Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
Hi, my name is Julie Finnemore and I am 55 years old.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I was born in Birmingham and I live in the West Midlands.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I grew up with my twin sister and my mom, as my father passed away when I was 9 years old. I left school at 16 and worked in banking and finance for over 20 years but my dream was to be a primary school teacher. I studied with the OU and finally in 2003 I qualified as a teacher and I have been working in Junior schools ever since. I mainly teach children between the ages of 7 to 9 years old.
I am married to Deanand my next dream is to get a black spaniel puppy, when I’ve got more time and to carry on writing!
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
I’ve been busy promoting my book ‘An Angel in the Playground’ going around lots of different schools and spreading the angel love! Last year I spoke in front of 350 teachers and support staff at a conference all about how I came to write it and I’ve discovered a love of public speaking, something I never imagined I would do.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
Like a lot of people I had always wanted to write a book .Over the years, being a teacher, I have read hundreds of books to children. I’m always saying to them ‘to follow their dreams’ and then last year I saw a quote from one of Goethe’s couplets that said ‘Whatever you can do or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!’ I then thought I’ve just got to start it, not worry about the process of putting a book together and see what happens. I soon discovered once I had put pen to paper, just how much Iloved the writing process and creating the characters for my book.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I knew that my book would be based in a school and based around school life. However, I wanted it to be more than just about the tales of children, I wanted it to have a spiritual element incorporated into the story as well.
One day on playground duty at school, I overheard a year 6 girl say that she had seen a ‘ghost’ on the playground and it cause quite a fuss. The head teacher said there could be no talk of ‘ghosts’ but It gave me the idea, as a believer of guardian angels, to change the ghost into an angel and make it not scary, but comforting to children. Then as I was tidying out my study one day I came across an old photograph of me and my twin sister that was taken on the playground at my primary school ‘St Mary’s of the Angels’. I then knew that my characters would be linked in some way and I used the experience of being a twin to bring out the special relationship that we share and used this in the story as well. (I have had this photograph printed at the back of the book- I also used the image of my twin as the angel for the front cover of the book)
When I wrote the first four chapters I tested it out on children from my school and I got really positive feedback. I didn’t tell them that I had written the story and they kept asking me what was going to happen next until finally last year the book was completed and finally published in November 2018.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
It was seeing the photograph of me and my twin sister on the playground when we were about 6 years old that triggered the idea. I knew there was going to be an angel as a main character so ‘An Angel in the Playground’ was perfect for my story.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I have tried to be very descriptive and made the story relatable for my young readers. I have used my personal experience of being a teacher and incorporated some of the events of school life into the story. Some of the characters in my book, either being teachers or pupils, have been based on some characters I have met in school along the years!
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
The day to day events of school life that I have written about are real and there is a particular incident in the story about a spider that The Animal Man brings into school that is based on a real event. Also, I have written about the main character Jodie’s relationship with ‘Belle’ the angel. This is based on the special relationship that twins share and being a twin, I have tried to highlight the special bond that exists between each other.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
No, all my ideas have come from working in a school.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
I designed the front cover and all of the illustrations in the book. A friend of mine drew the images based on my ideas.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Yes, I wanted to write a story that exposes children to the possible existence of angels and be comforting to them in an uplifting way. I believe that children are supported by the ideas of having a guardian angel. Speaking from my own personal experience, my own father passed away when I was only nine years old from a heart attack. It was very sudden and he was only forty years old. What helped me through this difficult time, was imagining him being my angel and looking out for me and still being around. Death is so hard for children to comprehend, but it gave me comfort and support to think of him still being by my side. Again from experience in school, many children experience loss of a beloved family member and if the ideas helps them through this then it is a great thing. I was touched recently when a small child in my class came to me and told me that his grandad had died. He said to me ‘Miss it ok because I know Belle will show grandad what to do in heaven’ (Belle is the angel in my story) that warmed my heart!
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
My favourite childrens author is Jenny Nimmo I love her book ‘The Witches Tears’ as it is very atmospheric and descriptive and she keeps the reader on their toes until the end of the story. This is what I have tried to do writing my book.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
To be honest, I didn’t tell anyone that I was writing my book, not even my husband. When I was writing it in my study, he just assumed I was doing work for school so I guess I supported myself with a little help from the angels!
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I have loved writing this book and no doubt I will be writing the next one that I know will be called ‘An Angel in the Classroom.’ I am lucky enough to do a job that I love and so I am happy writing alongside it for pleasure. I suppose if it were possible to pay the bills by writing what a wonderful thing that would be!
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I really wouldn’t change anything about the story, the only thing I would do is next time is add more illustrations in the book.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
Yes that whatever you want to do in life, just have a go! I’ve discovered that I have connected to so many people through my book and the feedback I have had has been wonderful. I have believed in this book from day one and it has given me so many smile days! I’ve learned that nothing is impossible!
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
This would be an absolute dream to see my characters come alive on the screen! As my main characters are 9 years old girls, it would have to be some yet to be discovered talent.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
- Believe you can do it.
- Enjoy the process and if you are flagging, take a break and come back to it with fresh eyes.
- Just keep imagining the day when your book is in your hand for the very first time!
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
If you think you don’t like reading, just know that it’s because you haven’t yet connected to the right book.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I love mystery books and I’m reading The Promise by Teresa Driscoll
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
For me it had to be Enid Blyton every time. I loved The Faraway Tree and The Wishing Chair and I still read these books to the children in my class.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Laugh – Being around people who have funny bones and some of the things children say to me at school.
Cry –sad storylines in soaps!
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
Oprah Winfrey- I think she is a fabulous person who came from humble beginnings. She is funny, spiritual, gives a lot of herself to people and despite all her fame and fortune, she seems caring and real. Her book ‘What I know for sure’ is one of my favourite books.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
Walking my sister’s dog and being outdoors.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Peaky Blinders, Downton Abbey, Corrie of course!
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Food – Chinese food of any description
Color- Purple, I have always love it and it connects on a spiritual level
Music – George Michael, I love him!
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Telepathy is the answer! I would sit under a tree and ‘think’ my stories to people around me!
Fiona: You only have 24 hours to live how would you spend that time?
Listening to George Michael, eating Chinese wearing my favourite purple dress!
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
Back with the Angels
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
I’m just on Facebook