I’d like to introduce you to the eighty-second interviewee in my ‘Meet the Author’ series. She is Fran MacIlvey.
Hi, Fran! Welcome to Susan Finlay Writes blog site. Can you tell us a bit about your background as a writer?
Hi, Susan. Thank you so much for inviting me on to your blog. I am honoured to be your guest.
I started writing very young, and always loved English at school, but always felt I should be doing something “more serious”, so kept putting off making a real stab at it, until my daughter started school and I had lots of hours to fill. I could no longer pretend that writing was unimportant to me. I felt that Life was challenging me, “See? Now you have no excuses! Go and write, girl!”
Your non-fiction book Trapped: My Life with Cerebral Palsy was published on March 4, 2014 by Skyhorse Publishing. Can you tell us about the book? What inspired you to write it?
As you know, Susan, I was born with cerebral palsy, and have spent many years coming to terms with what I thought of as the unfairness of that. While involved with my private struggles, I went to mainstream schools, attended University and worked as a lawyer. Yet, each stage held special challenges. One afternoon, as I was looking after my daughter, I realised that I had got very good at pretending everything was fine. I had been so private for so many years – so stoical – that no-one really knew me, not even my siblings or my closest family. I took the decision to write candidly in order to to heal some of the sorrow in my past, and so that my family might get to know me again.
You’ve written two more books about your experiences with disability. Will those be published? Can you tell us about them?
My second book is called Happiness Matters. It is on option to Skyhorse Publishers. I have used HM to teach myself a little about how life works, what is effective in terms of our beliefs, our thoughts and our behaviour. The text started out life as the answer to the question, “Why has no-one written a straightforward book about how to be happy?” Most of my material comes from my life, and the problems I have had to overcome. By the time I started writing, I had read so many self-help books, I thought I might be able to write my own, asking how to be happy. Indeed, writing is great therapy, and now I am very happy. My third book, “Making Miracles” is similar to the second, and we shall have to see whether that is published. That may be a few years down the line.
Are there any scenes in the book that were painful for you to write, or that made you cry? Is there anything surprising that you discovered?
Almost the whole of Trapped was very painful to write. I cried a great deal for the girl who was Fran, washing away all her sorrow. She seems to have done everything the hard way for so many years, and it really didn’t achieve much, except, perhaps, teaching her what didn’t work!
I wrote the book several times, each time casting off and starting again, getting closer to what I wanted to say. I was surprised that writing brought back so many memories and feelings that I had forgotten. But the time it took, and the distance of the years, also taught me a great deal more empathy for others, especially my mom and dad, realising what they went through.
Are you working on a new book?
At the moment I am focusing more on smaller pieces of journalism and articles, like those you may have seen in my blog. My second book is also currently undergoing a major edit, and there are always ideas coming to mind which may find themselves included in book three. Some of my ideas seem to grow legs and walk almost by themselves, so something new may also come out of that.
You were born in the Belgian Congo and lived there until 1972. Do you remember much about living there? Do you ever go back there to visit?
I lived in East Africa until December 1972, and our last home there was in Tanzania. Before that, we also lived in Kenya and Uganda, as my father’s postings took us to different capital cities. My most colourful memories are from that time, but I have never been back to visit. Partly that is down to practicalities, and partly that is because I would feel very strange being there again.
What does your family think about your book?
My family have been immensely supportive and encouraging about my book. My father read an early draft and said he spent ages just remembering. He gave me a few insights which also helped to straighten out the early narrative.
What books or authors have most influenced you in your own writing?
I have read so many authors, but I suppose if I was to pick one author who has influenced my writing style, I would have to say Elizabeth Jane Howard. I have read most of her books, and really admire her candid, minimal style. She was never afraid to write truthfully, and I have learned from that. I have read lots of autobiographies, too.
Can you tell us about your experience with your publisher? Was it everything you’d hoped for?
My experiences with my publisher felt – and still feel – a bit like Cinderella who got invited to the ball, and who ended up marrying the Prince! Working with my commissioning editor was a delight, and went smoothly. The trick, for a newbie, I think, is to trust the process, and be willing to work quickly to turn around copy.
Do you have a writing routine?
My writing routine revolves around family routines, so that I find I work best either while Seline is at school, and I have a stretch of a few uninterrupted hours, or in the evenings when it is quieter. I prefer working during the day, as I find the discipline of working during “normal working hours” useful. These days, I am very aware of the need to rest, prioritise and make time for relaxing with the family, so working during the day and switching off in the evening helps with that.
AUTHOR BIO: I was born in the Belgian Congo in 1965, premature and disabled. I am a younger twin. Returning to Scotland in 1972, I spent eight years at boarding school, before qualifying and working as a lawyer for ten years. Trapped: My Life With Cerebral Palsy (ISBN:978-1628737615) is my true story is released on 4th March 2014. (Skyhorse, New York). Trapped is followed by my second book, Happiness Matters, in which I explore how we can each find happiness. I live in Scotland with my husband and daughter. When I am not catching up on my sleep, I read, write, sing in the shower and dance where no-one can see me.
Please list any websites or social media links for yourself or your book. Thanks!