Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Lynette Latzko is talking with Ruth Finnegan, author of Voyage of Pearl of the Seas
FQ: What do you hope children, or readers of all ages, will learn from reading your book?
FINNEGAN: To love dogs and friends, and adventure beyond what you dare, and that God has many ways, many names (and no name too - he just is there).
FQ: I noticed that you have a few creative writing publications under the pseudonym Catherine Farrar (as well as pseudonyms in other genres). What made you decide to write under a different name?
FINNEGAN: Well you’ll maybe find it hard to believe but the truth is that when I was first somehow induced to write fiction, I felt that ‘Ruth Finnegan’ was associated with academic stuff so that it might be misleading if I kept to the same name. But more important - this is the strange but true - that I in some way had inherited the responsibility to dream of a little Catherine, my mother’s sister (but somehow my sister too, very close) who, before she was seven, died of scarlet fever (it wouldn’t happen now, would it). She was too young to have dreams, if rather too young to tell them or to write them down. So I knew I had to do them for her. Her name, ‘Catherine, has been a constant, even magical, one,through generations of my maternal life (hence the Kate in my stories) and Farrar was her mother’s maiden name.
So in another way I feel I was also writing for my family.
Now that her stories (stories, not full length novels) are out in the world I want to resume my own person, as a, by now, both fiction and nonfiction writer, why not!
FQ: I really enjoyed the illustrations designed by Rachel Backshall sprinkled throughout the book, especially the one in chapter ten depicting various animals in a large tree. I’m always impressed by great illustrators who can enhance a story’s plot with their designs. As an author, do you find it difficult to align your thoughts and writings with the perfect artist?
FINNEGAN: Luck! Like so many things it just happened. I met Rachel, then a final year undergraduate, at a Somerville College jamboree in Oxford, and we just clicked. Like me she studied classics and loves animals (as you noticed) and, again like me, adores her family, so we’re always on the same wavelength. We’re working on a magical Kate-Pearl series (of which this book is one), maybe as they come out we’ll send you them for reviewing. Here they are: Oh Kate!, a board book (coming soon), The Magic Adventure: Kris and Kate build a boat, a picture book (already published), Kris and Kate's Next Adventure: The Magic Pearl-Maran, a picture story book, The Enchanted Pearl-Away, a chapter book, Pearl of the Seas, a fairytale prequel to The Black Inked Pearl ( published), (later books in the series, starting with Black Inked Pearl don’t have illustrations, they’re just words - well to my mind SOUNDS: audio versions of them could be coming soon)
FQ: You have had quite an extensive writing career. Do you enjoy writing fiction or nonfiction, and which of your books is your favorite?
FINNEGAN: Um, usually whichever is the most recent. I’m so surprised that after a lifetime of writing nonfiction books (continuing) I seem to have tumbled into creative writing, and I love it, so in a way all if that - still a surprise to me, awesome - is my favorite. I do so love learning new things (don’t you?) to build on the old... So yes, whatever I’m doing this minute (just now it’s a retelling with a deeper message of the mythic incredible story of Orpheus and his lyre. Most tragic ever, and yet, and yet...I can’t decide if it’s a novel or a screenplay, which I suppose means it’s going to be both).
Like the other fiction, it begins with dreams...Otherwise, not sure.
No, I do know: Of non fiction The Hidden Musicians because it’s about real people and about music, greatest of the human arts, and has inspired others to SEE, and do similar research on, the music being created all around them; but even more Why Do We Quote? because it brings together all my interests and skills and is at first sight such an unlikely but, in the end, deep and pervading subject.
Fiction? Again not sure but probably The Helix Pearl, a companion to the other novels, Voyage of Pearl of the Seas (this one); and The Black Inked Pearl. It’s in the same kind of literary, allusive style, was equally born in dreams, and tells essentially the same mythic tale but this time from the perspective of ‘the wine dark [Homer’s epithet] garrulous sea’ - a new light on the story which was a surprise to me too. If you enjoyed Voyage of Pearl of the Seas, you’ll like that one too.
FQ: Why did you decide to write a prequel to your original novel, Black Inked Pearl, but mainly write it for a younger audience?
FINNEGAN: It wasn’t really planned. Like my other fiction the story and the words it was clothed in just ‘arrived,’ and at the time I was thinking of young adults, maybe encouraged by my teenage grandchildren who - it’s the greatest honour - sometimes share their reading with me.
FQ: I see that you've been interviewed many times. What is the one thing you wish someone would ask you, or something you're just dying to tell readers, and have never had a chance to?
FINNEGAN: First - Why on earth did I put the Notes at the end (several reviewers say they’d have liked them at the start)? Because though one of the books aims, as you detected, was to bring readers, specially young readers, into some awareness of the great riches of literature, I wanted this to be subtle, emerging, NOT up front. The last thing I wanted was for it to seem a text-book kind of thing.
And - am I allowed a second question? If yes: When will it be made into a film?! It would be super, Narnia-like. Oh when when when - you tell me. I need a magic offer for the script - already there - to turn this enchanted log lying in the sand into a boat that sails the world.