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Welcome to the Paisley Piranha’s aquarium. Make yourself at home. Best not stick your fingers in the tank, we’re not sure how well trained the piranhas are. Can I get you a cup of tea? Would you like some chocolate? Silly question; you’re a writer – what sort of chocolate do you like and I’ll see what I can set my hands on?
VB: Any chance of a coffee? And I’ll take any snacks you’ve got, she said, nervously. Those piranhas sure look hungry . . .
Firstly, a big thank you for coming. We loved The Rain and The Storm and wanted to find out more about them and you. When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?
VB:Thank you so much! I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of saying that; it means SUCH a lot to me when people say nice things about my books. For why? Because I never, ever thought I’d get published.
I don’t exactly remember deciding I wanted to be a writer. I just LOVED writing . . . but I don’t come from the kind of background where people become writers, and back in the day my school wasn’t the kind of school that would have supported that either. When writing didn’t seem to be a career option, I just stopped. I didn’t write for about ten years then I re-discovered it. In between and alongside a ton of different jobs, I wrote poems, short stories, film and TV scripts – I even got paid to write things like documentaries and e-learning courses . . . but my own writing? No one wanted it!
I kept thinking I should give up, but I couldn’t seem to stop. Then, in 2013, I had just enough money to survive three months without taking on other work. I wrote The Rain in 10 weeks. I told myself this was my last chance. That after this, I HAD to quit.
There was a bidding war for that first draft. Hurray for Ruby, that’s all I can say!
Which of your characters would you most like to be stuck in a cupboard for two hours with – kissing to pass the time is optional?
VB: King Xar! And not because he’s hot, but because I’d want to understand more about why he thinks the way he does – you know, that all us humans deserve to die for what we’ve done to the planet, etc, etc. Hey – I’ve just remembered that I wrote his character, so I’ve got ideas about why he thinks the way he does, but I’d want to hear him talk about it in his own words.
That’s part of the job of being a writer, I think. That you have to find empathy for even the most seemingly nasty characters, otherwise they won’t feel real on the page.
Of course, I might end up falling under his charismatic spell, then convincing him I might be the last woman on the planet, and snogging him anyway. Oh well.
If society collapsed to the point where the writing of fiction ceased, what would you do instead?
Ha! I’m just experimenting with a story in which this might be the case! Easy: I’d be a gardener. If you could still study, I’d train to be a herbalist. I like the idea of learning how plants can cure, of mixing up potions. I’d be ok about being seen as some kind of witch/healer. In fact, I think I’d enjoy it . . .
What one thing that you know now do you wish you’d known when you were sixteen?
VB: Honestly? That you can be happy. That you don’t have to let – you’ve got a RIGHT not to let – a bad start in life determine who you are.
In three words, why do you love/what’s the best thing about books, whether reading or writing?
VB: One word! POSSIBILITY.
What are you working on now – and when does it hit the bookstores/what stage is it at?
VB: It’s a great big secret.
I’m on the first draft. I’m just trying to work out how to tell this story. It’s a BIG idea, but like all BIG ideas, it’s going to be best simply told. It might end up being controversial. It shouldn’t be.
(And I can’t wait until it isn’t a secret!)
And finally, the Paisley Piranhas like to share the love because we know how wonderful it is to find a new book or author to fall in love with. Can you recommend a (YA) book or a writer we might not have heard of who we really should try?
VB: I doubt it! Unlike the latest book idea, I’ve made no secret about the fact that compared to readers like you I have read hardly any YA (glances anxiously at the aquarium) . . . though I’ve been trying to catch up, enjoying reading Julie Mayhew, Louise O’Neill and Moira Young – but I’m sure you will have heard of them . . .
Oh, yes, we love them, too, check out our reviews. Thank you so much for joining us, Virginia.
VB: Thank you for inviting me to your blog, Paisley Piranhas!
Really? That’s the exit? That wobbly-looking rope bridge over the giant tank . . . ?