Name Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen
Where are you from
I live in central Finland. I was born here, too.
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
I’m married to my nurse wife, with three kids – the oldest one is now in his twenties and already has his own life. I have a day job: I’m a Finnish and literature teacher in upper secondary school, my pupils are from 16 to 19 years old. I studied in the university of Jyväskylä and have a master in Finnish language and literature. Oh yes, and I have a cat, as all serious writers apparently do, and it made me write my fourth novel that will be published on August 2017, in Finnish of course, but its title could be translated as “The Day of a Wrong Cat”.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
I am finishing my fourth novel and beginning to write the next one. The Czech translation of my second novel was published a couple of weeks ago, and the English translation will be published next fall by Pushkin Press – they also published the English translation of my first novel, The Rabbit Back Literature Society. Its working title is The Secret Passages in Hillside Town: http://www.thebookseller.com/news/novel-by-finlands-best-kept-secret-to-pushkin-324700
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I didn’t write that much until I was 25 and decided that I should give it a try and write a short story. There was this annual writing competition of science fiction and fantasy stories I wanted to participate in, because the first prize was good – 10 000 Finnish marks, which was quite a lot back those days, when I was broke. So I started to study the stories of the previous winners because I wanted to see how those stories were written and what made them so good. And then I wrote two stories of my own and won the second prize.
It was year 1996 when I finally won the first prize. I had been studying in university for two years and my wife had given a birth to our first son, so that 10 000 Finnish marks really knew its place… I won that national writing competition almost four times in a row before I started to write my first novel after I realized that I could have a real chance to get my book published and become a real writer.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
A small publisher published my first collection of short stories in 2000, and it mostly consists of those stories I had written for the annual writing competition. It was some kind of turning point but actually I didn’t consider myself a real writer until my first novel Lumikko ja yhdeksän muuta was published in 2006 by a bigger publisher called Atena, which still is my publisher in Finland.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I was haunted by dreams of the mutating books, wildly running dogs and things like that. Most of my stories are inspired by my dreams. I also was asked to write a play for the Xmas party of our fraternity at university. Laura White’s character was introduced in that little play and after that, I got an idea of turning that play into a novel.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
Yes. I almost always combine certain amount of irony, realism and fantasy in my stories. But usually fantasy is but a spice. I don’t do high fantasy.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
The Finnish title of The Rabbit Back Literature Society is Lumikko ja yhdeksän muuta, “Lumikko and Nine Others”. Lumikko is the orininal last name of Laura White. Lumikko is kind of a white ermine. The Finnish name was my editor’s idea, this was a very hard book to name. I like the English title better but it wouldn’t work in Finnish.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
To preach or not to preach, that’s the question. Well, I guess there is something that could be considered as a message in TRBLS. Maybe it tries to say something about the very essence of literature – all the new books are written on the foundation of previous works. Or something like that. You tell me. But my second novel Harjukaupungin salakäytävät will be published by Pushkin Press next autumn in English and it may have something more to say about certain things like gender flexibility and the diversity of humanity and love.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Everything is quite realistic in my works except for the fantastic parts but there is no clear separation between reality and fantastical in my stories. It’s more like a continuum. And yes, in a way many things I write about are based on real events and on my own experiences or someone else’s, but I rarely use so called raw reality without altering it a lot.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
My life? All the books I have read. Reading literature made me become a writer and being a writer influences my life very much.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest and who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I wish I had time to read more, but my work as a teacher and a writer have taken most of my time since I graduated and began to teach. I don’t know too much about new authors but there are a couple of interesting Finnish authors that should be translated in English, for example Juha-Pekka Koskinen, Anne Leinonen, Helena Waris, Magdalena Hai and J. S. Meresmaa, just to name a few.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Finnish fandom. When I studied the art of writing speculative fiction in order to become a published writer and wrote my very first stories, Finnish fandom was very important to my development. Especially the annual writing contest I mentioned earlier.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Yes. In Finland it’s very hard to earn your living as a writer because we are a small nation and most of the books don’t sell that much but even if you have to stay in your day job in order to make money for food and rent, writing is definitely a career. It takes lot of effort and you have to be ready to market your works.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Well, my latest book was Souls Walk in the Rain and its reception in Finland was quite contradictory: some said it was my best work ever, some considered it to be way too fantastical and scary – or too thick. So maybe it could have been a little bit shorter. I don’t really know. It was my third novel and right now I’m almost finished with my fourth novel (it’s coming out on August) and I think it probably will be an easier read.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I have always had a very vivid imagination. When I was five, I believed in vampires and had these awful nightmares. Later my dreams were not that scary anymore but anyway they haunted me from one night to another – I guess I needed a way to get rid of them, so I started to write stories and make other people dream my dreams…
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
The Day of a Wrong Cat is a mystery story about mother son relationship, dementia, lost memories and secrets of a forgotten childhood. And yes: about cats. There are lot of cats in it. Everything takes place in one day.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
It’s always challenging to find time to write when you have a day job and a family to take care of. And a rescue cat that wants your constant attention, especially when you are writing.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Since my agent sold my first novel outside the borders of Finland I have got several invitations from abroad and they make me happy, of course. However, I only can say yes sometimes because of my day job as a teacher. My career as a writer has so far taken me into Frankfurt book fair and Milan. I especially liked it in Milan. Lot of interviews by local journalists and a beautiful city.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
David Pearson (the first edition of TRBLS) and Nathan Burton (the second edition of TRBLS).
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Writing it. I don’t like writing that much but I need to get stories out of my head and after writing a couple of pages, I have to rewrite everything all over again until I’m satisfied with my work and only then I’m able to move on. Have you ever heard of The Shitty Writing Fairy? When you have written something and consider it to be quite good and go to bed, The Shitty Writing Fairy comes and turns it all to utter shit. And when you open your computer and realize what has happened, you have to write it all over again.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I suppose every book I manage to finish makes me a better writer. If not better, at least more experienced. Or more tired and weary.
Fiona: If any of your books was made into a film who would you like to play the lead
Actually they were supposed to make a tv series based on The Rabbit Back Literary Society in Finland but they didn’t have luck with the funding and it was cancelled. But if someone in UK should get it done, I would like to see Helen Mirren as Laura White and Ruth Wilson as Ella Milana. I fell in love with Ruth Wilson when I saw her as Alice Morgan in Luther…
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
If you want to become a writer, first you have to be a reader. You are not ready to write anything worth reading until you have read thousand books.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Yes: Thank you for reading my stories. I hope you enjoyed them and want to read more.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I am always reading more than one book at a time. Right now I’m reading these ones: Vii by Nikolai Gogol. Uuden mailman katu by Markus Leikola. Luxus by Milja Kaunisto. Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
I think it was a fairy tale book. But I have no recollection of it. The first book I remember reading was probably written by C. S. Lewis. The Witch, the Lion and the Wardrobe. It had a huge impact on me.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Well, not so surprisingly I cry when people I love happen to die. But sometimes sad news about other people’s sorrow make me cry. Especially those ones in which children suffer and die. They may not be mine but they could be because I’m a father, too. Some fictional stories can also touch me enough for me to shed some tears of affection. And what makes me laugh? It depends. Last time I laughed my ass of when I watched Louis C. K. on Netflix.
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
I would like to meet my mother when she was a young woman. She’s now dead and gone and she spent her last years demented, so we never had a chance to talk things through. Actually my latest book (The Day of a Wrong Cat) is about this kind of situation, so common and yet so tragic.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
I don’t want one. I used to make headstones before I graduated and became a Finnish and literature teacher. I was almost crushed by a falling headstone. If I happen to die, I want my ashes scattered in the woods. I love walking in the woods and it’s a great place to haunt. If someone wants to pay respects to my memory, he or she can take a hike in the woods. I don’t want people to read my head stone, I want them to read my books.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
Hiking in the woods. Reading. Sometimes also computer games like The Civilization 6.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Lately: Game of Thrones. Doctor Who. Luther. Supernatural. House of Cards. But I still treasure the memory of shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Seinfeld and Sapphire and Steel. My favourite films would make a really long list but to mention just a few of them: Truffaut’s Jules and Jim, Chin Siu Tung’s Chinese Ghost Story, Lynch’s The Mulholland Drive and Fellini’s 8½.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Favorite food: pizza, minced meat sauce with smashed potatoes.
Favorite colors: black and blood red.
Favorite music: Moi Dix Mois, The 69 Eyes, Motörhead, The Ramones, Mozart.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I think I would like to be a psycho therapist if I had chance to learn a new profession. When I was younger, I played guitar and I had a some kind of punk rock / goth band with my friends but it all ended before it really started…
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
I have an English blog but I really haven’t written any new posts lately: https://rabbitbackliterature.com/
This is my new site, mostly in Finnish but there is an English page, too: