Author's Journey with Barry Finlay

Author's Journey with Barry Finlay

Award-winning author and philanthropist Barry Finlay sits with Mony to speak about his journey from the world of financial management to that of an author, publishing books from travel adventure and humour to political thrillers, and his philanthropic efforts locally and in Africa, which earned him the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal.

hi everyone and welcome to this episode of the authors journey I'm your host monetization and one of the great things I love about having the show and speaking to authors is not only learning about their books and about their journeys but also seeing how they're also using their platform and their content for their philanthropic efforts my guest today is doing exactly that I'm so delighted to have with me very friendly and very thanks for coming on the show thanks for having me well great to have you here now you have several books that we have on the table and we're going to talk about all of them and you've written across a couple of different genres but what I want to do is just learn first more about you and your story and you came about to be a writer yeah we have to go way back I think for to understand that I think I was born and raised on a farm in rural Manitoba place called Rapid City Manitoba which is just north of Brandon and my father was always working being a farmer and my brothers were much older than I was so so my mother ended up spending a lot of time with me before I got to school teaching me how to read and write okay before I ever got there I think I could read and write thanks to her and it's sort of instilled in me I think the the fact that I wanted to write that I enjoyed writing I enjoyed reading and and then I found out over time that farming wasn't for me and so at 18 I moved in Winnipeg and became a chartered accountant got a job with the federal government worked with them for about 32 years and during that time 10 years of the 32 I was writing financial policy which is quite unlike writing any other that's very unlike it and nobody wants to read it unless you absolutely have to but I think in in it honed my writing skills I learned how to write a complex subject write about a complex subject in sort of layman's terms and I think because of that it had honed my writing skills it was kind of the school of hard knocks in writing and so I worked for the government for 32 years and then kind of changed my life when I retired and I ended up climbing a mountain and wrote a book as a result of that climb and found out how enjoyable it was to write and so I've been continuing to write ever since then yeah well you're that that journey that you talk about is the foundation of your first book which is called Kilimanjaro and Beyond a life-changing journey this is the book right here so tell me what inspired you to go climbing one of the not the highest peak in the world but there's been one one of the high peaks in the world it's the fourth highest yeah and I'd never climbed a mountain before I I guess it all started I went with a doctor and he told me my triglycerides were elevated and the only way to deal with that was through exercise and diet yes so I took him in as worden on the way home I stopped at the gym and signed on with a personal trainer and turned out she was a 21 year old woman who just about killed me at the beginning but over time my health started to improve my lifestyle started to improve and had been we've been talking with her son about he'd been in South Africa years before and somebody wanted him to climb Kilimanjaro at that time and he didn't have the time or the money or whatever to do it but it always been stuck in the back of his mind so that kind of came back to me after the visit to the doctor and after my health improved I asked him if he wanted to do it and he decided that he did he had a one-year-old at the time so it was a big sacrifice for him or a big commitment and he decided to that we should do it so off we went and did you just go from one day to the next to climb the mountain took me a year a good year to get in shape to Train being an accountant i sat behind a desk for many years so I wasn't in the best of shape but the personal trainer took care of that and a lot of training over the course of that year and I think it was pretty well ready to go by the time we did the client and how old was your son at that time he was 30 he was ok yeah and so what was it like climbing Kilimanjaro what was that experience it's it's it's not a technical climb you don't need ropes and and crampons and things like that it's there's a trail up the mountain there's well actually a choice of trails the difficulty is the altitude it's 19 thousand three hundred and forty feet so when we actually flew into the mountain we flew in below the mountaintop we could actually look up at the mountaintop as we were flying in and my son said to me what have we done as we're flying by the mountaintop but so it's the altitude that is the problem and fatigue we were on the mountain for seven days going up two days coming down and so we were on the mountain for a long time and it was the last 600 feet are really tough what was what do you remember of those last 600 feet that last climb to get to the top what I really what really sticks out in my mind is we're at the the camp just before the final ascent and we had been climbing all all day it was a long climb that day and we'd climbed through the clouds and and fog and we couldn't really see much we couldn't see where we were going and so we stopped for the for the day and we went into the mess tent to have her a meal and when we came out everything had cleared and we could see the top we could see where we were going and it was just such a fantastic moment when we can actually see where we'd been we could look down the mountain we could look up the mountain and to see where we were going was just a fantastic feeling a little bit frightening because we still had that final ascent to do but that was a big moment that stuck out my mind do you have to have oxygen when you're climbing at those levels yeah we had a guide with us who had oxygen hyperbolic chamber hyperbaric chamber and portable stretcher and a reporter and he went with us right up to the top of the mountain after we had made the ascent after we'd reached the top we went back down to the next camp and we were sitting there sort of enjoying the Sun and patting ourselves on the back and they took my blood pressure and heart rate and so on and all of a sudden they had tubes up I know so oh so I have oxygen at that point and there were three climbers at all 18 Porter's and two guides and three climbers so we were pretty well looked after yeah well supported on your way yes but so the other two Chris and the other fellows were climbing those were kind of laughing after they realized I was going to be okay they were giving me a hard time about having oxygen and then we went into the mess tent again and they were tested and they had that oxygen too so that were you keeping a journal or a diary as you were climbing not a detailed diary and we found the higher we climb Chris was probably better at keeping a diary than I was we found the higher we went the worse our notes got and and I think it was just a matter of fatigue and yeah Chris said when he looked back to his notes he couldn't understand what he was writing as we got closer to the top so yeah I can imagine yeah I'm sure there were other priorities at that time our work is keeping a good journal breathing was a priority now I know that part of the climb was a was a personal it was a personal quest to do that but that you also had a fundraising motive behind this as well do you want to tell me about that aspect of that journey yeah the mountain came first we decided we wanted to climb but then when we agreed we were going to climb we decided we use the mountain as a platform for raising money for something and so we got together and we both wanted to do it for kids and we wanted to do it for education for kids so it was we had no idea how much money we could raise we decided to put the donors names on a Canadian flag and so the owners things weren't a flag yeah okay so so we did that and we actually raised $15,000 before we left and it was just I think it was the fact that people were interested in what we were doing and and maybe they wanted their name on the k-9 flag that was going to the top of the mountain but we ended up with 200 donors and and raised $15,000 we when we decided where we're going to raise money for kids we looked at Cheerilee child sponsor our child organizations that raise money for kids and we found about five that we were interested in working with I sent out letters to the five I got a response from one and the the one was plan Canada and I was familiar with plan from before because we have a foster child through plan so we connected with them and so we've been raising money for plan Canada ever since and so just do this a percentage of the sales of your books go towards plan percentage of the profits that's fantastic so and you chose one that was in Tanzania is that right because I will tie into this another one of your books that could in the future so you raise the funds and you did you end up going to Tanzania to deliver the funds there and see the school or the mountains in Tanzania nathless in Kenya yes so but our project was in a place called Mwanza Tanzania which is on Lake Victoria it's a freshwater lake and it's one of the most polluted where it lakes in the world so the school is actually on the lake but they are at least beside the lake but they can't use the water because it's so polluted so we raise money for the classroom we presented the flag to the school and I was standing in front of the class and speaking to them and I realize I just looked out of the faces and saw the optimism and enthusiasm and they had nothing and I just thought we could do something for them and so that's why the fundraising has continued and we actually went back in 2011 to see the results of our projects and and we have another trip planned soon good for you so then a percentage of the profit of the sales or the profits of all of your books that you've written is going to support that school and perhaps other philanthropic activities that you have going on yeah we've completed four projects now in Tanzania we also raise money for wounded warriors Canada so in total we raised about 185 well no closer to 200,000 I guess since we started doing this in 2008 so so yeah we continue to raise money we've got we've completed four projects and and we're kind of between projects now with plan that must be incredibly satisfying well it's there were two things I think that came out of there out of the climb one was I realized that you can do pretty much anything you want if you set your mind to it and I think I'm going to be using that going forward I kind of developed a slogan or slogan came out of our climb that every mountaintop is within reach if you just keep on climbing and that's kind of my philosophy of life now that's if you set your mind to something you can do it and then the second one was I realized that we could help kids by or help people just by putting a little bit of effort into it and what we do is hold events and mobilize people to contribute to the advance and that's where most of the money comes from but so yeah that was the benefit of the climb and I call it a life-changing journey and it really was yeah I have no doubt and I guess it changed you in more than one way not just some play the physical act I'm going on climbing a mountain but how you choose now to spend your efforts and how you see how you're using your life and in this moment right now exactly yeah well you know I know that you've you continue traveling because you didn't stop at Kilimanjaro and that's the foundation of your next book which we're going to talk about but I do have to take a quick break before we do so so please stay tuned to everyone and when we come back from break we'll continue our conversation with author Barrie family number one for good time some have been listening to the radio number one for favorites [Applause] one for News number one for country country 101 it gets you out into the community and you meet so many new people and experience so many new opportunities and builds my self-esteem and my confidence level what I've learned here as a new volunteer is different skills that I thought I would never even be interested in learning I'm Chantelle Mukesh and I am a Rogers TV volunteering welcome back to the author's journey everyone where I'm continuing my conversation with local author and philanthropist Barry Finley now Barry you climb Mount Kilimanjaro which was a life-changing experience for you but you didn't stop traveling obviously it inspired philanthropy but inspired another journey and this one is as another memoir which I love the title which says I guess I missed the boat so what boat did you miss what's the story all about well I can't tell you whether we missed the boat or not because you have to read the book but the my wife and I travel with my in-laws okay so there are many stories that come out of that I'm hearing other characters and so this kind of chronicles some of the stories that came out of her out of our journeys it was originally written basically for the family to you know so that to capture some of those moments and it's turned out that a lot of people have an interest and especially seniors because it's we're all seniors and all traveling together and people seem to enjoy some of the stories that have come up says well you know I travel humor adventure all of that you know everybody I mean I especially I love those kinds of stories and I love those kinds of journeys and there's definitely a lot some good tidbits picked up from that well you know so your first couple of books were more memoirs to focus on personal experiences personal journeys but then you switched gears and you moved into more of a mystery thriller kind of genre and one of the first books that you wrote I think was that a perilous journey is that right throws question a perilous question and I love the title because my first question to you was what's the perilous question and you answered in an interesting way yeah yeah it kind of relates to our fundraising we were in Tanzania in 2011 and we were visiting a dormitory for 100 girls there were 900 kids at the school and there were about 500 girls almost all our orphans because of HIV so it was a project the plan Canada had done we had nothing to do with this project but it was a project that they had done so the school girls divided us up three of them took me through the dormitory three to talk to my wife and three took the representative from plan Canada at the end of the visit one of the girls said to me so when he taking me to Canada and I got the feeling she would have gone in a heartbeat I'm sure she if I told her I'll pick you up at midnight at the gate she would have been there because there was nothing to keep her in intensity yeah and she was looking for something better and she saw that as a way out so that's where the book starts it it starts there it's a book about human trafficking and fortunately that didn't happen as far as I know to the girl there but but that's the the story of a perilous question yeah and how do you answer that question because I'm sure that's a question that must come up a great deal I know and when I when I've traveled overseas when you go to countries such as this that is one of the first things they tell you is you know you're so lucky to have a Canadian passport you're still are lucky to be able to travel wherever you want whenever you want and so it's a question that I've received personally as well and it's a it's hard to answer that question honestly and to explain that you maybe simply it's just not possible so how did you end it wasn't possible to do that I did talk to plan Canada afterwards and suggest that they might want to do some education in that regard yeah and I think from a fundraising perspective all we can do is help a few people we can't save the world we can we can help a handful of people and if we do that then it's a handful of people that wouldn't have been helped otherwise well exactly so so I think that's that's about all we can do and that's powerful on its own you know that's that you're you know we think it often times say we better do all these great grand big changes but the changes that we make to one person's life well that's one or two or three people's lives that you've already changed and you don't know how that's gonna move forward and change other people's lives as well yeah it was interesting I didn't talk to detectives for both my thrillers yes I was fortunate enough to know somebody who connected me to the Ottawa Police Service and I talked to a detective who was involved in human trafficking and he said that quite often the girls won't testify because they consider what they're going through here to be better than what that's that's unthinkable two on both on both counts you know so well that's a fascinating read I'm sure that makes a fascinating story but you turn it into a mystery right it's just the first mystery book that you wrote yeah actually it was the second the first one was the vanishing wife okay the vanishing wife and then that one and so what's got you switching gears from writing memoirs into writing fiction I've always been a big fan of fiction thrillers in particular I've got I probably read five thrillers too every biography or autobiography or or whatever so frankly I wanted to challenge myself and see if I could do it being an accountant accounts are supposed to be creative I mean in most instances instances so I wanted to try it and see if I could do it and and it worked out okay there were a lot of challenges a lot of research hmm a lot of rewrites I found insuring there were no redundancies in the book ensuring the plotline flowed making sure there wasn't extraneous material or gaps and that's frankly where a good editor comes in because you know you do what you can but yeah there's there's ways that there are ways of missing things well you know that's one of the consistent things that I've had from other authors on this show it is the importance of having a very good editor and there's different kinds of errors right because there's editors what kind of editors did you work with well she's kind of all-singing all-dancing editor she does she does content editing and copy editing and work on the structure to things around make sure that's the right flow yeah she is very good at she'll read the entire book first manuscript and then she'll go through it line by line word by word and challenge me she will challenge the character traits shall challenge the scene she'll challenge the plot as she's going along and we work well together sometimes it's frustrating I think sometimes but in the end it's my book and I guess I make the final decisions but she's certainly she makes me think yes and I think that's so important you know it's it's great that you say that at the end of the day you are the author and you're the one that has to have the final say on on your work because it's very tempting to leave it to the experts to the ones who supposedly know better and can you know can write a better story but you have to trust your gut you have to trust what the story is that you want to reveal the story that they have to do okay well you say you wrote a couple of a couple of mystery books and I was up watching on Amazon taking a look at some of the reviews and I have to say I'm impressed by at least a hundred reviews I think that I read on on your mystery books congratulations thank you well done how how do you get so many reviews for the most part they're organic when the book first comes out I'll get professional reviews well go ahead and try and get a handful of newspapers or professional reviewers so that I've got editorial reviews that I can attach to the book and then from that they usually respond professional emotional editors yes sorry professional reviewers so it's it's very difficult yeah there are some that that do all the time but mainstream newspapers and magazines where have you found so how have I sighed from the organic where have you found where have you found these reviewers to come forward and to actually leave you a review yeah they're organisations I'm trying to think of one now while Kirkus Reviews which is very expensive yeah I've never used them but it's that type of reviewer there are a number like them that yes so a lot of your reviewers are coming from individuals and I think during our pre-interview you mentioned that you worked with a publicist yes okay so tell me how because I know a lot of authors would love to do that but they're not sure how to so tell me what your relationship is with that with the publicist what they do for you and how they help you with your books yeah I'm not sure he's a publicist I don't know if that's the right term but okay marketer but what he does he focuses on ebooks and my eBook sales outnumber my paperback sales by like a thousand to one really so he focuses on ebooks and he's got a process where he will put the e-book up free for a few hours okay and what that does is it raises the profile on amazon and amazon has algorithms that they use for deciding whether they should have if you like this book read this book and that kind of thing and so what that does is it changes the the results of the algorithm and so your book gets a little higher profile and and if you're lucky you can reach bestseller status for an hour or two and so then you think you'll never take that away from you you're an Amazon best seller okay and so you can attach that label and and and then you'll flip it to a paid book and the process works it's it's been successful with my two thrillers so far he's not cheap quite expensive in fact but I found that more than broken even so okay so it's so it's for the investment that you're making you are at least recovering your costs and it's raising the profile of your book right which is something that gets the book into the hands of people do you find that a lot of people just download the books as soon as they're available for free well did they absolutely really so you can track those numbers as well and see how many yeah you can through Amazon you can figure out how many are free and how many are paid okay and I'm sure there are people that just download free books just for the sake of downloading free books and eventually they'll read them you know eventually they'll put them on hold yeah well you know if you can believe we're down to three minutes together I know that you are a traditionally published author and you switched from that to become more of a self-published author can you tell me why you did that yeah it was kind of a hybrid publisher that I was with with I guess we missed the boat and so hybrid means that you pay something upfront the publisher pays something up front it kind of split the cost and then the publisher takes more royalty then then you would get if you're self-publishing I found that I did all the work anyway can attest that yeah so I didn't really see the point of paying his share of the royalty as well so they went under ultimately and I got my rights back and so then I self-published I think if you're with a traditional publisher you have the benefit of distribution you have the benefit of getting mainstream reviews which is huge but if you're with a traditional publisher you're probably at the bottom of their list unless your name's Stephen King or something so so I'm not sure they're advantageous to both mm-hmm but I don't mind doing the marketing and the promotion and that sort of thing so so yeah I've decided to self-publish I did have a hybrid publisher for my newest book but I was too far down the line by the time we connected mm-hmm I think he would have been a good fit yeah but what I've decided to self-publish it as well yeah well you know as we head down into the final few few minutes of our time together I want to ask you as an author you've had a long journey with you know different books in different ways of publishing what's the greatest lesson that you have learned about yourself on this journey of being an author and what would you advise others but for our last minute together well as a writer or as an author you're putting yourself out there and I think the thing that was the biggest shock for me was you know I'm not one to want the spotlight particularly but you need the spotlight when you're an author you need people to be aware that you've got a book and and you need to get out there and promote and and that kind of thing so that was kind of the biggest shock for me I guess yeah as far as advice I say if somebody wants to write they should write and I think you have to find your own way like there are things that work for me that one may not work for someone else as an author and vice versa yeah so I think you have to find your own way and and and just do it I just do it I love it well thank you I really appreciate you sharing your story and your wisdom with me I know you will touch a lot of authors with those words as well thank you all for tuning into this episode and we'll catch you on the next one of the out of the office journey bye for now


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