Writ­ing didn’t stop me griev­ing , but it gave me some­thing pos­i­tive to fo­cus on

Au­thor Caz Fin­lay tells DAWN COLLINSON how she wrote her first book to help cope with the tragedy of los­ing her baby son

Llanelli Star - - BOOK SHELF -

ON THE day af­ter her baby boy’s fu­neral, as she strug­gled to cope with the si­lence and the sad­ness, Caz Fin­lay searched for ways to dis­tract her­self.

Friends and fam­ily who’d been a con­stant com­pany and com­fort in the week af­ter lit­tle Finn died, just 48 hours af­ter he was born, had left and Caz and her hus­band Eric were alone with their grief.

“Even though I’d walked out of the ma­ter­nity ward with no baby, which was the most hor­ren­dous feel­ing, I was still on ma­ter­nity leave.

“The morn­ing af­ter the ser­vice I was look­ing for things to keep my­self busy, so I thought I’d have a clear-out. There was this old lap­top I’d used when I was at univer­sity and I won­dered if it still worked. I turned it on and it all came back. And in that mo­ment, I thought – I’m go­ing to write a novel.

“I hadn’t writ­ten any­thing since I was at school,” she adds. “But I’m al­ways day­dream­ing – I’ve got this cast of char­ac­ters run­ning around in my head all the time.”

In just six weeks, Caz had writ­ten her first draft of 85,000 words. “The story just poured out. It gave me an es­cape and I dis­ap­peared into it.”

For the 39-year-old pro­ba­tion of­fi­cer, the novel be­came some­thing she could throw her­self into as she dealt with the pain of los­ing her baby: “It didn’t stop me griev­ing, but it gave me some­thing pos­i­tive to fo­cus on.”

Caz and her hus­band Eric, who al­ready had son Jude, had been over the moon when they found out she was preg­nant with their sec­ond lit­tle boy in the spring of 2016.

But at the 20-week scan it was dis­cov­ered he had a con­gen­i­tal di­aphrag­matic her­nia. A hole in his diaphragm had al­lowed his stom­ach to move up, pre­vent­ing his left lung from grow­ing and pushing

his heart out of place.

“It was dev­as­tat­ing, but the spe­cial­ists were cau­tiously op­ti­mistic be­cause his right lung looked good and he was mas­sive.”

When Fin­lay was born by planned Cae­sar­ian sec­tion, on Au­gust 11 2016, weigh­ing 10lb 14oz, he was rushed im­me­di­ately to be ven­ti­lated be­fore Caz even had chance to hold him.

“But when I went to see him the con­sul­tant and the nurse had th­ese big smiles on their faces. They said they were so pleased be­cause he was do­ing amaz­ingly well.”

He was due to be trans­ferred to an­other hospi­tal the next day for a her­nia op­er­a­tion, but it was delayed due to a lack of beds.

“But we thought that wasn’t a prob­lem be­cause he was do­ing so well,” re­mem­bers Caz. “Then that evening we both went along to see him and we saw them pulling a mas­sive ma­chine into the room he was in. There were ba­bies in there who were tiny, and he was huge, he filled the in­cu­ba­tor, but I just knew it was for him.

“From then on he de­te­ri­o­rated re­ally quickly. Be­cause they were hav­ing to push oxy­gen through to help him breathe, his good lung burst and he was re­ally strug­gling. They tried ev­ery­thing, right through the night, and then in the morn­ing we brought Jude in to meet him and we had a lit­tle chris­ten­ing.”

With Fin­lay in dis­tress, they made the heart­break­ing de­ci­sion to switch off his life sup­port.

“That was when I got to hold him for the first time. The doctor stopped help­ing him breathe through a tube and Fin­lay was gone within sec­onds. We’d had him just over 48 hours.”

Over the next week, Caz vis­ited her baby ev­ery day in the hospi­tal’s be­reave­ment suite. “It was so com­fort­ing, sit­ting there with him in his crib. He looked so per­fect. I loved those days, just me and him.”

The crim­i­nal jus­tice grad­u­ate’s de­but novel cen­tres on gang­ster Nathan Con­lon just out of jail and his long-suf­fer­ing ex-wife Grace.

“I had a real in­ter­est in gang crime, and an idea for my two cen­tral char­ac­ters, and once I started I just wrote and wrote. Some days it was two or three hours a day, oth­ers it could be six or seven.

“I felt pow­er­less, be­cause a mother should be able to pro­tect her chil­dren and I couldn’t stop my son from dy­ing, but now I had this abil­ity to cre­ate my own world, that I was re­spon­si­ble for, and that lifted me up.”

When her close fam­ily and friends read the first draft and loved it, she started send­ing it to agents. “I got about six re­sponses, all stan­dard re­jec­tions,” she smiles.

Caz per­se­vered, and at a book-sign­ing event with best­selling crime writer Kim­ber­ley Cham­bers, she spot­ted her pub­lisher.

“I went up and in­tro­duced my­self. I told her about my book and she said I should send it to her be­cause Harper Collins were look­ing for a gang­land au­thor for their Killer Reads list.”

Caz, from Liver­pool, was put in touch with an ed­i­tor in March last year, it was re­sub­mit­ted to the pub­lisher and then she waited.

“I re­mem­ber ly­ing in bed that night think­ing, you’ve taken my son, please just give me some­thing.

“The next day I re­ceived an email which said, ‘we’re de­lighted to of­fer you a two-book deal with Harper Collins’.”

Dur­ing the edit­ing process, Caz be­came preg­nant again and the cou­ple’s son, James, was born in Novem­ber 2017.

Now, she’s look­ing for­ward to pub­li­ca­tion of her de­but gang­land thriller, The Boss.

And, she says, she’ll fi­nally have what she’s wanted from the day she first picked up her lap­top. “I’ll get to open the book and see the ded­i­ca­tion ‘for Fin­lay’.”

The Boss by Caz Fin­lay, pub­lished by Harper Collins is avail­able on ebook now and in pa­per­back from Au­gust 22

Caz Fin­lay at work and, inset, her gang­land crime thriller

Caz with her older son Jude and, above, baby Finn whose tragically short life spurred his mum to be­come a writer

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