Who runs the world?

Lunch with Hayley Long and Virginia Bergin

This was the second event of the 2018 Felixstowe Book Festival that I chose to attend.

It was hosted at Felixstowe Library and they put on a selection of nibbles.  The sandwiches were really good and I got a glass of fresh orange juice in a wine glass (very sophisticated).  Not so sophisticated was trying to juggle my paper plate, glass, mobile phone, notebook and pen but I somehow managed.

The format of the event was Hayley interviewing Virginia about her book and chatting a little about her own too – like they were two authors hanging out.  It was very informal between the pair.  It made the event very personal as they told us about their books and what inspired them to write these stories.

Afterwards, we got to mingle and I had a wonderful inspiring chat with Virginia.

More about Hayley and her new book “Being a girl”.

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Hayley was inspired to write a book that gives teen girls advice on how to survive puberty, however, there are lots of useful tips that would benefit women of all ages.  She describes her book at ‘How to make life easier’.

Hayley showed us some pages from her book with illustrations by Gemma Correll (famous for Pugs, not Thugs) and that some text is small like a whisper and some text is big and loud.  It looks like a fun book by about an awkward subject.

I was delighted to hear that Hayley is a local girl and went to school here.  It is really inspiring to hear that someone with similar roots made it and that it is possible.

Writing about such a personal topic was quite scary to publish as she wasn’t sure what reaction she would get.  Of all the complaints she envisioned, she had not anticipated people would complain about a tampon on the cover.

I didn’t buy her book today but if it is still around when my little girl is starting high school it sounds like the kind of empowering book I would want her to read.  She has also written other stories that are based around the Suffolk area that sound really good.  

More about Virginia and her new book “Who Runs The World”.

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Virginia is a very passionate woman who talked about how much the world has changed in the past 100 years for women, like being able to vote and how she feels there is still more to be achieved. She discussed the recent equal pay success but that she thinks the next step is to change the culture and is supportive of the ‘me too’ movement.  It’s not just about changing the law but about changing the way we think towards each other about what is right and wrong.

The idea for this book was sparked whilst chatting to someone studying Tess of the d’Urbervilles at school.  She has also studied this book 30 years ago.  I’ve never read the book so I had to try to follow what it was about by what she was saying but it sounds as if the main character is repressed by a man and although she liked it in school she now looks back and sees how wrong it is.  

Virginia’s imagination then began exploring the idea of a world where women were in control and how this comes about.  She didn’t want to simply switch society over, she wanted to create something new.  Then she came up with the idea of a virus that only affects those with the Y chromosome.

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Killing off all the men made me giggle.  It made me think about a warning I read once about why you should never piss off a writer.  I couldn’t find the quote online so I made my own (see image above) which captures the gist of it. Virginia doesn’t want men to die but this quote makes me feel there are few men that may have made her virus deserving list.

Virginia is very animated when she speaks, especially doing typing hands when talking about writing.  It made her a very likeable person to listen to.  She told us about how difficult writing this novel was as she kept worrying about what people would think and if she has portrayed women without men’s influence in their life correctly.

She questions how gender is portrayed and spoke about how strong women are always made out to be masculine and asks why this is. Why can’t women be allowed to be strong and still accepted as a woman?

Virginia likes to make people think “How do you want the world to be different” and is often impressed at school visits how much the children are aware of what is wrong with the world and how they want to change it.

She recommended reading The Power by Naomi Alderman.

Mingling afterwards

After the interview there was time for us to eat some more food, buy the books and chat to the authors.

I waited patiently and then had a lovely chat with Virginia.  I asked her about whether people had judged her for writing SciFi.  Most people I know, judge me for writing fantasy.  She was very encouraging about writing what you love and never giving up.

I asked her about how long it took her to find the right agent.  She told me that a few years ago she had been writing scripts and had an agent but when she wrote The Rain she found a publisher quickly and was picked up by an agent too.  She told me never to take rejections personally and to keep trying. She also pointed out that self publishing has come a long way and especially for Sci-Fi and Fantasy it can really expand the market for writers.

She encouraged me to find local writers groups as these can be really useful to critique your work.  Another lady overheard us talking and introduced herself.  She does a leisure learning course at a local college on Creative Writing and encouraged me to come along and meet the other students who often form their own group once the course is complete.

I bought Who Runs The World and Virginia signed it and wrote a nice message to me inside to encourage me to never give up.

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Happy International Women’s Day

I didn’t even know that there was an International Women’s Day until this year!  I must have learnt about it at school because the movement was started by the Suffragettes in 1911. I remember studying the women and being inspired by their passion for change.

Here are some hashtags you may be interested in:

  •  #TimesUp:  Challenging sexual assault, harassment and inequality in the workplace.
  • #MeToo:  Raising awareness of sexual assault instead of hiding it.
  • #PressForProgress:  This is the official theme of the International Women’s Day. It has ideas to enable everybody to take part in being inclusive of women.

I have never categorized myself as a feminist but I do feel that men and women should get the same opportunities and recognition for their hard work.  Change won’t be overnight but we are moving in the right direction.

To celebrate, I shall share with you the strongest female characters from novels that took action to change their world:

The Handmaid’s Tale

My first holiday with friends (no parents), my little sister gave me The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood as a beach read.  I wouldn’t recommend it as a summer read but I couldn’t put the book down.  It was a page-turner and I honestly couldn’t imagine what was going to happen next.


Many women cannot have children in this post-nuclear world.  Offred is able to have children.  She becomes a slave to the rich and powerful to bear their children.  She may sound like a weak character because she complies but her spirit is strong and you can feel that she is going to bring change but as she is constantly watched it will be incredibly dangerous.

The book is worth reading.  Hulu recently created a TV series based on the novel and that is amazing too (next season out in April).

The Hunger Games

Sadly, I didn’t get to read the books before the film came out.  The series of books is by Suzanne Collins.  

It is set in a post-war world where the twelve districts have to send one girl and one boy (children) to compete in a TV Show called the Hunger Games to remind them about the innocent lives that are lost at war.  The MC, Katniss Everdeen, volunteers herself when her little sister’s name is called.  Her sacrifice makes her instantly likeable.  What makes her a strong woman is that she decides to break the system and through her actions, she inspires and leads a rebellion for change.

The Diary of a Young Girl

I think everyone has heard of Anne Frank, the little girl who hid from the Nazi’s and kept a diary of her life surviving a world war.  Her diary is a true account of what happened during her hiding.

I had no idea but apparently, there is a movie based on her diary.  It is also a long time since I read her diary but I remember it being very moving, insightful and thought-provoking.

You may think that Anne doesn’t deserve to make the list because she hid, she didn’t fight, she didn’t make a difference… or did she?  Writing her diary was extremely dangerous and brave.  Anne’s diary has been read all over the world making her voice clearly heard regarding what happened.  Her words have educated billions to change, to never let it happen again.  Her diary ensures we never forget.


The book Matilda is written by Roald Dahl.  I had read the book and watched the movie.

You may think it’s strange that she has made the list but she lived with a family that didn’t encourage or support her desire to read or go to school.  As young as she is, she fought for her rights.  It probably did help having telekinesis powers.

Shifter series

Okay, I promise I am not being biased on this one, even though the series really captured me and is my all-time favourite.  Let me explain why I think the MC is a strong woman.

The story is based around Faythe’s family who are all shifters (werecats/Panthers).  It is set in today’s world but humans don’t know they exist.  The shifters world is very male-dominated and the daughters are to be protected.  Faythe’s father is training her to become the first female leader and she is the first female enforcer.  During the series, she has to overcome a number of challenges to prove herself and it is very action packed.

The first title in the series is Stray by Rachel Vincent.  I have no idea why this book has still not been made into a movie/series yet.  It is so good!

What do you think?

To me, these women are all powerful and strong as the characters were overcoming difficulties that restricted them from being all they could be.  Their actions brought around change.

Is there anyone you think I should have included in my top 5 list?  Any books you recommend I read that feature strong women?  Please comment and share your thoughts.

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