Today, we meet Trish Finnegan, ex-police officer and serving magistrate who brings a sense of realism to her police procedurals.
Why did you start writing and why?
I have always enjoyed writing little stories. Even when I was a child I had stories buzzing about my head and sometimes I would try to write them down. I read a lot too. I disliked writing, and reading, what I was told to, I much preferred doing my own thing. I was told more than once that I had an overactive imagination (I don’t think it was meant as a compliment). I didn’t really enjoy handwriting things, not least because my handwriting is terrible, so the invention of the word processor was a gift to me.
Later on, when I was a police officer, I didn’t always have time to write but I still had stories in my head. When I found that I did have more time for writing, I decided to start to treat it seriously. I didn’t expect to become “a writer” but it would be more than Mum’s little hobby. I did a creative writing course through the OU. This led to me getting my degree in Humanities with Creative Writing. I also did a PTLLS level 4 with a view to going on to teach creative writing, however I never progressed that. I preferred doing to teaching, besides, I felt a bit of a fraud because I hadn’t had anything published at that point. I joined a writers’ group and started going to writers’ events, particularly those in Winchester, York and more recently, Crime and Publishment in Gretna. I learnt so much by doing this and would recommend this to anyone wanting to write.
I did some editing and rewriting for some people and I entered competitions, with moderate success. I rewrote and edited a speech for a conference for senior police officers, which is now in the National Police Archives. While I was doing all this, I began work on Blue Bird, which I had been thinking about for a long time. I set it in 1976 because the 70s and 80s was the period of policing I knew best.
Is there anything you would not write about?
Erotica. Also I have a lot of memories from my time as a police officer. I have used some of the funnier moments a basis of some of the comedy in my novel Blue Bird, for example, the frog scene. I exaggerated a real happening for the story, and I believe it was actually a mouse, or maybe a spider, but the core of it is true. However, I also have some memories and pictures in my head that I wish weren’t there. I will never ever use them in my writing.
What do you like to do to relax when not writing?
I don’t have a great deal of spare time. I am a magistrate and I care for my grandchildren when their parents are at work. Writing is my relaxation. If I am not writing, I can usually be found reading or doing sudoku. When hospitality was open, I enjoyed going for walks with my husband and stopping for coffee and cake. I hope that will be allowed again soon.
Who is your favourite of your characters?
I am fond of all my characters and I suppose that many expect me to favour Samantha, however, I rather like Ray Fairbrother. Ray began life as a peripheral character. He isn’t based on anyone in particular, none of the characters are. (Sam is not me). He is the chain-smoking radio operator, ex-merchant navy, tough, wise, protective of Sam, and gay.
With each rewrite, and there were many, he became a stronger and stronger character. It happens sometimes when writing that a character takes over and “speaks” to you to tell you what they want to be. This was the case with Ray. He is gay but not out. It was difficult for people came out as gay in the police, or anywhere else in 1976. He is in a committed relationship that is a deep secret to everyone but his very closest friends. He is good at boxing and plays for the force cricket team.
I have a whole backstory for Ray in my mind. Maybe one day I will write a series of short stories giving the backstory for all the characters, but Ray’s is complete. I know him and I like him. I think if we had worked together we would have been friends. Ray appears in the sequel I’m working on and will appear in the other two books I am drafting.
Who is your least favourite character?
It has to be Brian Lewington. He was the last character I wrote, and I put into him everything I had disliked in people I encountered. At first, I had Sam dealing with Molyneux and Bulwer but in real life, a sprog wouldn’t have been left in that position. Although I have stretched things a little sometimes to advance the story, I tried to keep Blue Bird true to life and Sam dealing with gangsters was too far-fetched. I needed to invent a middleman so enter Brian Lewington. Again, he started off small, but with every rewrite he became stronger until he was the worst of them all, and the closest to Sam. He only appears in Blue Bird.
Tell us about your last book.
I only have one book published so far, Blue Bird, but it is actually the fourth novel I have written. It follows Samantha Barrie, a damaged rookie cop who is thrown into the centre of an investigation when she finds a link between a drowned girl and a pornography ring. Samantha’s past comes back to haunt her when she discovers her sergeant is deeply involved and will stop at nothing to protect his contacts. Samantha has to overcome her trauma to go undercover and expose the criminals whatever the consequences.
I’ve said before that Blue Bird is fiction, although I’ve borrowed some funny moments as the basis of the lighter scenes in the book. I’ve tried to keep it as true to life as possible without bringing in all the soul-destroying tedium that goes with a lot of policework, that means that sometimes a breakthrough occurs somewhat faster that would happen normally. It was a long road, but in general, I enjoyed writing Blue Bird and it make me happy to hear that other people like it.
What’s coming next?
I’m working on the sequel that has the working title Blue Sky, and I have ideas for the third and fourth in the series. I’m not sure what will happen after that. Sam has to age and advance in service, or leave. Maybe I’ll end up writing a long series of Sam’s service, the way Ian Rankin has done with Rebus. We’ll see.
If you’d like a peek at Blue Bird before buying, click on the link below to download a few free chapters.
Trish Finnegan has spent her whole life living on the Wirral, a small peninsula that sticks out into the Irish Sea between North Wales and Liverpool. She has always had an overactive imagination and always enjoyed writing and reading. She first met her husband, Paul, in the charge office of a police station where they both were serving as police officers. She has three grown-up children, two sons and a daughter, and is currently a magistrate. She spends her time wrangling grandchildren and writing.
Thanks to Trish for sharing, I too enjoy reading and doing sudoku, but I suspect a lot of crime writers enjoy the logic of puzzels.
Tomorrow we will be getting to know Jenny O’Brien.