Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Interview with Ruth Finnegan, Author of "Black Inked Pearl"

Please welcome the irascible Ruth Finnegan, Emeritus Professor, The Open University,  Fellow of the British Academy, Hon. Fellow Somerville College Oxford and author of many nonfiction books and the highly acclaimed novel, Black Inked Pearl.

Why don’t you begin by telling us a little about yourself? 

But that’s so boring now I'm in 80s, look up one of my author pages instead, or the start of my ‘Ruth Finnegan Anthropologist’ book. Oh, except that though I don’t live there now I love my native Derry founded in the 6th century (A.D. of course, don’t be so slow!) by an angry warlike peace-full saint (my favourite, St Columba – do you know his beautiful melody for the 23rd Psalm, best of the lot?), the Irish daire, the oak grove; full like its founder of strife and killing  yet now, with its amazing unique peace bridge (google it) a place of peace and community, can you believe it. So beautiful too, once an island in the lovely Foyle river, girt with the green hills of far away.

Oh yes, and  I've just, somehow, by accident, written a novel. It's called Black Inked Pearl since you ask ( didn't? Too  bad, ‘everyone,’ whoever that is,  says I must keep dragging it in, relevant or not, so I will, see?).

When did you decide you wanted to become an author?

Oh before I was born I’d guess. Who knows (except my tall-story-telling Irish green-eyed spook-aware mother).

Were you an avid reader as a child? What type of books did you enjoy reading?

Homer, Homer, Homer, my first real book (then later in Greek too, read aloud, how can you ask). Then Lady Gregory’s stories of Cuchulain, that great hero of Ireland (died tragically, maybe that’s what all the best heroes have to do so they can live on? His dear horse’s head sorrowfully in his breast. I liked that, even though all I  had to ride at seven was a bareback donkey. It ran away with me too right up the strand until I was pushed off when he went under a low oak bough. My poor mother left on the shore, just the flying Jack (good name for bad ass?) with her li'l  girl on  the back. Symbolic? Not sure.

Who says I have to close my brackets, I'm an AUTHOR, see? (did I mention Black Inked Pearl by any chance?)

Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write such a story.

Black Inked Pearl (in case you’ve forgotten) . They say it's an inspirational epic fantasy romance that stays with you and sinks into your unconscious (watch the video). I wouldn't really know. It bypassed my conscious mind, came in dreams 

Did your book require a lot of research?

NONE. Oh not true. 82 years. And reading. And years of hearing and studying oral story-telling in Africa, and listening to tall Irish stories from my mother (and she was some witch and high-tale teller, I can tell you, bet she’s interrupting her soiree up there and eavesdropping on this from heaven and laughing and wondering why I don’t make more of it. ‘Exaggerate a bit, my dear.  It’s all only white lies you know. Well I had to learn all that as your father, you know, only understood LITERAL truth’ (well do I remember - though hmm, what is truth said jesting Pilate etc, etc). She likes my novel, only thing is she thinks she wrote it herself, well maybe she did)

If you could have any vice without repercussions, what would it be?

HURRAY! my favourite question! SELFISHNESSS of course, am not so good at that (so they say anyway – daughters have to I suppose). I’d really like to have a PROPER sin (not just my little ones like greediness or laziness or getting bored or not getting up in time so leaving my husband--so he says he does--to do everything). How else could I have a proper experience of bittering repentance and so get saved in the end – will have to write a novel about that (though come to think of it perhaps it DID apply to my dear heroine Kate – I suppose that’s how I thought of the thing in the first place. She had to stop all this giving and accept for a change). My mother always said ‘self-sacrifice’ was the worst and most selfish and most IRRITATIING of sins and I think she was right (I used to think her love of burnt toast was self-sacrificial [is that what ‘burnt offerings’ comes from?] but actually now I’m old I see that it was actually that she loved it, as I now do too – come and eat with us sometime, you'll love our nice smokey kitchen.

What kind of promotions do you do for your books?

Those lovely Castelane videos. Not sure how many people are lucky (I mean sensible) enough to watch them though, have a try.

What is the funniest/most embarrassing/scariest story from one of your books signings or events?

Good God, I forgot to get dressed ….  O-o-oh just a dream ( bet you have them too, they ( ’they’? ) say they’re very common, like forgetting your notes or not being able to find the place in the book when you’re doing a big presentation, have these dreams quite often, also, useless me, getting lost, again and again and again). Another – real – embarrassing one but lips sealed.

What so you see for the future of publishing and ebooks?

eBooks are flourishing all right (good thing, the more books around in any form the better) but (yippee) print books are fast coming back again. And you know what? (MUCH to the disgust of the traditional book sellers of course – competition is great naturally but only if to your benefit ):  Amazon is opening hundreds of physical book stores in the US, so presumably soon worldwide. More the merrier I say. Why are people so grudging of new things ( like climate change  - actually the oldest of things that, innit?)

Which of your characters do you love/hate/fear/pity the most and why?

Oh the little dog Holly, what more pitiful, truly, than when she thought her dear Kate was coming and then she wasn't, just the smell if her. And what happier than when at the end she lay at - but DID she?  So what is real what not-real in the novel? In life?

Tell us five random things about yourself.

I'm 5 foot seven inches (imperial) or maybe six, thus less than my very short mother whose passport said 5.7: carefully measured by herself, tape measure in and out all the curves, she never could see anything misleading about that (you see now where I got that dream-reality ambiguity thing,  don't you)

I like dogs and cats

Favorite flower-- primroses

Favorite colour--dark sea-blue eyes (the hidden ‘him’ of the novel , love him ... )

Is that five? Like Kate I can't count very well

They say authors have immensely fragile egos… How would you handle negative criticism or a negative review?

Actually I love them (nothing 'would' about it, just look at Amazon!). They always tell me something about me and my book and its style, as well as about them and to whom to try to sell my book(s),  and things to take account of next time (aha, but that’s another story – pun). Fancy them being kind enough to go on reading (even if only some of it) and then ATUALLY WRITING A REVIEW! I (confess it -  I love the positive ones too). 

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

Short paragraphs. Short sentences (unless you’re James Joyce – I try…). Short  words, and don't forget to learn the rules (how else can you break them?).

Do you have another book in the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?

Hmm. A secret  - except that , sshh, not a sequel but all the same related to my Black Inked Pearl -  expanding on the bit that didn’t get proper visibility in the novel, can you guess what, or more likely WHO? But not for a while, must finish off a couple of academic books first. I love them too.

What book do you wish you had written and why?

The Alchemist (and guess what, someone actually compared my novel to that; and  to Game of Thrones, wow) It's so fairytale and SIMPLE. Beautiful. Oh and of course The Odyssey. But is that a book? ( well, I tried, all that long quest, did I mention Black Inked Pearl? Only my novel has a girl as hero not a hardened war-man wise sailor)

What’s your worst writing habit?

NOT (not-writing I mean, isn’t that everyone?)

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?

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