia on Facebook or on Twitter at @VeeBergin.

SF Signal: Let me start by saying that I loved the premise of your book. My twelve year-old self was cheering all the way through the book, what with killer rain very neatly validating an entire childhood of avoiding baths, outdoor activities, and any beverage that didn’t fizz. If you’re ever looking for ideas for a sequel, we should talk. I have some really great suggestions involving teenage girls being exposed as an alien race that would be right up your alley. Now, I know what soured me on the whole outdoor experience, but where did you get the idea for killer rain?

Virginia Bergin: So…I take it you’ve never been to the UK?

We get a lot of ‘weather’ (a.k.a. rain) and we cannot get through the day – let alone an apocalypse – without a cup of tea. ULTIMATE DOOM SCENARIO.

More seriously…on a global scale, I couldn’t think of anything more serious than killer rain. The entire planet needs H2O. Water is life. So…what would happen if the Earth’s supply became contaminated?

In terms of the specifics, I’m pretty sure I must have read an article in New Scientist magazine. The science is fascinating in itself…but if you write, that magazine is a goldmine for ideas. The annoying thing is I can’t remember what the original article was, but it would have been about astrobiology and the search for life on other planets. Fascinating…and scary.

SF Signal: How would you describe your book to potential readers? Specifically, how would you shelf it in a library? There are a lot of labels that could potentially apply, including just plain “wishful thinking” for those of us basement dwellers yearning for excuses not to cross from our front door to the car in the morning, but do you see your book as primarily science fiction, horror, or young adult?

Virginia Bergin: This is the most brilliant question, and one I’ve been dying to be asked.

To me, H2O is just a story. If I had a bookshop or a library, I’d shelve everything alphabetically. By author or by title – doesn’t matter. It’s all about stories. I think genres shut people out or in; stories are for everyone.

SF Signal: I read in your interview with Maximum Pop that The Hunger Games was your initial inspiration for writing H2O. Have you spent a lot of time reading YA distopian fiction since then? What was your genre of choice before discovering The Hunger Games?

Virginia Bergin: I haven’t read any YA dystopian fiction since then…but I haven’t had much time for reading. I’ve been writing, writing, writing. (I cannot wait to catch up; I intend to go on a massive reading binge once the second part of the story is done. My TBR pile is stacked so high it’s toppling over.)

My genre of choice? It’s ‘story’.

I read sci-fi – gobbled it – when I was younger (!). I love the way it allows you to think, feel and imagine. As an adult, I mostly read classics and contemporary ‘literary fiction’. I’ll still persist with a classic, because I want to understand how and why it became ‘a classic’, but when it comes to contemporary fiction I have become ruthless. I didn’t used to be! If I started a book, I’d make myself finish it…these days if I don’t like the way it’s written, I don’t carry on reading. Sometimes it only takes the first page for me to decide. First paragraph in some cases. Occasionally…the first line.

SF Signal: Has becoming a published author changed how you read books? Do you ever find yourself stopping in the middle of someone else’s book to kick yourself for not thinking of something first? As in “Damn! If only I had thought to make my rain sparkle, I’d be on the New York Times Best sellers list!” or “How could I incorporate archery into a book about rain?”

Virginia Bergin: Ha! Laughing A LOT!

The short answer is no; being published hasn’t changed a thing about how I read. (See above!)

But…I was going to make the rain sparkle! I was going to make it bio-luminescent! It would have been quite within the realms of scientific possibility…but I wanted this rain to be normal and everyday. I wanted there to be nothing visibly weird and obvious.

And archery? Like the rain itself, I wanted a heroine who was…just your average gal. Nothing too visibly weird and obvious. Nothing too special. (She’s special to me, of course!) That’s the thing I feel most strongly about: how ‘ordinary’ people…aren’t ordinary at all. But, chances are, we’ll never get to know how un-ordinary we are. We’ll never get to know the impact we make in this world.

I told H2O in the way that I did because I am interested in ‘ordinary’ human lives. I am interested in the great, brilliant things ordinary people do. But you’re going to have to read the next book to fully appreciate why ordinary is special.

SF Signal: If you could “play” (write) in another author’s universe, which author and which series would you choose?

Virginia Bergin: Wah! Of course I would choose Tove Jansson and the Finn Family Moomintroll books!

Is it not the most brilliantly imagined universe EVER? It is exquisite. Happy, sad, totally complex. Hauntingly beautiful, intelligent, and …

Err…was I supposed to pick something YA? I need recommendations! What should I read?!

SF Signal: Have you always had aspirations of becoming a writer?

Virginia Bergin: Yes! But I come from the kind of background where that would have been about as sensible and realistic as saying, ‘I wanna be an astronaut!’

When I don’t write I don’t feel like myself, so I just kept going. Even when it seemed nuts to do so, I just kept going. No choice. That’s me, that’s what I do.
I don’t think you aspire to becoming a writer. If you write, you’re a writer. It’s getting paid to do it that’s the tricky bit. But that’s not why you write…your job, your only job, is to tell a story as well as you can.

SF Signal: Finally, when can we expect to see more of your work hit shelves?

Virginia Bergin: Soon?! I’ve just turned in the final draft of The Storm – the sequel to H2O.

Like all serious storms, you can expect it to turn everything upside down – and bash it about. And make you glad you’re not out in it…Ruby? She will have no choice.

About PipedreamerGrey (464 Articles)
Pipedreamergrey is a hardcore geek who has never met a fandom he didn't like. Whether blogging, gaming, or programming, he can usually be found online hiding behind a web handle created back when web handles were still cool. His twin passions are vintage science fiction and the modern day technologies making that fiction an everyday reality.
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