It’s always a pleasure when I get to welcome another author to my site to do an interview. Today, I got to interview Brian Finney, author of Money Matters.
Brian Finney, a professor of English, has published eight books on subjects ranging from a biography of Christopher Isherwood (awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Book Prize for the best work of non-fiction in 1979) to Terrorized: How the War on Terror Affected American Culture and Society, published on Amazon’s Kindle in 2011 and as a paperback in 2018. In 2019 he will be publishing his first novel, Money Matters, an unconventional detective novel in which a woman with no experience uncovers the whereabouts of a missing person with connections to the powerful CEO of a mutual fund company, a politician running for governor in California, and a drug cartel. Money Matters to be released on August 22, 2019.
Born in London, he obtained a BA at Reading University and a Ph.D. at the University of London. He spent three years as an officer in the Royal Air Force and five years in management at Joseph Lucas Electrical and Standard Telephones and Cables. In 1964 he transferred to the University of London where he taught and organized courses in the arts for its Department of Extra-Mural Studies.
In 1987 he emigrated to Southern California. After two years as a Visiting Professor at the University of California, Riverside and subsequent adjunct positions at UCLA and the University of Southern California, he became a full-time professor at California State University, Long Beach, where he is currently a Professor Emeritus in the Department of English.
He is married to fine art photographer J.K. Lavin and lives in Venice, California.
She’s poor and naïve. They’re rich and dangerous.
At once a painful coming-of-age novel, an exciting amateur sleuth tale and an intriguing narrative involving social issues (immigration and wealth disparity), Money Matters has mystery at its core. This emotionally charged debut novel is firmly embedded in Los Angeles culture over the 2010 mid-term election.
Jenny, the 27-year-old inexperienced protagonist, faced with the tragic disappearance of a friend, is forced to take on financial tycoons, corrupt politicians and the treacherous Baja drug cartel in her search to uncover the truth. Jenny’s investigation takes her into the twilight world of undocumented immigrants, which leads her to seek the help of the handsome director of an immigrant rights organization to whom she is strongly attracted. But will the deadly enmity of the rich and powerful thwart her search and end her budding romance?
Buy it on AMAZON today!
Let’s start by finding out a little bit about you…
What is your name and do you write under a pen name?
My name is Brian Finney, which is the name I write under.
Where do you call home?
I live in a 1908 craftsman house in Venice, which has been my home since 1987. Before that I lived in England.
Obviously, we know you are an author, but some writers have other jobs as well. Do you have another occupation? Do you believe you’re any good at it? Do you like what you do?
I am a retired Professor Emeritus of English. I enjoyed teaching in Southern California universities, especially at California State University Long Beach where I was a member of faculty from 1989-2015. So many of the students at Cal State have fought hard to make it there and they are a pleasure to teach.
What is your family like?
My wife is a professional art photographer, and we have a small mixed terrier rescue called Willow and an unusually affectionate black and white cat called Zia.
What kind of person do you wish you could be? What is stopping you?
I used to think that I wanted to be a film director. But I came to realize that movie directors have far less autonomy over the finished work than do authors. So I’m happy with what I chose.
Not to pry too much, but do you remember your first love?
I was about seven or eight when I first fell for a girl the same age. I remember leaving a love note for her in a known hiding place and that was about as far as the affair got.
What or who inspired you to start writing? And how long have you been writing?
After rebutting a poor parody of Samuel Beckett in a letter to the editor of the Irish Press, I was asked to write a short book about Beckett’s difficult later prose works. That led me to write to him, and then meet him in a Paris cafe when I clammed up for the first twenty minutes while he talked about productions of his plays.
Who is your role model?
In England after graduating I had to do national service, which I fulfilled as an Education Officer in the Royal Air Force. Occupying such a marginal role made me determined to enter the mainstream of business life. But after five years in industry, when I was offered the position of Factory Manager I realized that I would be trapped by that materialist world for life. Instead I took on a position at London University as tutor-organizer and went on to obtain a doctorate and turn full-time academic.
What is your favorite film based on a book?
Women in Love. Apart from The Rainbow, this is my favorite novel by D, H. Lawrence, whose shorter fiction was the subject of my PhD thesis. Ken Russell’s 1969 film was written by Larry Kramer who said that slightly over half the script was directly from the novel, and much of the rest came from Lawrence’s other writings. The settings are beautiful and Russell is strongest when representing strong emotions.
What is your favorite book genre at the moment?
It is and always has been narrative fiction. I spent much of my life teaching and writing about it, and now I am writing my own novels.
What book are you reading at the moment? And in what format?
I’m reading the paperback version of Michael Ondaatje’s In the Skin of the Lion, which is about the lives of immigrants building Toronto in the early 1900s.
Let’s shift somewhat and talk about your latest story.
What is the name of your most recent book and if you had to sum it up in 20 or fewer words, what would you say?
My latest book is Money Matters, a debut novel published in 2019. Brief description: A young woman disappears. Jenny with no experience as a detective investigates. Confrontations with big money and power leave her radically changed.
Is the Above book part of a series?
How did you come up with the cover? Who designed the cover of your book(s)?
I had a clear idea of what I wanted for the cover. It was really well designed by Carl Graves, Extended Imagery.
How did you come up with the title for your book(s)?
A major theme of the novel is the power of big money in today’s American society. Money Matters is really two titles – matters of money ad money really matters. Once published it got listed among a lot of books counseling readers how to manage their money. Thank goodness I added a subtitle, A Novel.
Do you have a book trailer? If so, where can we watch it?
I have a four-minute preview of the audiobook of Money Matters on my website: https://www.bhfinney.com/books/money-matters/
In your latest novel, who is the lead character and can you tell us a little about him/her?
The narrator and lead character of Money Matters is Jenny. 27-years-old, she hasn’t got her life together. She has two part-time jobs and is renting a bedroom and bathroom from her rich realtor sister. In the course of her investigation she is forced to reject almost every aspect of her existing life and make her life anew.
What is your character’s greatest strengths?
She is kind-hearted, open-minded and opposes her materialist society.
And what are his/her greatest weaknesses?
She starts off being too compliant and lacks true self-knowledge.
What’s a positive quality that your character is unaware that he or she has?
Unlike her self-serving sister, she instinctually does things for others. In other words, she has a social consciousness that stands opposed to most characters’ desire for personal satisfaction even if it is at others’ expense.
What first gave you the idea for your latest book?
My latest book, a novel, dramatizes modern America’s substitution of conspiracy theories and untruths for facts. It is set in 2020 Oakland, California, and concerns a couple in their thirties who enter a crisis in their lives as the coronavirus spreads to the United States. I felt driven to write a novel that explored the parallels between the invasion of the external virus and of the virus of misinformation (the infodemic) that has infected so many aspects of our country.
Let’s talk now about your writing process.
What is your writing style like? Are you a pantster or a plotter?
I’m both. I start off plotting the outline shape of my novel. But when I come to write each episode I turn into a pantster by allowing the characters and dialogue to dictate the direction it takes.
Have you come across any specific challenges in writing or publishing? What would you do differently the next time?
For Money Matters I allowed my development editor to erase any parts of the WIP that did not advance the action. But I don’t want to write a heavily plotted book. I want to write a work of fiction that is both a page-turner and raises larger issues that we all face in our lives today.
Are you a self-published/Indie author or did you publish through a traditional publishing company?
My last two books were self-published. Prior to them I wrote five critical books published by mainstream publishers, including an award-winning biography of Christopher Isherwood published by Faber & Faber and OUP New York.
If you’re a self-published/Indie author what made you go that route instead of the traditional publishing route?
Self-publishing my work gave me the freedom to control every aspect of the process, from matters of content and style to production and marketing. So for marketing Money Matters I employed Coriolis Company that has done an amazingly professional job promoting the book.
What’s the best advice that you have been given when it comes to writing?
Get an editor. A copy editor. A development editor. It’s worth the expense.
What advice would you give someone who wants to start writing?
Allow your characters to assume a semi-independent status. Let them determine what they would do or say in any situation. Don’t impose your own ideas on them or through them.
Where can my readers follow you? Please list links to any applicable websites and/or social media accounts.