Blogging for an international audience (that’s you, if you happen to be non-Finnish)

keyboard30082014I started my very first actual blog called Jäniksenselkäläisen kirjallisuuden seura (Rabbit Back Literature Society) when my first novel (you guess which one) was about to be published. I wanted to market my novel in Finland and draw some media attention to it. (It worked and I was invited to a talk show and I was interviewed in national radio.) It’s very hard to make people notice and buy your books in Finland; there are too many writers in here and way too many new titles are published every single week and the biggest bookstore chain of Finland picks only some of them to be sold in stores and leaves majority of all new books (not to mention the older ones) to be found from internet stores – which doesn’t necessarily happen at all because of the great number of new titles (etc). But yeah, I wrote blogposts about issues like ”what is it like being a brand new novelist”, ”oh how easy it would be to sell books as a beautiful female writer” (actually this one was mainly self ironic reflection of the envy among the published writers) and ”what is this book actually about”. I continued bloggin for several years because it was a good way to promote my books – Finnish publishers don’t advertise litterature that much, because adverts are expensive and, because of the things mentioned above, the increase of sales usually doesn’t cover the costs.
And now, when end is near (go away, Frank Sinatra / Sid Vicious), I mean, now, when that very first novel of mine has been published abroad and everything in a way starts again from the square one (in a good way, of course), I saw fit to start blogging in English in case my new international audience happens to be interested in communicating with the author of TRBLS himself (like my Finnish audience was). But I think it’s one thing to blog for domestic readers and another thing to blog for people abroad. Of course I feel like I’m walking on thin ice when expressing my thoughts in any language other than Finnish. That is one thing. And then there is this question of choosing topics to write about. What do my foreign readers possibly want to know about my books, my work (and life) as a writer, Finnish literature etc – that is the question. In my Finnish blog I mainly explored the issues – and especially hardships – of being a novelist in Finland (in other words, I have complained about everything because it’s a sacred Finnish tradition) but those things probably wouldn’t be found interesting by any other than Finnish people and Finnish fellow writers, if even by them…
If you speak Finnish, visit my Finnish blog. Everything is in there. Even (and especially) things you don’t want to know. But if reading Finnish is a problem for you, this new(ish) blog is for you. Please feel free to tell what kind of things you would like to know about me, my books, Finnish literature etc.

What’s going on with PIJ, author of The Rabbit Back Literature Society, right NOW

My fourth novel is under construction. It is still in its infancy but I find comfort in the fact that Donna Tartt doesn’t publish new works so often either. I have published a book in 2000 (my first collection of short stories, Missä junat kääntyvät – in English: Where the Trains Turn), in 2006 (my first novel Lumikko ja yhdeksän muuta, you may know it as The Rabbit Back Literature Society), in 2008 (short story collection Taivaalta pudonnut eläintarha, in English: A Zoo from Heavens, the stories in my first collection rewritten and edited), in 2010 (my second novel Harjukaupungin salakäytävät, in English: The Cinematic life. A novel) and in 2013 (third novel Sielut kulkevat sateessa, in English: Souls Walk in the Rain). All this time I have kept on working as a teacher of Finnish and literature, because that’s what I need to do in order to support my family – writers rarely make money enough for leaving their dayjobs in Finland.

In our garden, Autumn 2014

In our garden, Autumn 2014

Of course I would like to dedicate myself to writing books, if only that were possible. So far it isn’t but that’s all right. It helps that I found an excellent literary agent a couple of years ago and she is selling my books abroad. Maybe I’m not going to publish a new book in Finland this Autumn, but thanks to her, my first novel has recently been published or is going to be published soon in several other countries (UK, USA, Germany, Italy, Spain, France, Lithuania, Czech) and that’s very exciting – and comforting for a writer who has chronic difficulties to find time for writing something new.

In October, I’ll participate in the Frankfurt Book Fair and supposedly meet many of those people working in the different publishing houses who I have been communicating with only via e-mail so far. I find even smaller book fairs to be quite unnerving – you know, wandering lonely and lost in a noisy crowd, that’s my definition of hell, but if Orpheus visited the underworld and made it back, I guess I can do it, too. After all, it is an honour to get invited in there.

One of my old stories, Where the Trains Turn, is going to be published in in the near future. I saw the cover for it, made by Greg Ruth, and it was magnificent! And the US edition of TRBLS will be published in Januray 2015, which delights me greatly – after all, USA is a land of opportunity, and you never know what may happen… (Naturally I’m dreaming about great success and possibility to quit my dayjob for good and concentrate on writing, but of course I know the odds; however, it may be a long shot but as I said, you never know…)



The Italian cover – La società letteraria Sella di Lepre



Il compito di Ella Milana, giovane supplente in una scuola superiore della cittadina di Sella di Lepre, è apparentemente semplice: correggere i temi dei suoi studenti e valutarli. Ma il lavoro diventa bizzarro quando si accorge che i classici letti e commentati dai ragazzi sono diversi dagli originali. Perché mai la copia di ”Delitto e castigo” presa dalla biblioteca ha un finale alternativo? E non è l’unico libro che mostra delle differenze sostanziali… Mossa dalla curiosità, Ella ne parla con la bibliotecaria, ma non riceve risposte. Contemporaneamente, il racconto da lei scritto viene ritenuto talmente bello da farla accogliere nella famosa ed esclusiva Società Letteraria del paese, composta da soli nove membri, e guidata dalla più celebre scrittrice di romanzi per ragazzi del mondo. Ma durante una riunione della società, la scrittrice scompare misteriosamente, e i membri rimanenti, legati da un patto inquietante, sembrano dover seguire inesorabilmente lo stesso destino.
What could be more exiting than to see one’s very own book translated into many different languages and find new readers all around the world… ! And all those new covers, different from each other but every single one so magnificent in its own way… Oh yeah. Good moments for a writer.
Dear Italian friends of literature, I hope you’ll find La società letteraria Sella di Lepre worth reading!
I have never been to Italy but I have always planned to visit it and surely one day I will pack my bags and head to the land of Fellini, Giulietta Masina, Marcello Mastroianni (I actually thought of him when building a protagonist for my second novel The Cinematic Life – a novel), Leonardo – and Mandragora Scream, one of my favourite bands:

My son, a horror enthusiast

The youngest of my three sons, the six year old, loves horror stories. Naturally we don’t let him watch any kind of horror movies or play horror games – he only plays Little Big Planet with great enthusiasm, and it’s fine – I think that game is really good for him because it allows him to build his own levels. He is a creator in his own little world, and as a writer who builds his own worlds with words, I like it. However, zombies are nowadays not only a part of the horror genre but also a part of children’s culture and thus part of their collective mind, like witches, trolls and fairies have been for centuries. There’s nothing wrong in that – kids need something to be scared of, so beating that scary figure helps them to overcome their fears.

Not so surprisingly, my six year old wishes to hear horror stories for his bedtime stories. So, last night I told him a stupid story about a boy and his pet cow who died and turned into a zombie cow. In the end the boy shot the zombie cow with his big brother’s vaporizer gun. (I admit: the story should and could have been much better, considering that I am a writer…) And today he brought home a drawing he had made in preschool.

It looks like this:


As a kid I had terrible nightmares about vampires and living dead, really dark and scary dreams, but my son’s dreams are not scary, according to him. He doesn’t have nightmares, he actually thinks zombies and ghosts are fun. So, if he is lucky enough, he won’t be a writer when he grows up. To be a writer, you have to be more or less messed up, and so far, despite the zombies, that boy seems to be quite sane


The Rabbit Back Literature Society in Waterstones book club!

I was told some time ago that my first translated novel has been selected for Waterstones autumn 2014 book club (and I was also told that I must not talk about it), but now there is an article in The Guardian about translated literature that reveals it. So, there’s another thing for me to be happy about.


Finland is a land of great and diverse literature, and during last years Finnish writers have found a lot of new readers from abroad. It is great because books don’t sell that well in here. Our population is not more that 5,5 million and people have started to read – and buy – books less than they used to. Beside that, practically half of the Finnish people are published writers and we haven’t time enought to read each other’s books… So, conquering the world is the only option for us writers now because we really need new readers for our literature.


On a walking trip with my family. See you again next May, dear summer.


An interview

In case you are interested, here’s the TQR-interview of me, made by Steven Hansen few months ago.

It has been a hot July in Finland and August seems to be even hotter, which is great because quite soon it’ll get dark and cold – as they say in Game of Thrones, winter is coming, and if I may say, our Finnish winters are much worse than winters in GoT, even our zombies are nastier (because in Finland, even zombies have to pay high taxes). But so far it’s warm and sunny in here, the dark wings of winter haven’t darkened our sun and minds yet. I have three sweet days of my vacation left before the schools start (and I have to confront pupils who of course have such a great hunger to learn about literature and Finnish language) and I’m gonna spend that time with my young sons – for example today we took a long walk aroung the Jyväsjärvi lake and crossed two bridges, enjoying the rapidly dwindling summer and those melting ice creams I bought after we crossed the second bridge (which was much further from our starting point than we thought).

I wonder: at what age are we too old to hear the absent-minded songs of the August butterflies?

panoraama jyvasjarvi

About my latest novel: Souls Walk in the Rain

There are some horror elements in my debut novel The Rabbit Back Literature Society, along with all the other different genre elements it contains (it’s also a detective story, a ghost story and a love story, just to mention a few). Horror elements are there also in my second novel (The Cinematic Life: A Novel, in Finnish: Harjukaupungin salakäytävät) which has not been translated yet, although it is more a love story than anything else – a weird one, of course. But this third novel of mine, Souls Walk in the Rain (it was published in 2013 and hasn’t yet been translated), oh yeah, it is a lovecraftian horror story. And a fantasy story. And a thriller. And a love story. And also my serious attempt to study the very essence of life, death and religion, which of course are the most important themes of all philosophy and art.

I quote Bookthirsty who explains the main premises of the novel in her blog:

Overworked and underpaid Judit leaves her uneventful life and husband for a nursing job with an international organization in Helsinki. Her boss and best friend Martta, mother of her beloved eight year old godson Mauri, has been with the company for many years and explains that the pay and perks are so good because employees are expected to go the extra mile. Nurses are expected to not only take care of the patients’ physical needs, but also that of their souls, something that agnostic Judit has trouble with. She used to believe wholeheartedly as a small child, but hasn’t for years, for reasons which slowly come to light.

Mysterious warnings are sent to her phone in this summer of never-ending rain (the rain never stops in this book, it is even more overwhelming than the snow in The Rabbit Back Literature Society) and for some odd reason she is called upon to treat the so-called ‘king of atheists’, internationally known and controversial, but oh-so-charming Leo Moreau.

This international organization, a big home health care company called F-Remedium, has a device with which it’s possible to revive one’s soul. It’s an important part of the company policies that human souls is an organ that needs to be monitored and treated, not different from all the other organs like heart, lungs or liver. The device they use is called a Persinger device – which actually isn’t just fiction but a real thing: it’s better known as a ”God Helmet”:

The ”God Helmet” refers to an experimental apparatus originally called the ”Koren helmet” after its inventor Stanley Koren. It was developed by Koren and neuroscientist Michael Persinger to study creativity and the effects of subtle stimulation of the temporal lobes. Reports by participants of a ”sensed presence” while wearing the God helmet brought public attention and resulted in several TV documentaries. The device has been used in Persinger’s research in the field of neurotheology, the study of the neural correlates of religion and spirituality. The apparatus, placed on the head of an experimental subject, generates very weak fluctuating magnetic fields, that Persinger refers to as ”complex.” These fields are approximately as strong as those generated by a land line telephone handset or an ordinary hair dryer, but far weaker than that of an ordinary refrigerator magnet and approximately a million times weaker than transcranial magnetic stimulation.

Persinger reports that many subjects have reported ”mystical experiences and altered states”while wearing the God Helmet.

Nurse Judit is given an important mission by her best friend and new boss Martta: Judit’s godson is dying, and as his godmother she is obligated to make him believe in God – boy’s mother Martta is a Christian fundamentalist and everything else but happy about the fact that her terminally ill son is an atheist. Judit is an agnosticist and somewhat reluctant to do so, but eventually she has no choice but try to convince the boy about the existence of God in order to give the dying boy at least some hope.

Later Martta learns that Leo Moreau, the king of atheists, is rumoured to have some kind of evidence about the existence of God in his possession. Of course she sends Judit to investigate the rumour and spy Moreau. And so her great adventure to the core of the secret truth about our universe begins…


Like all the other stories I have ever written, Souls Walk in the Rain is inspired by a dream I once had.  Or actually by two dreams. The first one was about a trip to the space. Very surrealistic, a little bit scary – and fascinating enough to haunt me for years until I finally started to spin a story around it. The second dream  – which I have had quite often – is about climbing endless stairs.

Then there is this woodcut I saw in some dictionary when I was a kid – I just couldn’t forget it, and it was another source of inspiration when writing Souls Walk in the Rain:


In a way the novel is also a celebration of reading literature. There is this mysterious female character, dedicated to all the (wonderful) book bloggers of the world – they truly are sirens of literature, luring people to read more books (and as a writer I consider them to be important allies because books have to compete for the attention of the people with so many things)…






B-format cover of The Rabbit Back Literature Society


This is what the cover of The Rabbit Back Literature Society, published by Pushkin Press in 2013, looks like. I love it. I think it’s very stylish (as do many others), thanks to David Pearson. The B-format version of TRBLS will be published in September 2014 and it’ll have a new cover, designed by Nathan Burton. It’s quite different but as great as the first cover – I really love it (especially the little bird in it is absolutely delightful):