Thursday, 17 July 2014

The Life Cycle of THE RAIN, a book blog tour with Virginia Bergin

You might remember that back in April I reviewed a great little book called The Rain, all about 15 year old Ruby Morris and her quest for survival when the rain in the UK suddenly turns toxic. I absolutely loved this book and have been raving about it every since so I was delighted to be asked to take part in a launch day blog tour with author Virginia Bergin and her publishing team at Macmillan.

Yes that's right! It's launch day! So read on and then get ordering your copy of The Rain from Amazon or your local bookshop.

So we all remember learning about the water cycle at school don’t we? How the sun heats the water, and the water evaporates and… blah blah blah. The Water Cycle was never a topic that set our school books on fire BUT maybe if Ruby Morris had paid more attention to her Geography teacher then she’d know exactly which clouds might kill her! So we’re here to educate you, because don’t forget, just one drop will kill you. From the writing process to publication, we're here for a blog tour with a difference, join us as we learn about a FAR more interesting cycle – The Life Cycle of The Rain by Virginia Bergin.

Just like the water cycle, Virginia's writing and publishing process takes on some similar stages:
  1. The sun heats the ocean i.e. Virginia gets an excellent idea
  2. Prevailing winds pick up the manuscript and deliver it to the Agent Louise Lamont
  3. Pressure (also known as excitement) begins to build within the publishing cloud of Macmillan with Editor Rachel Petty
  4. Virginia is as high as a cirrocumulus cloud as her book begins to form
  5. Storm clouds gather over Frankfurt and Bologna – The rights!
  6. A downpour of marketing and publicity support
  7. Take shelter in your local bookshop – Totnes Bookshop
I'm hosting step 4, so here's Virginia's tale of what happens when her idea for a book becomes reality.

Cloud 9

This isn’t a blog post. It’s a true confession.

You will have to excuse the fact that I am now going to sound a little bit like the main character in THE RAIN, Ruby, because what happened after Macmillan bought my book was so life-shatteringly shocking that it felt positively apocalyptic.

‘I’m on Cloud 9’ . . . that’s what people say they feel when something really wonderful and amazing is happening - BUT IT IS ALSO THE REAL SCIENTIFIC CLOUD CLASSIFICATION FOR:

CL9 = a thundercloud
The tallest thing on Earth - which is why, when you’re on Cloud 9, you’re supposed to feel so ‘high’ with happiness... but just look at that picture! That cloud is scary; it is the most scary and dangerous cloud there is.

I’d sold a book. Everyone around me was ‘on Cloud 9’ – and I felt like I should be... but the truth is... I felt like I was right beneath that terrifying thundercloud, getting hit by that bolt of lightning. I could not believe what was happening. I’m ashamed to say that I kept thinking there had been some weird and incredible mistake... and every time another country bought the book, it was like getting zapped by another bolt of lightning. 

Germany – ZAP! – France – ZAP! – America – ZAP! – Turkey – ZAP!

This state of gibbering, zapped disbelief went on for five months. FIVE MONTHS. It should have been the best time in my life... but I was terrified... because Macmillan had bought a first draft. Anyone who writes out there will know: you do NOT send a first draft to ANYONE. You just don’t do it. Not ever. There should be no exceptions to this rule. Even if you really think that what you have written works, I wouldn’t ever - EVER! - recommend sending out a first draft. Here’s why:

OK, so I’d poured my heart and soul into THE RAIN, had written it in a frenzy, the same way Ruby would have done (so it felt very real to me, because Ruby wrote it) and I’ve been writing for so long I vaguely knew what I was doing... but THE RAIN needed re-writing, just like any first draft. Only now I had a deadline – ZAP! – and because Macmillan had bought it – ZAP! – and other publishers too – ZAP! – I knew every word I wrote from now on would end up in print. I wasn’t on Cloud 9, I was frying alive in my own terror. Then Rachel Petty, my editor, came along.

I’d never had my work looked at by a professional editor. I had no idea what to expect. I thought I would get a manuscript back covered in red marks, like the worst school assignment you ever did... what arrived was... a manuscript with a few comments here and there. There were some pages that had been crossed out to cut entirely, but that was ok: there was a lot that needed to be chopped! Then Rachel sent an email to accompany the manuscript. It wasn’t a long email. Barely a page. Forget ZAP! - this was:

Rachel had seen what I needed to do – with such a light touch. I had an editing fairy godmother. The question was: how to do it? What I would normally do with a re-write is knock the whole thing down and start over. That wasn’t an option. So, as though the whole book was a giant Jenga tower, I started work; carefully taking things out – it wobbles – carefully putting new stuff in. Adjusting stuff. It started to lean a bit... actually, it started to lean A LOT.

And then the rain came. In December 2013, Britain was battered by storm after storm. On Christmas Eve, I set out to see my family; my train was cancelled. I went home in tears. On Christmas Day, I sat alone, reading a book on microbiology. (That’d be another consequence of rule-breaking. You should always do your research first!) By New Year, I’d re-written THE RAIN – not once, but twice. THE WHOLE THING. I sent it off again, I waited. (Actually, I didn’t just wait, I was so worried about the factual elements in the story, I consulted some amazingly kind microbiologists!)

On 21st January 2014, I got an email from Rachel ‘Fairy Godmother’ Petty. The first line was, ‘NAILED IT!’

Finally, I felt as if I was on Cloud 9.

Hey - that could look a little bit like Darius, what’s he doing on there? It’s meant to be me.

But I still tinkered! I must have driven Rachel crazy. Right up until THE RAIN went to print I tinkered – because that’s what writing is. It takes SO MUCH time before you can truly see what you have written and, as Hemmingway said, ‘The first draft of anything is’... it’s just that sometimes, maybe it’s not so that someone else - like a fairy godmother, for instance - can see how it could be. But don’t take that chance; re-write, re-write, re-write... make your draft the best it can be. 

When I saw the cover for THE RAIN, I cried. My book was... err... going to be a book!!!! Now all I can do is send it out into the world – with a kiss.

THE RAIN was a long time coming. A lot of kind and talented people helped. It was written with all 
my heart... for every teen I have ever known, including myself.

Thanks so much for sharing your story with us Virginia, and congratulations on your publication day!

Want to follow the tour? Head on over to Liz Loves Books to read all about what happens at the Rights stage.


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