Anya’s Mum was a housekeeper in England, and she was brought up in other people’s houses.
“I played make believe games about children in orphanages,” she says.
Living in Ireland, Anya published some women’s fiction books under another name, the first in 2004. Then she moved to Norway, where she became captivated by the history of the Witch trials. She lived there for six years and wrote the first version of The Witches of Vardo.
“It was very true to the real history,” she says.
After that, wanting to change the way she wrote, Anya moved to Scotland to take an MA in Creative writing.
“I took it part-time over two years, and it gave me a new purpose to my writing.”
Meanwhile, she worked as a cleaner and receptionist in a yoga studio.
She rewrote the book six times, but knew it wasn’t quite right.
“Then, in lockdown, I realised which characters I should concentrate on, and I wove in some magical realism so that the reader feels uplifted by the end. That draft only took me twelve weeks. I felt as if I was living with the women.”
Who is Anya Bergman?
Date of birth: 1967 in London to an Irish mother.
Education: St Bernard’s Convent in Slough. Edinburgh Napier University, MA in Creative Writing.
Home: Kilgarvan, County Kerry.
Family: A stepdaughter and a son, an ex-partner, a brother and his family, half siblings and friends.
The Day Job: A university lecturer at Edinburgh Napier; a mentor for post graduate students, and a private mentor. “And I’m trained as a meditation guide and yoga teacher.”
In Another Life: “I love dancing, and wish I was good enough to create dances.”
Favourite Writers: Isabelle Allende; Hannah Kent; Edna O’Brien; Alix Harrow; Jack London; Rebecca Miller.
Second Book: “It’s set during the French Revolution, and links in Irish characters.”
Top Tip: “Realise that everyone has imposter syndrome.”
Website: www.AnyaBergman.com: Twitter: @AnyaBergman
The Debut: The Witches of Vardo. Manilla Press: €15.86.
It’s 1662 in Norway. Misogyny is rife, and women are hunted down as witches. But in an age weighted against them, they refuse to be victims. Will they have the courage to show their power?
The Verdict: Powerful, empowering, and ultimately uplifting.
Published in the Irish Examiner on 28th January.
© Sue J Leonard. 2023.