[In a new series, we ask local authors the same 20 questions to get a glimpse into their personalities and processes.]
Brian Finney is a Los Angeles local author who spent the first half of his life in England, where he became a lecturer in English Literature at the University of London. In 1987, he immigrated to Southern California where he was a Professor of English at UC Riverside, UCLA, USC, and California State University Long Beach (where he remains Professor Emeritus). He has written seven nonfiction books, including a biography of Christopher Isherwood that won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in Britain. After retiring from full-time teaching, he wrote and published his first novel, MONEY MATTERS, in 2019 that was a Finalist in the Best American Fiction Awards (2019).
What part of Los Angeles do you call home? Since immigrating here in 1987, I have lived in the same 1908 bungalow in Venice that I and my wife added on to in the rear in 1992-93, just before the Northridge earthquake. Despite the inroads of tech companies, Venice is still a unique neighborhood that I love.
Are you a native of L.A. or a transplant? I moved here 32 years ago and have been a naturalized American citizen for 30 years.
How many books have you written? Seven nonfiction books and one suspense / amateur detective novel.
Did you publish traditionally or independently? All but the last of my nonfiction books were published by major publishers in Britain and America. For my last nonfiction work I went outside my academic field. Titled Terrorized: How the War on Terror Affected American Culture and Society, I felt compelled to write this socio-economic-political book and self-published it to avoid all the hurdles that would be raised for daring to write outside my specialist field.
What inspired you to write this (your most current book’s) story? Having spent much of my adult life teaching students how to read and interpret works of fiction, once I was free of the compulsion to publish academic book, I eagerly turned to practicing what I had been preaching (or teaching), by writing my own work of fiction.
Which characteristic of your protagonist do you most admire? Jenny, my 27-year-old narrator and major character, resists succumbing to the money culture of the time (2010) and is determined to find her own response to a society where money trumps everything else.
Which characteristic of his/her/their nemesis do you enjoy? Jenny has to learn that she needs to come to terms with her materialist society, and her arguments with her high-earning sister offered me some of my greatest pleasure.
What’s the best part about being an author? Having complete freedom to invent whatever you want. Compare that to writing a biography where every assertion has to be backed with a source.
And the worst? Having to publicize your work (even when it is accepted by a major publisher), particularly the need to post regularly on social media.
How do you keep the momentum of writing/editing/publishing/promoting? Once I have a subject I want to write about, the rest follows naturally.
What’s your “writing ritual”? I don’t have a ritual. I write when I feel creative, and I do other things when I am not in the mood to write.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given? Employ a professional editor, even though they cost a fortune.
What’s the best advice you could give another author? Never be afraid to delete – entire sections if necessary. Nothing is ever perfect, and any piece of writing can be improved – and improved again.
How do you interact with your reading audience? Mainly through social media – posts, interviews, blogs, newsletters.
Where are you most social online? Instagram
Where are you most social in real life? With friends and neighbors.
What’s your favorite place in Los Angeles? The Venice canals, followed by the Venice walk-streets. Both are traffic-free.
Do you have a hobby or go-to that helps you recharge? Once a week I attend a life drawing workshop that I find totally absorbing.
What are you currently reading? I am about to start Jeanette Winterson’s FRANKISSTEIN. She is a wonderful stylist whose sheer writing skill always thrills me.
What’s next for you? I don’t yet know. I’m still busy publicizing Money Matters. I don’t even know whether the next book will be fiction, fictional biography or nonfiction. I am leaving it to my unconscious. When I know I’ll announce it on my website: bhfinney.com
About MONEY MATTERS: At once a painful coming-of-age novel, an exciting amateur detective tale, and an intriguing narrative engaging with 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 during the 2010 mid-term election. Jenny, the 27-year-old protagonist, faced with the tragic disappearance of a friend, assumes the role of amateur detective, and finds herself battling financial tycoons, corrupt politicians, and the treacherous Baja drug cartel in her search to uncover the truth.
Jenny’s investigation also takes her into the liminal 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 end her budding romance?