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Do you remember when you first decided to become a writer?
I had read one particularly lousy book, and I thought that I could, whenever I wanted, write a better book than that one was.
Was it an easy choice to make?
Yes, I was 18 years of age, and never is a young man more full of wisdom, more handsome and more fulfilled by experience of life than he is in the age of eighteen. After that age everything becomes more complicated.
So, the choice was easy to make, but it took many years before I really became an author.
What writers did have a major influence in your work/life?
I liked very much of short stories, preferred them to novels. I think they are very hard to write well. A short story reveals if one is really a good author, with novels one can cheat to a certain extent.
Because of that, when I began I was influenced by short story tellers, especially Hemingway and Maupassant. I have never understood Tshehov (Chekhov). In his stories everybody heaves deep sighs, watches as life goes by, and does nothing.
What are the positive and negative aspects of being a writer in Finland?
Finland is a strange country. Stories become original, it’s good.
But strangeness can have its lop-side, too. As a language Finnish is strange, and that makes things difficult internationally. A Finnish writer needs translators to become read outside Finland. And there are not so many translators that can master Finnish.
What are the themes that you like to explore in your books?
I like to tell about people who won’t lie down and let it go, but continue to push forward, however hopeless their situation might be. Unquenchable zest for life near death is one of my themes.
And humour is a very important thing, too. A deep tragedy is often just a comedy in disguise. And vice versa!
How could you define your style?
I hitch-hike the same road that many authors have driven fast by the car. Everything looks different from the edge.
Have you ever considered the possibility to totally change your style?
I think author’s style is close to his attitude to life. So, he should first change his attitude to life, that changes his style. For the time being, I have no need to change my attitude to life.
How do you write? Do you try to follow some strict rules or do you only write “when it comes”?
Raymond Chandler had just one rule. It went like this: “Go to your work room at nine o’clock in the morning. Stay there until noon. You don’t have to write. But you must not do anything else.” So, it was allowed to just sit and watch as clouds go by. Usually, Chandler started to write after five minutes.
I have found that rule useful. The first sentence of the day is always the most difficult. Sometimes it would be nice to wash windows of Town Hall and build 10 meter long stone wall before that.
When you’re working on a book, what is the stage/moment that you prefer?
I like most the moment I reach the middle point of the story. It’s like the turning point in the maraton run, after that I know that every word is a step back home.
What books or authors have you read recently?
I have read around 250 books about 1920′s.
If there is one… what is your favourite book? For what reasons?
My dearest book is a book called “Where?” I got it when I was six years old. It tells about couple of hundred explorable places around the world, like Sargasso Sea (with eels), Marianas Deep (11 520 meter down) and Mount Matterhorn. I decided to visit in every one of them. For many years my plans went bad. My father just said that I would vomit in the car.
How do you consider Internet as an author?
It is like a library. You find there good texts, but there is a lot of scrap, too.
Do you think that Internet could somehow change the traditional publication process?
I have published some travel stories just in Internet, in my publisher’s web pages. Texts in Internet can spread very fast, but I think Internet has it’s restrictions. It’s not fun to read long stories via computer screen. And a book is a very tactual thing. It’s nice to lie down, or sit in a cafÃ© with a book, but it’s not as relaxing with a 5-kilo monitor.
What are your actual and future projects?
As I told I’m writing a long novel about 1920′s in Finland. It’s an independent sequel to my book “The Weight of Water”, and the story happens ten years after the incidents in “The Weight of Water”. It will come out in 2004.
I’m also writing a play, that tells about modern explorers. They are not travelling to Marianas Deep by car, though.