Welcome to my website. You can read about me, my two novels (Killing Power and State of Resistance), and my aphantasia (lack of a mind’s eye). I’d be pleased to hear from you – use the Contact tab below.
About Elliot Finer
My wife and I live in London. We are owned by two cats. My career has included spells as a research scientist, a civil servant, and the CEO of a company serving the chemical industry. I enjoy reading, writing, gardening and creative DIY.
I recently realised I have aphantasia – I have no mind’s eye: see the tab (above) on this.
How I became a thriller author
‘If you’re going to write a novel, you need to do a creative writing course first,’ said my wife, Viv.
‘I can’t be bothered,’ I said with annoying arrogance. ‘I’ve read so many books, and written so many reports and papers, that I obviously know how to write a novel.’ I thought back to when my father had taken us from our rural village to High Wycombe library every Saturday. We were allowed two fiction and two non-fiction books a week. Then there was the library in our town in Cheshire, and, from when I was 15, libraries in our north London suburb. And the science fiction paperbacks I bought once a month from the local newsagent. And now, not only the library, but also Amazon, airports… I did some mental arithmetic (also a way to annoy Her). ‘I’ve read thousands of novels.’
My baseless self-confidence was boundless. ‘You remember when I used to meet Michael Dobbs regularly, when he was an advertising executive working on that campaign I was managing? He came back from a beach holiday one summer and told me he’d found the airport novels he’d read so poor that he was sure he could do better. I’ve got the signed copy of House of Cards somewhere. If he could do it, so can I.’
I wanted to write a revenge thriller, because I found that genre exciting. I had a plot in my head, and started writing. Nine months later I had finished the first draft, which turned out to be rather different from my original idea. The grammar was flawless, but it was full of basic mistakes.
It took over three chastening and fascinating years to get to the published version of Killing Power. Hugely valuable input from Viv, many friends and relatives, and two professional editors taught me how to write dialogue, how to ‘show not tell’, how to create real characters (who, I found, often took over the plot and changed it) – all the things I would have learnt had I taken the course. But I did learn, and the praise I’ve received for Killing Power has been ample reward for the time and effort. I hope that State of Resistance also brings pleasure to many readers.
Killing Power – a thriller by Elliot Finer
Mark Redstone’s life is on an upward turn. It has taken years for him to rally from the body blow of his wife’s murder, but his biotechnology company has seen recent success, and he’s even noticing the opposite sex again.
Out of the blue he receives a phone call – from the country’s top official – that changes everything.
He is tasked with an assignment: to investigate a plot involving Britain’s nuclear reactors that, if unresolved, could devastate the country. And his means for doing this is a ground-breaking scientific discovery which gives him amazing abilities.
Working with Laura Smith, a tough MI5 agent, Redstone embarks on a mission to save the country’s energy supply and bring those responsible to justice…
…and to use his new skill to mete out justice of his own.
This fast-paced story blends crime thriller, science fiction and romance to keep the reader turning the pages towards the exhilarating conclusion.
Killing Power is available on Amazon as a paperback and an e-book.
Praise for Killing Power
‘Thoroughly enjoyable, a fast and factual thriller interwoven with low politics and the high emotion of a tender love story.’ [TB]
‘I tentatively started reading and was instantly hooked … I do hope there will be a sequel.’ [LH]
‘Redolent of that celebrated series of books “Strangers and Brothers” by C P Snow. But better written, far more gripping and you really won’t want to put it down.’ [CMW]
‘Splendid page-turner … excellent! I thoroughly enjoyed it.’ [KT]
‘Best Story of 2020… held my attention from the first page to the last… story-telling is fast-paced, concise and richly imaginative.’ [PY]
‘The plot is imaginative and exciting. It reads at a gallop and the characterisation of the main players is very good. The action was good all through … I enjoyed it greatly.’ [JF]
‘I was immediately hooked on this book and couldn’t put it down. I am hoping that there will be a sequel or at least another novel from this fine writer. Highly recommended.’ [HS]
‘Next month a friend of mine who is coming to Izmir from London will bring me the novel. He said: ‘I bought it, came home, just to satisfy my curiosity read a couple of pages, that is that! It was 2 a.m. when I finished it. Very catchy, easy to read, looking forward his next novel.’ [OT]
‘I really enjoyed it. The characters are all very well drawn. It’s a thriller with lots to intrigue the reader leading to some surprising plot twists which will keep you guessing right to the end. Highly recommended.’ [MT]
I thoroughly enjoyed it. The plot kept me guessing until the very end, and the tense narrative kept pulling me along. I think it would make a brilliant Netflix drama series. [TF]
State of Resistance – Elliot Finer’s second Redstone thriller, published February 2022
US President Turner Cardew has made failing Britain an American colony, governed by a puppet regime and occupied by US forces. But his administration is further damaging the UK, rather than helping it recover. No-one can figure out why.
Mark Redstone’s biotechnology company is his life, but faces ruin by the regime’s corrupt top British official, who is pursuing a personal vendetta against Redstone.
Desperate to save his company, Redstone fights back with the help of Laura Smith, who’s been fired from MI5, and Michelle Clarke, an expert in artificial intelligence. One lonely man, two very different women.
They join a clandestine group working to restore independence. Their struggle is dogged by deceit and violence.
State of Resistance is an imaginative political thriller, interlaced with a story of developing love. A reader of the first Redstone thriller, Killing Power, wrote ‘I was immediately hooked on this book and couldn’t put it down. I am hoping there will be a sequel from this fine writer.’ State of Resistance is that sequel.
Reviews of State of Resistance
Following is a full review of State of Resistance. I do not know the reviewer!
Following are some other reviews, posted on Amazon. You can see others by visiting the Amazon link above.
5.0 out of 5 stars Another excellent story from this author.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 22, 2022
A politically perceptive page turner. Not science fiction but relies on science as a background to a great story.
4.0 out of 5 stars Pacy thriller
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 11, 2022
Hugely enjoyable, a pacy political/scientific thriller enhanced by sensitive development of Redstone’s personal life.
5.0 out of 5 stars Well-paced political thriller
Reviewed in the United States on 28 February 2022
This novel is a well-paced political thriller, set in the future, about the efforts of a London-based research scientist and businessman to prevent the UK economy from being administered as a colony by the US President. The author’s extensive knowledge of the London political scene is evident and the influences of the women in the hero’s life add spice to the imaginative narrative. This novel is a highly recommended read.
5.0 out of 5 stars A Thriller with a touch of Romance.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 5 March 2022
The author has a knack of producing up to date, relevant and thought provoking stories. The concept, pace and character development make this a very readable book.
A beautifully constructed thriller
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 15 April 2022
I bought the first book, Killing Power, by chance about two years ago, and immediately hooked into it. I could not stop reading until the last page. I was looking forward to a sequel. State of Resistance turned out to be as good. I would like to thank to the writer for the enjoyment I had from these books. I hope there would be some more in the future.
My aphantasia (lack of a ‘mind’s eye’)
How aphantasia has affected my life
I realised only gradually, during 2019, that I’d got aphantasia.
My insight started when I was thinking about my forthcoming examination as part of the ‘Stress and Health Study’ – this is a long-term study of about 10,000 people who were civil servants in 1985, conducted by University College London. Every five years subjects are invited to go to Bloomsbury (a district of London rich in academia) for a series of tests. My next visit was due.
One of the tests is of short-term memory. I don headphones, and a disembodied voice reads out a list of unconnected words; when it stops I’m asked to write down as many as I can recall. I normally get only about 4 from a list of perhaps 30. As the date approached, fed up with performing so badly each time, I decided to research how to tackle such tasks. Widespread advice suggests using your mind’s eye to visualise walking round a familiar room, e.g. your kitchen, and associating each word with something you see – e.g. if the word is ‘growing’ you imagine the toaster growing. But when I tried to do this, I couldn’t. I eventually realised that I don’t have a mind’s eye. Until then, I’d thought I was the same as everyone else.
I told my wife, Viv. She initially disbelieved me (she has, or at least used to have, an amazing photographic memory). She was upset when I told her that if I shut my eyes I couldn’t even picture her face. And then, one morning, I heard an article on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, featuring Prof Adam Zeman from Exeter University. He was studying this phenomenon and had named it aphantasia (in 2015). He wanted people who thought they might have it to complete an online questionnaire. So I did. The results confirmed that I have aphantasia. About 3% of people have it.
I’ve met only one other aphantastic (my made-up word) person – a young chemical physics PhD, which is interesting because I also have a PhD in chemical physics. I wonder whether having aphantasia encourages the development of alternative strategies for coping with life, strategies which may be advantageous in some walks of life – e.g. searching for, or devising, abstract patterns in information, and memorising those patterns (non-visually), to replace relying on visually memorising the information. I’ve read that there is a correlation between having the condition and working in science, technology, engineering and maths. Recent research supports the idea that people with aphantasia do favour abstract methods of thinking – there is much information at this link: https://extremeimagination.com/
Here is a link to an article about the condition: https://www.sciencefocus.com/the-human-body/aphantasia-life-with-no-minds-eye/
I’ve found knowing that I’ve got aphantasia a great relief. It explains why, for example, I found some sorts of university exam revision so excruciatingly awful – I could easily cope with material which required working things out, or using abstract ideas, but where it involved picturing things I was at a great disadvantage. Even in spectroscopy, my special subject, I couldn’t recall the details of what any specific spectrum looked like.
Having aphantasia also explains why, though I can draw well when looking at the subject, I can’t draw decent pictures from imagination. I used to want to draw cartoons, and spent ages trying and failing. Now I know why. There are, however, professional artists with aphantasia who draw cartoon figures for films!
I enjoyed playing low-level bridge, but couldn’t up my game because I couldn’t remember what cards had been played . Now I know why (though I’m told alternative explanations are available!). Something similar applies to chess – I was quite good, without having been taught, but found myself unable to learn the openings which a very good chess player must know.
Thinking back to school days, I used to have great difficulty in learning vocabulary in French, facts in history, map-related information in geography, and other things where visualising information is helpful. By contrast, Viv says she was able to visualise whole pages of information, allowing her to do well in such subjects.
My having aphantasia also explains a past source of tension in our household. Viv would call out asking me how to do something on the computer, and I would reply saying I didn’t know without looking. She would express irritation and disbelief, knowing I’m competent at that sort of thing. As soon as I see the screen I can usually figure out how to proceed, but I can’t do that without the screen in front of me. I can’t visualise what buttons or messages there are on the screen.
The condition doesn’t affect my dreaming, which is fully visual. Nor does it affect my sense of direction, memory for faces, or – adversely, at least – memory for places (in fact aphantastic people may have a better than average spatial memory – see https://extremeimagination.com/. Viv thinks I do have an unusually good spatial memory.). I can hear music in my mind’s ear, as it were (interestingly, Viv can’t).
I’ve read an article by Blake Ross, another person with aphantasia: https://www.facebook.com/notes/blake-ross/aphantasia-how-it-feels-to-be-blind-in-your-mind/10156834777480504/, in which he talks about reading fiction. He skips over passages which are designed to create visual scenes in the reader’s brain, because they do nothing for him, and for this reason doesn’t like some authors whom other readers admire and love. Me too – I hadn’t realised this till I read Blake Ross’s article. When writing my novels (see other tabs on this website), if I need to describe a scene, such as a building – even one I know very well – I have to call up a picture on the internet and describe what I see there. I can however describe from memory what the place feels like, and perhaps that’s more important. I have of course been pleased when readers have praised my plots, pleased and mightily relieved when they’ve praised my characterisation (I’ve put a lot of work into that), but surprised and delighted when they’ve praised the sense of place I’ve engendered. It goes to show – not being able to visualise something doesn’t mean you can’t have feelings about it, as all with aphantasia know.
Having said that, however, I’ve read that we aphantastics tend to live more in the present than some other people, worrying less about the past and the future. The suggestion is that this is a result of not being able to visualise unpleasant experiences. I do have a fairly even temperament, and don’t tend to worry about the longer term, or dwell on bad things that have now passed. And I’m an optimist, though I’m not sure if this is connected. No doubt there are others with aphantasia who have different personality traits – if there is an effect, presumably it will be on average rather than affecting all equally.
In January 2023 I discovered something new and, to me , shocking about a difference between me and my like on the one hand, and most of you (i.e. non-aphantastics) on the other. Apparently you non-aphantastics speak to yourselves in your heads. You have an inner monologue. I and other people with aphantasia don’t, and I can’t really imagine what it must be like to hear such a voice. I’m told it can be constant. We aphantastic people have a ‘peaceful inner life’, to quote Professor Julia Simner, a researcher in the field who is herself aphantastic, in a fascinating radio programme broadcast by the BBC: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m001gwys
Prof Zeman doesn’t think aphantasia needs diagnosis and treatment. “It’s an intriguing variation in human experience, not a disorder,” he says. Indeed, the scientist Craig Venter, the first person to decode the human genome, has described his aphantasia as useful in helping him to concentrate on scientific problems.
For those readers interested in the cause of aphantasia, I think it’s a connectivity issue – how well the prefrontal cortex can maintain an instruction to the visual cortex. I recently discussed the condition with a neurologist, who said ‘So what happens if I ask you to visualise a carrot?’ What happened was that I immediately visualised a carrot (a cartoon picture of a carrot, for some unknown reason), but only for a flash – the picture disappeared in milliseconds. It felt like some mechanism had started up ok but then got saturated and stopped. My guess is that aphantasia is caused by a defect in the production or removal of neurotransmitters in the synapses taking messages from the prefrontal cortex to the visual cortex. I mentioned the experience to my Viv, who told me she could not only visualise a carrot but in her mind’s eye could examine the wrinkles and blemishes in its skin. Amazing.
EGF June 2022, revised August 2023
Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
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