The Sea of Ideas
My head is swimming with them . . . your head is swimming with them . . . everyone in the whole world has a head swimming with ideas . . . question is:
WHAT’S IN THERE AND WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?
Unlike other ideas I have – like, ‘I’m sure I’d be brilliant at surfing if I tried it’ – The Rain was an idea I acted on, and this is the mini-story of how that happened:
One summer afternoon, a 15-year old girl gave me a copy of The Hunger Games.
‘It’s brilliant,’ she said. ‘You should read this.’
‘OK,’ I said . . . and, lying paralysed by a bad ‘writer’s’ back in their garden, I did.
The next day, still lying in the garden, I finished it.
‘It IS brilliant,’ I told the dog and the two guinea pigs I had been left to look after.
They stared at me, not unhelpfully . . . and a weird idea bubbled up from the bottom of the ocean . . .
You’ve got a scary story, the idea said. TELL IT.
‘Oh, you mean -’
NO, NOT THE ONE ABOUT THE HAUNTED BRASSIERE, THE OTHER ONE.
Ideas, they can get so tetchy . . . and, as long as they don’t involve hurting anyone else, I think the more tetchy an idea gets, the more you need to act on it.
I did have a story; way back in 2007 I wrote a film script called H2O, about a killer alien virus in the rain. The idea had probably come from an article in a magazine called New Scientist. A friend of mine gives me his old copies, and if you want to write any kind of sci-fi, I would highly recommend it; every issue is packed with amazing ideas. But my script lacked heart. No one liked it much, not even me - but, like all ideas you instinctively know are good, it never quite went away. It just got tetchier. So I scrapped the script and wrote THE RAIN. With all of my heart.
And all of my money. I had enough cash to survive on for three months, and only a skeleton of a plot, so it was going to be a desperate race to write. Luckily for me, Ruby showed up in the very first line. I never looked at that skeleton plot again; it would have been pointless because my main character told that story all by herself – and she had her own ideas about how it should go. All I could do was show up at the desk and let Ruby get on with it – and she did, fast; in exactly the same sort of frenzy as she would have written it in the book. 10 weeks later I had a first draft.
I was a bit shocked, to be honest. I was also exhausted.
I love Ruby so much. Not just because ‘she’ pulled it off, but because, to me, she represents a lot of thoughts and feelings I have about what it can be like to be a teenager. Some of what she says and does IS meant to be funny (I find teens are often brilliantly funny; they say and do some pretty original things!), but it’s all mixed in with times when she is annoying or unpleasant or selfish – or lovely. I think Ruby has a very good heart. I feel . . . so protective of her, but also very angry for her; ‘growing up’ can be hard enough without an apocalypse happening in the middle of it. I think Ruby was at a stage in her life when she was just beginning to work some things out – and now she has lost everything. She is frightened, shocked, vulnerable and confused – in a situation that you’d hope no teen would ever find themselves. I feel awful for her, so I’m very understanding when she takes a detour to try on a dress, for example. It’s bitter sweet; a clinging for comfort to a past that has gone forever. My poor, lovely girl!
But it would be wrong to think of Ruby as some kind of mish-mash of what I think about teenagers; she is definitely HER OWN person! (That’s another thing I love about her.) So when I looked over that first draft I didn’t feel there was much I could or should change about it. It was Ruby’s story, and I’d run out of time and money anyway. If no one liked THE RAIN now, they never would, that’s what I decided. In my next blog post, I’ll explain why this was not, in fact, a great decision . . .
I did what Ruby would call ‘a stupid thing’. I sent the draft out.
Head over to Reading away the days for the next stop of the blog tour!
RAIN BY VIRGINA BERGIN IS OUT THIS THURSDAY IN THE UK!!!