Mary Finn - Author

About the Author

Mary Finn worked for years as a magazine journalist with Radio Telefis Eireann, the Irish Broadcasting service. She lives in Dublin with her son and works as a freelance writer. Anila’s Journey is her debut novel and was inspired by an original 18th Century portrait, which hangs in the National Gallery of Ireland (and now graces the front cover), as well as a lifelong fascination with India.

Q & A with Mary Finn


1.   Anila is an incredibly strong and determined heroine of the story – how easy was it to write her character?
The first image I had of Anila was of a very small girl, standing on a flat roof, waiting impatiently for her father.  The second was of her quite a bit older, standing in a room where there were stuffed birds, making a pitch for her talent as an artist.  These images grew into the two separate narratives Anila tells – her childhood story and her present adventure.  Once I had these two strands, I recognised her character and what had happened to her and she became very familiar to me.

2.  Where did the inspiration for the story come from?
Most of it came from the painting, An Indian Lady, by Thomas Hickey, from the National Gallery of Ireland, which is featured on Jim Bunker’s lovely cover design.  I thought that the Lady looked both independent and soulful. People in the Gallery stop and stand for ages in front of this painting.  I began to wonder what the sitter’s life might have been like.  But Anila is not the Lady; nor is the Lady Anila’s mother.  The painting  kickstarted my imagination, however, so I bless it.

3.  Although primarily a read for teens, does it also have a wider appeal and if so, who?
When I was writing I wrote for the reader I am myself, and I am an adult.  Adults have told me they have enjoyed the book very much.  Perhaps we are too much inclined to segregate books by age or genre or whatever.  I would not put any age on what I imagine the readership might be.


4.  What authors with similar appeal do you enjoy reading?

I love the historical novels of Rose Tremain and Sarah Dunant, and, for young people, Adele Geras.  I love Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and the stories of Chekhov: they show you a Russia that histories can’t.  Even if a story is contemporary I will be more attracted to it if it opens up a world, with its detail and colour. The best picturebooks do this too.  I don’t like sparse plotty things with endless dialogue.


5.  It’s very evocative of time and place – what research was involved in order to write the novel?

Enormous!  Truly.  If I had stopped to think and been sane about the project, I would not have attempted it but I think I was possessed by the need to write Anila’s story.  It’s a period novel, so obviously there was all that history to discover, but it’s also an investigation into another culture/cultures, another climate,  another eco-system.  I read so much, from Bengali folktales to East India Company ships’ logs to accounts of pianos travelling up the Ganges in the 1770s.  Also lots of modern Indian fiction because novels have so much useful detail. I found websites which showed me the birds of West Bengal in wonderful close up.  I got lots of useful advice from the Botanic Gardens in Dublin, a treasure-trove. Best of all, I went to Calcutta eventually and met the wonderful Bunny Gupta, a historian who steered me past my worst mistakes (wrong clothes! wrong use of language! wrong names!).  But I loved all the research anyway.  I’m a bit wiser now.


6.  This is your debut novel.  When did you first feel that one day you’d write a novel?

I can’t really say.  I worked as a writer, as a journalist, so I always wrote for a living.  But as a child I wrote fiction and lots of it.  I think I’m just a late starter.


7.  What advice can you give would-be children’s authors in getting published?

I can only relate my own experience.  I sent  an enormous (originally the story was much longer) manuscript away to three publishers.  I got encouraging replies from all of them, though equally they all turned it down.  But Walker’s reply was a bit wistful, a bit “we’d like to see it again if only you would take it in hand”.  So I did, and they did, and then it all happened very smoothly.  They had faith in it.  I can only wish my experience to be replicated for others.  One bit of advice: trust your editor and try to do as she (it’s usually a she) says.  They really do know best.

Mary Finn - biography

As a child
I was an only girl, with two brothers, and my father adored me, which is a wonderful start for any young female. On my first ever holiday when I was six, he took me to West Cork, his home county, a beautiful part of Ireland.  I remember saving hay, which I thought was a heavenly activity that should happen in the city too, every day. I remember the wind singing in the telephone wires, which I thought was a noise from another, friendly world, probably heaven.  Both my parents were teachers and reading was just what one did.  I was taken to the library when I was six, and truly I have never left.  But I also loved swimming, and horse-riding (which we couldn't afford) and having Enid Blyton-type gangs and adventures.  I always had good friends.

As an adult
I still love West Cork, I still love reading and I still have good friends - some things last. I know that kindness is the only thing that matters.  It's what you remember most about people at any age.  The best thing about being an adult (there are some, honestly) is that this truth is now hard-wired into your bones. Also, you really don't mind quite so much what other people think about you.  This is liberating and saves on clothes. Somewhat. 

As an artist
I wish I WAS an artist.  Also a dancer, a singer, a wood turner, a dress maker, a penguin whisperer.  But it seems that if I have to choose then I am a writer.The best definition I have found of a writer is this: "A writer is someone who finds writing to be much more difficult than other people do who are not writers."  That's true.  It makes you a very good reader though.

10 things you didn't know about Mary Finn
1. I make very fine pancakes, real French-slim crepes, that I serve with maple syrup and proper vanilla ice cream.
2. I love walking around cities on my own or with a companion. I know my way around Paris quite well by now.
3. I like cats and dogs equally and for different reasons. Don't believe for a minute that you have to choose.
4. Scottish accents are the absolute best, in my book.
5. I have a very desirable blood type - O Neg. - so I feel obliged to give blood regularly, though I should be better at it.
6. I hate having to raise my voice. It makes me cross.
7. My son, then four, and I once met Roald Dahl in Galway.
8. I very much like where I live (Dublin) but I would prefer it if we had four distinct seasons as they have in New England. Mind you, I think we used to.
9. I flew a plane twice, for a few minutes. There was a real pilot around as well, however
10. I like good manners.  Even babies can have good manners.

Featured books by Mary Finn

Other books by Mary Finn

No Stars at the Circus

No Stars at the Circus

Author: Mary Finn Format: Paperback Release Date: 05/06/2014

A cross between The Boy in Striped Pyjamas and The Diary of Anne Frank. No Stars at the Circus is the beautifully told story of 10-year-old Jonas Albers, as written in his notebooks. Jonas lives in hiding in the Professor's house during the six months following the round-up of Jews in Paris on 16 July 1942. Jonas spends his days reading about his favourite subjects - among which are sharks, salmon and albatrosses. He also writes about his present life in the attic, as well as the past, in which the circumstances of his rescue are revealed. He writes about his friends at the circus and the family he greatly misses. Unaware of the atrocities happening around him and throughout Europe, Jonas hears that his parents have gone off to work and is worried about his little sister, Nadia, who is deaf - so worried that one day he steps outside in the hope of finding out where she is.

No Stars at the Circus

No Stars at the Circus

Author: Mary Finn Format: eBook Release Date: 15/05/2014

A cross between The Boy in Striped Pyjamas and The Diary of Anne Frank.No Stars at the Circus is the beautifully told story of 10-year-old Jonas Albers, as written in his notebooks. Jonas lives in hiding in the Professor's house during the six months following the round-up of Jews in Paris on 16 July 1942. Jonas spends his days reading about his favourite subjects - among which are sharks, salmon and albatrosses. He also writes about his present life in the attic, as well as the past, in which the circumstances of his rescue are revealed. He writes about his friends at the circus and the family he greatly misses. Unaware of the atrocities happening around him and throughout Europe, Jonas hears that his parents have gone off "e;to work"e; and is worried about his little sister, Nadia, who is deaf - so worried that one day he steps outside in the hope of finding out where she is.

Belladonna

Belladonna

Author: Mary Finn Format: eBook Release Date: 14/06/2011

A lyrical coming-of-age story about a boy, a girl, and a horse - and how a chance encounter can lead to a life of intrigue and learning, a life beyond imagining.When Thomas Rose first spots the girl hidden by the roadside, she looks as drab as a lark, with only her red kerchief giving her away. But French Hlne, who goes by "e;Ling,"e; is no ordinary bird. Tiny Ling enchants Thomas with her wild spirit and tales of a circus where she danced atop her beloved horse, Belladonna. But the horse has been sold, and Ling must fetch her back. Now Thomass life as a clever but unschooled wheelwrights son is about to change. Their search leads to painter George Stubbs, who euthanizes ailing animals in order to study their anatomy. Stubbs draws eerie horses that stride as if they could move out of the paper world into the real onebut he assures his young friends that their horse is safe at a nearby estate. As Ling and Thomas devise a risky plan to recover Belladonna, Stubbs hires Thomas as an apprentice, teaching him to read and write as well. In this fascinating story, Mary Finn incorporates a real eighteenth-century artist into a beautifully imagined tale of adventure and young romance.

Anila's Journey

Anila's Journey

Author: Mary Finn Format: eBook Release Date: 02/06/2011

An advert in the Calcutta Gazette is looking for an apprentice draughtsman to accompany a scholar on an expedition to record avian life in Bengal. How can Anila Tandy, left to fend for herself in a city of rogues, dare to apply for a position that is clearly not meant for her? But the talented "e;Bird Girl of Calcutta"e; has never shrunk from a challenge. And perhaps this voyage up the Ganges might be just the thing to equip Anila in her search for her father, missing for years and presumed dead.

Carving Pins

Carving Pins

Author: Mary Finn Format: Paperback Release Date: 17/05/2002

Wooden pins make wonderful handmade gifts and can be carved in a minimum of space with small equipment. Here, accomplished woodcarver and teacher Mary Finn guides readers through the creation of five colorful designs: a sunflower, cardinal, bunny, Santa, and rose. Mary suggests ideas for developing pin designs as well as methods for creating blanks that can be used many times. Step-by-step instructions and color photography present the process of carving the blank, adding texture and other details, painting, finishing, and attaching a pin to the back. Whether you want a dainty pin for your best friend, a funky pin for your little sister, or a bolo for your favorite uncle, this book will provide the tips and techniques for creating just the right look.

Carving Egg Animals

Carving Egg Animals

Author: Mary Finn Format: Paperback Release Date: 15/09/2001

Accomplished carver and teacher Mary Finn shows how to create all kinds of charming animals, each born from a commercially available wooden egg. Egg animals can come out of the egg in any direction and can be made standing, sitting, or lying down. Here, step by step instructions and color photography illustrate carving techniques for a crouching rabbit, sitting bear, chubby pig, and fire-breathing dragon. Readers will learn how to orient the egg, establish the basic outline, complete eyes, ears, feet, and other details, and paint the finished animal. These projects require only minimal working space and are great for those with limited access to saws or other large equipment. Each egg has the potential to become a favorite pet, a wild animal, or an imaginative character, and all provide lots of fun and enjoyment for the carver.

Carving Egg People

Carving Egg People

Author: Mary Finn Format: Paperback Release Date: 15/05/2001

Starting with commercially available wooden eggs, Mary Finn shows how to transform them into all kinds of delightful characters, each with a unique personality. Using detailed, step by step instructions and color photography, this book shows how to create both big headed and regularly proportioned egg people, carve whole figures or partial figures, and add legs or go without. A list of ten basic steps is applied to each of four projects: a Santa carving, a man in a business suit, a butterfly-catching lady, and an ice hockey player. You will learn how to orient the egg, establish the basic outline, complete details such as eyes, hair, and clothing, and paint the finished project. Carving egg people is the ideal project for people with limited access to saws or other large equipment as well as for those who want an enjoyable take-along carving project.

Carving Egg Heads

Carving Egg Heads

Author: Mary Finn Format: Paperback Release Date: 22/03/1999

This book is the perfect start for anyone interested in learning how to carve detailed faces. Mary Finn uses her practice stick method to show you how to carve each feature - eyes, nose, closed mouth, open mouth - with step by step directions that even beginners will find easy to follow. Then she shows you how to arrange all of these pieces into one wooden egg to make a convincing head! This method has helped hundreds of Marys students, and is a sure-fire way to get started! Egg head projects included in this book are an old man, a pirate, and the Mad Hatter. Mary shows you how to adapt her carving techniques to flatter surfaces to make jewelry (like a bolo tie project) and how to paint your pieces for maximum impact. This book is terrific for beginners, and a great way for more advanced carvers to enlarge their skills.

Author Info

Twitter Updates

If this is your author page then you can share your Twitter updates with your readers right here on LoveReading

Find out more

Facebook Updates

If this is your author page then you can share your Facebook updates with your readers right here on LoveReading

Find out more