Dear ISF readers: We are back!
We will start publishing new short stories and articles as soon as possible but, until then, Cheryl Morgan offers us the opportunity to get to know more about Anne Leinonen (Finland) and her work. Anne is a very important Finish writer and editor and a winner of multiple awards. So, wait no more:
Cheryl Morgan interviews Anne Leinonen
This interview was conducted on board the MS Europa on the way back to mainland Finland after Åcon.
Cheryl: Anne, I know you mainly as a writer of excellent short stories, and also as a tireless promoter of your fellow Finnish writers through the Usva International magazine, but I gather now that you are starting to do very well with your novels.
Anne: I have been writing novels for ten years with my writing partner, Eija Lappalainen. We now have eight books published. We started with mainstream fiction, which is perhaps why you haven’t heard about my novels before. But we have been gradually introducing fantastical elements to the stories. For example, one book is set in Iceland, and has Icelandic elves in it.
Cheryl: Have you had any luck selling the books outside of Finland?
Anne: We’ve been with the same publisher all of the time, and they have been trying from the start to sell our books elsewhere in Europe, but until recently they haven’t had much money to invest in foreign rights sales. Now they have money and things are going much better.
Cheryl: Also you have been a finalist for a very major award, which must help. Tell me a bit about the book.
Anne: We had been adding more and more speculative elements to the books, and finally we came up with an idea for a science fiction trilogy, which we were able to sell to our publishers. The first book is called Routasisarukset, which means Frost Children. The book is set in Eurania, that‘s Europe 300 years in the future. There has been a golden age of machines, with humanity even traveling to the stars. But something went wrong. No one now knows what happened, but people are getting along as best they can in the ruins of civilization, trying to survive.
Cheryl: Ah, so a YA dystopia then.
Anne: When we first talked to our publisher about the book there was no boom in YA dystopia in Finland. The Hunger Games was just starting to get noticed. It took us three years to write the book, and by the time it was published dystopia was all the rage. In 2011 we were nominees for the Finlandia Junior prize, which is for the best YA book in Finland that year.
Cheryl: So this is the YA equivalent of the prize that Johanna Sinisalo won with Not Before Sundown (Troll in the USA)?
Anne: Yes. We were very surprised to be nominated as the book is the first part of a trilogy so we haven’t told the whole story, but the jury said we had some good themes. They liked how we presented economic and environmental problems, and also reproductive issues. In our world most women can no longer have babies normally. There are a few fertile women who specialize in providing children to families who are deemed worthy of being allowed to adopt.
Cheryl: That must change society a lot.
Anne: It does. The families are polyamormous, and there is no biological link between parents and children. Of course there are some families that do not follow the rules. There’s always someone who tries to cheat the system and have biological children.
Cheryl: But that’s what makes a good story, right?
Anne: Yes, one of the major plot points revolves around a family not following the rules.
Cheryl: What other themes do you have?
Anne: One of the characters, a girl named Utu (that means “mist” in Finnish) can talk to the machines. We don’t say why she can do this in book one. That’s one of the things that will be explained in the later books. The science of the past civilization involved a lot of nanotech, biological implants and the like, but now no one understands this. They think Utu’s abilities are magic and are scared of them. Everything is science fiction though. We have explanations for it all.
Cheryl: So with the Finlandia Prize nomination under your belts your publisher can take the book to Frankfurt, Bologna and so on, and try to sell foreign rights.
Anne: Yes, they are doing that now. But they tell us it is a lengthy process. One of the things that helps is that we have a track record. When they are selling the trilogy they can explain that we already have successful careers. There’s a back catalogue that a foreign publisher might also pick up if we do well for them. So they are selling us, not the books.
Cheryl: And what’s the process with translations? Will your publishers get that done, or does it wait until a sale is made?
Anne: Eija and I paid to have an English translation done, even before we knew about the prize. When Jeff VanderMeer was in Finland recently he told us how important it is to have translations available for publishers to read, and we were very eager to sell outside Finland.
Cheryl: Who did the translation?
Anne: Emmi Itäranta. Last year she won a contest for science fiction and fantasy writing run by Teos, a Finnish publisher. She’s living and working in England at the moment, so her English is very good. And of course being a science fiction writer she has a feel for the subject.
Cheryl: I wish you the best of luck trying to sell that.
Anne: Thank you very much.
For more information about the author you can check out:
Anne Leinonen: editor and publisher of Usva-magazine, writes books for young adults with her collegue Eija Lappalainen but also sf- and fantasy short stories. Her first speculative fiction short story collection ”Valkeita Lankoja (White Threads)” was published in August 2006.
Winner of WSOY´s novel for young readers -contest, 2000, “Lokkeja rakastava veli”, written with Eija Laitinen
Winner of Portti writing contest for sf/fantasy short stories, 2003, “Valkeita lankoja”
Winner of Atorox-prize for year´s best sf/fantasy short story, 2004, “Valkeita lankoja”
Winner of Atorox-prize for year´s best sf/fantasy short story, 2007, “Toisinkainen