… from the black depths of my own soul

A few questions to the Finnish bestselling author Lee­na Leh­to­lai­nen

For all those in­ter­ested in crime sto­ries or for fu­ture writ­ers among you, a few ques­tions to the Finnish best­selling au­thor Leena Lehto­lainen. Leena Lehto­lainen was born in Kuo­pio on March 11, 1964. She went to school in Out­okumpu, read the 5th and 6th grade the same year and grad­u­ated from school 1982, then stud­ied lit­er­a­ture and the­atre sci­ences in Hel­sinki Uni­ver­sity; she is now li­cen­ti­ate of phi­los­o­phy. Her best known books are the se­ries around po­lice com­mis­sioner Maria Kallio.

About writing:

When did you start writ­ing? I got my first di­ary when I turned seven, and since then I have been writ­ing. But I cre­ated sto­ries in my head even ear­lier.

Did your par­ents or some­one else en­cour­age you? My par­ents taught Finnish at up­per grade and high school, so there were lots of books at my home, but they have led me to write very in­de­pen­dently

Where do you get your in­spi­ra­tion from? Are the books based on some real events? There is of­ten a ques­tion or a theme which in­spires me, but some­times I can´t even name where the first idea comes from. None of my books are based on real events, only some small de­tails.

Do you have some­times writer’s block and what are you do­ing against it? There are bet­ter and worse days. I have learned that if writ­ing goes badly, it is bet­ter to stop, go out, do some house­work etc. Then the ideas come back when you are not ac­tively think­ing about writ­ing.

Do you al­ways have fun while writ­ing? I have, most of the time, but of course, when I write about hor­ri­ble things, it can also be very hard. I have to find the evil in­side me and then write about it.

How long does it nor­mally take you to write a book? The jour­ney from the first ideas to the printed book lasts nor­mally three to four years. I plan a lot be­fore­hand, get to know my char­ac­ters, visit the mi­lieus, talk to dif­fer­ent ex­perts. The writ­ing process it­self is about a year.

Where do you like to write? Why? At home, be­hind my desk, when I am alone. There it is eas­i­est to con­cen­trate. But I can also write in trains, busses, ho­tel rooms, air­port lob­bies – if nec­es­sary.

When do you like to write? Why? I have so far had very bour­geois timetable, be­cause of my chil­dren´s sched­ule, so I have mostly writ­ten day­time. I think I am most ef­fec­tive be­tween 3 and 7 PM.

Do you write with or with­out a plot? I do have a plot, a kind of syn­op­sis, but of course I don´t know ev­ery­thing that will hap­pen dur­ing the book, be­cause it would be very dull to write with­out any sur­prises.

Do you first cre­ate the char­ac­ters or the plot? They come to­gether. At first, there is a theme or a ques­tion I want to in­spect. I of­ten think what kind of char­ac­ters the book will need and cre­ate them ac­cord­ing to that. I love find­ing the right names for the per­sons!

Do you write about sub­jects you like to write or does it some­times de­pend on the mar­ket? I only write about the sub­jects that in­ter­est me. I sim­ply can’t do oth­er­wise.

When will your next book come out and what will it be about? I am writ­ing the twelfth novel about Maria Kallio, but it is still work in progress, not even half way ready. If ev­ery­thing goes ok, it should come out next au­tumn.

Which of the books you wrote you like most? I re­ally can’t say. All are im­por­tant in their own way.

Do you al­ways like the books you wrote or not? I al­ways like some­thing about them, but I have not writ­ten a per­fect book yet… If I would feel like that, I should stop writ­ing.

How well do you know your own char­ac­ters and how do you like them? I know them quite well, I know more about them that I tell in the books. I like to write about peo­ple, who are not eas­ily like­able, they are of­ten more in­ter­est­ing than the nice peo­ple. 

What are the down­sides of be­ing an au­thor? No one else can do your job for you! If you are sick and can’t write, you can´t get a re­place­ment for you. And it is in a way a very in­se­cure job, you never know if you are go­ing to fin­ish the next book and how it will be re­ceived.

When ”Maria Kallio” got filmed, did you have a say in the writ­ing of the screen script? I met the pro­duc­ers, the script writer and later the di­rec­tors and ac­tors. My at­ti­tude to all the drama­ti­za­tions is that if I can help the team, I will be glad to do so, but they are pro­fes­sion­als in their jobs, not me.


How much free time do you have and what do you like to do? I can have lots of free time, be­cause I can ba­si­cally de­cide how I use my time! Be­cause my work con­sists of sit­ting be­hind the com­puter, I like to move, do things like jog­ging, Nordic walk­ing, mush­room pick­ing, cross-coun­try ski­ing and sail­ing. I read a lot, travel abroad, go to the the­atre and to dif­fer­ent kinds of con­certs. I also sing my­self.

How would you de­scribe your­self? I am a per­son who likes to be alone, which is good for a writer. I have a very pas­sion­ate at­ti­tude to­wards my work and also many things like mu­sic, fig­ure skat­ing, na­ture and es­pe­cially cats. We have two of them, Tauno and Mi­utsi.

Are there any sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween you and the char­ac­ters in your books? I have di­vided my­self be­tween so many of my char­ac­ters that it is not easy to say this clearly. There is a part of me in Maria Kallio, in Hilja Il­veskero, in many char­ac­ters of the non-crime nov­els and short sto­ries… And of course, all the mur­der­ers come from the black depths of my own soul.

Who is your fa­vorite au­thor and why? It is to­tally im­pos­si­ble to name only one, or ten… The au­thors I read of­ten over again are for ex­am­ple Jane Austen, Bar­bara Pym, Hella Wuoli­joki and Henry Par­land. I think the main rea­son is the in­ter­est­ing char­ac­ters.

Can you give us some tips on how to be­come a writer? You have to write! It is like sport: even if you have tal­ent, you need to prac­tice it. Try many styles and forms to find your own voice. I also rec­om­mend read­ing a lot. Read­ing is ed­u­ca­tional. Be open and cu­ri­ous, and trust to your own tal­ent!

Va­lerie Berger, 12EKl

The Finnish best­selling au­thor Leena Lehto­lainen.

The Finnish best­selling au­thor Leena Lehto­lainen.

Non SolumSyksy 20123.12.2012