As an ‘army child’, Diana Finley lived abroad and moved frequently until her teens. Sustaining friendships was difficult, and she had to rely on her own imagination. Even as a small child she enjoyed making up and writing stories. At eighteen Diana had a life-changing experience living with nomadic people in a remote mountain region of Afghanistan. Back in England she wrote some stories and accounts of this time. This writing helped secure her first job as a copywriter for a student travel centre – not great literary work, just the blurbs for their brochures and leaflets!
After a year Diana was appointed as editor and writer for Macdonald Educational, a children’s information book publisher. She found writing for children fascinating, and not at all simple – just as much research was needed as for an adult book, the information then pared down to child level.
A move to Northumberland and becoming a mother meant a change of direction. Diana completed a degree in Speech and Psychology and worked for some years as a specialist in communication disorders with Autistic children. Together with a colleague, she wrote a guide for professionals working with the parents of Autistic children (PALS – Parents, Aspergers/Autism, Language and Social Skills published 2009 by SHU Publications), and Autism continues to be an area of special interest.
While working, Diana took up Creative Writing evening classes, and loved it. Two short stories were published in a booklet sold in aid of The Great North Air Ambulance – a modest success but still exciting! It spurred her on to consider returning to full-time writing, and she completed a part-time MA in Creative Writing in 2011.
Diana’s own mother had been a refugee from Nazi Austria, her family fragmented and her life turned upside down. Diana had seen the effect this trauma had on her mother throughout her life – and even on subsequent generations, despite being born long after the war. This experience was the inspiration to write the novel. While ‘The Loneliness of Survival’ is fictional, it draws on real events and stories heard throughout her childhood. It is a novel about losing one’s homeland and being an outsider, cast adrift in an unfamiliar world, about having to ‘re-invent’ oneself. It is also about love and parenthood in difficult circumstances. The book explores the unique bond between mother and child, and the effect its disruption may have on the human psyche. Yet the book is not gloomy, but ultimately optimistic.