Friday, March 30, 2018

Friday's Guest featuring Eileen O'Finlan #MFRWAuthor #BooksWeLoveLTD #Historical #Ireland #famine

What were you in your life before you became a writer? Did this influence your writing?
I’ve always been a writer.  Even as a child I would spend hours making up stories in my head.  Photographs tend spark story ideas for me.  I can’t explain what it is about a particular photograph that does it, but something will draw me to it so that I can’t take my eyes off it and a story will begin to unfold in my head.  I can remember doing this even as a young child.

My first published story was printed in my Junior High School newspaper.  I’ve continued to write throughout my life.  So, what I was before becoming a writer, I guess, was a baby!

I suspect, though, that you are really asking what I’ve done for a living before being published.  Other than a three year stint as a nanny, I’ve mostly worked in offices as receptionist, secretary and administrative assistant.  The job that probably had the greatest influence on my writing was the three years I worked as a Museum Assistant in the Department of Research, Collections, and Library at Old Sturbridge Village, a living history museum in Massachusetts.  In the museum world, the title Museum Assistant is basically an administrative assistant.  However, I also got to assist the research historians and curators in their work.  That was my favorite part of the job.  I completed my undergraduate degree in history while I was employed at the Village.  Between that and the hands-on work of using primary documents and working with artifacts to assist in the historians’ and curators’ projects, I learned a tremendous amount about how to do historical research.  Since I write mostly historical fact fiction, the discipline I learned there has been invaluable.

I also worked as a Continuing Education Assistant for the Central Massachusetts Regional Library System.  That entity (which, sadly, no longer exists) provided a wide variety of services to all the public, school, university, and special libraries in central Massachusetts.  Being surrounded by books and librarians on a daily basis fed my insatiable appetite for reading and writing.

I am currently employed full-time as an Administrative Assistant in the Tribunal Office of the Diocese of Worcester in the Roman Catholic Church.  Since my novel, Kelegeen, has a Catholic priest as one of its main characters, I think I’ve been greatly influenced by the many priests of the diocese with whom I interact on a regular basis.  Also, my Master’s degree is in Pastoral Ministry and I have a certificate in Adult Faith Leadership and in Catholic Social Justice.  The work I did to earn the degree and certificates has given me a strong background in the Catholic faith and church history.

I would love to say that I’ve been able to retire from office work and become a full-time writer as that is my life-long dream.  However, Kelegeen is my first published novel, so I still have a ways to go before I can quit my job.  I’m still what I was before I became a published author.  Fortunately, I love my job so I’m happy continuing with it for as long as it takes to reach the point where I can write full-time.

2.                 2  Are you genre specific or general? Why? I don't mean genres like romance, mystery, fantasy etc. There are many subgenres of the above. 

Kelegeen is historical fiction.  The ideas I have for future books are mostly historical fiction, but not all.  Some are more general, set in the present.  I do have a few ideas for fantasy novels.  One thing I find, especially with the historical fiction, is that I like to explore unusual, dark themes.  For example, I am fascinated with the whole idea of 19th century post mortem photography.  I would like to write a novel with a post mortem photographer as the main character.

Though I don’t write horror, elements of the paranormal do tend to show up in my writing quite often.  On the other hand, a lot of my writing is deeply spiritual with faith, forgiveness and redemption being prevalent themes.

Then there is the story I’ve been working on for over a year.  I can’t even begin to figure out what genre it falls into.  All the characters are animals.  Humans don’t even exist in the world of this story.  The animals are highly anthropomorphized.  The two main characters are based on and named for my two cats, Smokey and Autumn Amelia.  In the story, Smokey is an architect and Autumn Amelia is a savant baker and chef with a penchant for eating the ingredients while she’s cooking without even knowing she’s doing it.  The story incorporates current events in the real world.  For example, Smokey is charged with designing a cat park.  The property it’s to be built on abuts Rodent Way.  Imagine how the rodents feel about the idea of a cat park right next to their homes.  The clash between felines and rodents echoes the tensions of race relations in the real world, but does it in a somewhat lighthearted (though definitely not making light of it) way.  I must say, the animals handle things better than we humans seem to.  There is also a lot of humor in the story, especially when Autumn Amelia is in a scene.  I think the audience could be YA, but also adults who love animals, especially cats.  But what genre would you call this?  It’s sort of Peter Rabbit meets Animal Farm.

As to why I write in these genres, it’s because they reflect my own interests and life experiences.  I love history, especially 19th century American history, but really I can fall in love with any time period in any culture. 
I think my own Celtic spirituality leads me in the direction of both the paranormal and the religious aspects of my writing. 

I also like psychology and I enjoy getting into my character’s heads, figuring out what makes them tick and giving them complex personalities. 

As for the cat story, I have no idea where that came from.  I started it when I was very sick and experiencing a great deal of pain.  I had major surgery for one problem and continuing rounds of medical appointments, tests, and biopsies for another problem.  I started writing it out of the blue as a humorous story just as a way to distract myself, but it took on a life of its own.  I never intended for the social commentary to become part of it.  It just kind of happened.  I may seek publication for it when it’s finished.  In fact, I think it could be a series.  But, honestly, writing that story is what I go to when I need a break from life.  It’s just plain fun, sometimes laugh-out-loud, pure joy for me to write.

3. Did your reading choices have anything to do with your choice of a genre or genres? 

Definitely.   I read a lot of historical novels.  In my late teens and early twenties it was historical romance.  Later I started reading historical fact fiction.  I also read a lot of non-fiction history books.  My parents loved history as did/do many of my relatives.  When the family would get together, the talk was often about historical subjects.  History was a common topic of conversation in our home so it comes naturally to me.

I also love Stephen King and Anne Rice.  I’ve devoured many of their books.  Could that have something to do with my penchant for the paranormal?

I’ll read any book that looks like a good story.  A few of my favorites:  My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult, The Shack by William P. Young, The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kid, God Game by Andrew Greeley, The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne (actually anything by Nathaniel Hawthorne – always a great mix of historical and paranormal) and of course, my favorite book of all time, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

4. What's your latest release? 
Kelegeen.  It’s also my first release.

5. What are you working on now? 
I’ve started research for a novel set in 1830s Vermont with the New England Vampire Panic as the backdrop.  However, I’ve had so many people asking me for a sequel to Kelegeen, which I always intended to write anyway, I may have to work on that first.

6. Where can we find you? 

1 comment:

Unknown said...


Thank you for sharing your interview. It was interesting to see how you have been writing since childhood. It's such a huge accomplishment to get your first book published, immense congratulations to you! Your next projects all sound interesting to work on. Whether it's a sequel to Kelegeen, or the rodent and cats stirring up trouble or the vampire story amidst hot cakes in Vermont, you have a nice palate to work from! I look forward to reading each one.
You are a great inspiration to all of us.
Enjoy every idea!
Lee B.