Get to know an author: Barry Finlay

The series on independent authors continues with this fellow Ottawa author. I met him some years ago at a book fair in Ottawa, and now we are both members of the Ottawa Independent Writers group.

Born and raised in Manitoba, he was awarded a Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee medal for his fundraising efforts to help kids in Tanzania, Africa. He was featured in the 2012-13 Authors Show’s edition of “50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading.”

Get to know him a little better.

How and when did you first write a book?

I didn’t write my first book until age 62. I wrote financial policy for the Canadian federal government for a number of years, which, I think, honed my skills, but I had never considered writing a book. That changed when I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro at age 60 with one of our sons. There weren’t many books that took the reader up the mountain at the time, and people seemed interested in our story, so we decided to try writing about our journey. That led to a travel memoir and now I’m releasing my sixth novel on September 1.   

Books by Barry Finlay

Kilimanjaro and Beyond: A Life -Changing Journey—The story of my climb of Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro at age 60 with our son and our efforts to help the kids of Tanzania by raising money to build a classroom and drill a well. 

I Guess We missed The Boat —A memoir describing various adventures travelling with my in-laws.

Barry Finlay books

Did you send it to agents and/or publishers, or did you publish independently?

Since I was new to the game, I didn’t really know what I was doing. After a bit of research, I decided a hybrid publisher would work best for me. I have published every book independently under my Keep On Climbing Publishing banner since then. Publishing independently continues to work best for me, but I would encourage every writer to look at the pros and cons of traditional versus independent publishing and make their own decisions based on their career objectives. It’s not easy to find an agent or publisher, but if that’s the route an author wants to take, they should at least try.

How do you think your writing and your books have changed since then?

I think my writing improves with each book. My editors will attest to that as there are fewer edits each time. Readers might not notice a difference with the finished product, but my editors certainly would. When my son and I wrote Kilimanjaro and Beyond, I told the editor I wanted her to be honest. She definitely was! It was a learning experience that really helped me with future books. That’s why it’s so critical for writers to set aside some money for professional editing. 

Each of my fiction books offer a learning experience for me as well. Each requires research into subjects I know little about. I speak with subject matter experts and read material to learn everything I can on the topic. For example, in The Burden of Darkness, Nathan is suffering from flashbacks to previous cases, so I spoke with a paramedic with PTSD issues as well as someone who treats it. I think learning about new subjects is one of the things I enjoy most about writing.   

The Marcie Kane Thriller Collection:

The Vanishing Wife (Book 1) Mason Seaforth, with the assistance of his strong-willed friend, Marcie Kane discovers how far an ordinary person will go when his family is threatened.

A Perilous Question (Book 2) – Marcie Kane stumbles across a love interest (an FBI consultant named Nathan Harris) and a human trafficking ring while on vacation in Tanzania, Africa. They follow the leads back home to North America with potentially fatal consequences.

Remote Access (Book 3)  – The president of the United States is receiving online threats that he is determined to ignore. A hacker is equally determined not to fail and damage his reputation. Marcie and Nathan become embroiled in a cat and mouse game in which the stakes include the president’s life as well as their own.  

Never So Alone (prequel to The Marcie Kane Thriller Collection) – In this novella, Nathan Harris is on an undercover mission in Canada to bring down a drug ring. After narrowly escaping an explosion that was no accident, he must follow the leads while trying to determine who his real enemies are and from which direction they will come.

The Burden of Darkness (Book 4) – Nathan is suffering from PTSD from previous cases and has everything to gain by recovering with Marcie’s help. Owen Strand has a terminal illness and nothing to lose, so he runs around North America picking off his perceived enemies one-by-one using drones. Marcie and Nathan have to stop this madman before he takes out his shocking final target.

Barry Finlay books

Tell us about your work in progress.

My latest book, Searching For Truth, introduces a new character called Jake Scott. He’s not your typical six-packed hero. He’s a former reporter, middle aged, widowed, and needing something to do. He attends weekly breakfast gatherings with friends, including an attractive and tenacious homicide detective who convinces him to research and write a book about a man who may have been wrongly incarcerated. As Jake delves into the case, he finds himself even questioning his friends and the rollercoaster ride of clues spirals into a life-threatening situation. 

What impacts, if any, has the pandemic had on your writing?

If anything, it just gave me more time to write. I’m thankful I have my writing to pass the time. I have other interests, including three grandchildren, learning guitar and trying to stay fit, but writing helped me get through the pandemic.

The biggest impact is the inability to do live book launches and signings at bookstores. Even now, I had to launch my new book via Zoom on September 1. I will be doing a signing at a golf course on September 4, so I’m looking forward to that.   

Is there anything about your first book that you wish you had written, or done differently?

I’m happy with the way the first book turned out. I have to admit I haven’t read it since we wrote it. Maybe if I did, I would find some things I would have written differently. 

What are books that you love? 

I have eclectic taste in books, so I don’t read one specific genre. Regardless of the genre, I like a book that grabs me and holds my attention. Characters that are well developed and lifelike appeal to me. The ordinary character who turns into Superman kind of turns me off. I try to avoid that in my own writing.  

What are some things that you don’t like in other books?

The only thing I can think of that I really detest is if a book isn’t edited properly. I’m not talking about the occasional typo. I think there are very few books that don’t have at least one. But if there is bad grammar or formatting or a lot of typos, it can be enough to make me stop reading. 

The Jake Scott Mystery Series:

Searching For Truth (Book 1) – A convicted murderer jailed, but is he guilty? Jake Scott, a retired reporter and a tenacious homicide detective named Dani Perez want to know. The truth could be fatal.

Barry Finlay books

What advice do you have for new and aspiring authors?

If you have a story to tell and the desire to write, do it. It can be a very satisfying experience. I have harped on editing throughout this interview, but a professional editor will make the story you have taken so much time to write as good as it can possibly be. Finally, don’t underestimate the time it takes to market your book. There are a million books out there, so people have to know your book exists before they will buy it. Most of all, enjoy the ride.

Thank you, Barry!

Check out Barry’s books.

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