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Dawn Finch Interview

Posted on 19 August 2008. © Copyright 2004-2024 WriteWords
A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
Click here to learn more about becoming a member.

WriteWords talks to Dawn Finch

Tell us something about your background.

I have written extensively as an advocate of the shared reading experience for adults with children, and about the need for investment in high quality children’s libraries in schools. My first book – Brotherhood of Shades – should hit the shelves spring 2009 and at the moment I am working on the remaining two books of the Brotherhood Trilogy.

I am a children’s librarian and run a very large school library and I also do some work running workshops to help parents, carers and teachers enjoy the shared reading experience with children. I do this with the excellent Homework Academy – (http://www.homeworkacademy.webeden.co.uk)
This all helps with my writing as it keeps me in touch with what is hot in children’s books and also allows me to keep a fresh contact with what children really want to read as opposed to what the bookshops tell them they should be reading!

How, when and why did you first start writing?

I was obsessed with books from a very early age and could read long before I started school. I was always a bit of a loner and books became my escape from the world and I devoured everything I could get my hands on. At school the librarian was very fierce and would not lend books to children if she felt they were “too grown up”. I used to hide books like Bram Stoker’s Dracula under the shelves so that I could snuggle up in the library and read them. I always vowed that if I was ever a librarian I would never be so mean-spirited – and I don’t think I am but you’d have to ask the children!
I constantly wrote my own stories and poems and filled countless notebooks with them. I still have some of those stories and, to be honest, they are not bad!

Who are your favourite writers and why?

For children I think it has to be Michael Morpurgo – I am in awe at his writing and when I’m asked to recommend one of his titles I can never pick just one because the man has never written a bad book. His book Private Peaceful made me cry buckets and I went out and bought about a dozen copies and pushed to have it read aloud to the 10yr olds in school because I think it is such an important book.

Louis Sachar’s Holes is a true masterpiece and one that I am very jealous of because there is not a wasted word in the whole book. Jonathan Stroud is an influence too because he is not afraid to add that dark edge to his books and he challenges his reader. We are in a golden age of children’s fiction so it is almost impossible to pick.

For adults it has to be Graham Greene. I love his jaded and brutally honest view of the world, we have that in common and his work speaks to me. Alice Hoffman writes with true beauty and her books never fail to move me. Evelyn Waugh’s work captures an era that I love and turns common views of it upside down. Thomas Hardy is a personal favourite and I think I must have read Jude the Obscure and Tess of the D’Urbervilles a hundred times! Shakespeare has never dated and still speaks to all of us so the timeless quality of his work dazzles me. I read a lot of poetry too and rarely leave the house without Shelley or Keats in my bag…….. I’ll stop here because this could go on a bit!

How did you get your agent/ commission/publication?

I was helping to run a children’s writing workshop with an inspiring author and speaker - John Howard - and we were chatting about my book which I had been trying to sell for some time to no avail. He read a little and said that I should send it to Scott Pack of The Friday Project – so I did. Scott loved it with a passion and took me on. It was to be a bit of a gamble for both of us as he had never published a fiction author for children. Scott and I worked on the manuscript so that it was ready for publication and all was set to go. Sadly The Friday Project went into liquidation a few months before my book was due out. Scott promised not to let me down because he really believed in the book. He championed my book and an agent (Ivan Mulcahy) took a chance and read it. He loved it too and I signed with him.

What's the worst thing about writing?

Oh, that one is easy! Editing your own work. That is a ghastly process of reading and re-reading and going over every fine point for repetition, lost meaning, possible confusion and flow. That whole process is agony – and I can’t have a glass of wine doing it as I can’t afford for my concentration to drift off! Having to be brutal and critical over your own work is so hard. I know that it will be edited at the publishers and so when I’m getting down to fine points like commas it is a little bit like tidying your hotel room before the maid comes – but I still prefer to do it for myself.

And the best?

When it all just rushes out in a wonderful outpouring and I can feel the imagined world grow around me. That is bliss. Times like that, when I look up and hours have sped past in the blink of an eye - that is pure heaven. Sometimes, when it all gushes out, I read back what I have written and can’t believe it was me!

Tell us what kind of response you get from audiences/readers and if/how this affects/influences your writing

When I read my work to children I love to see that slack-jawed, open-mouthed expression as the story comes to life for them and they forget where they really are. It inspires me to make the reading wild and vivid, more of a performance, as I try to get them to step into the story. When I see how much children love the darker aspects of the stories, it makes add more edge to my work and take more chances, push the boundaries as far as I can go.

What was your breakthrough moment?

For the story? The breakthrough was when I knew who all my characters were and they came to life for me. When I realised that they had distinct personalities. After that the rest of the book was an organic process as I just wrote what I knew they would do.
For the book? In a beautiful and sun filled room in Kensington when I shook Ivan’s hand! I knew that it was the beginning of a new phase of my life.

A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
Click here to learn more about becoming a member.

Comments by other Members

Steerpike`s sister at 12:21 on 19 August 2008  Report this post
Sounds good - I look forward to seeing it on the shelves.

MF at 10:09 on 22 August 2008  Report this post
Just read this, from the synopsis on Dawn's site:

Adam, a streetwise homeless boy in modern London, knows nothing of the fantastic and precarious world that exists just beyond his reality until he dies cold and alone on the streets of London, aged 14.

I'm intrigued by the possibilities raised by using a dead MC, especially in a children's book. Shall definitely keep an eye out for this one!

EmmaD at 11:47 on 23 August 2008  Report this post
What a great interview. Librarians - and children's librarians in particular - are the too-often unsung heroes of education, and too often ignored by the book trade too.

And good to hear that the book survived the whole Friday Project meltdown.

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