The Guardian

There are some moments when words fail me. This is such a moment. SF Said reviews Maresi in The Guardian - and what a review. One of the best I have ever received.

"I am no storyteller," claims Maresi, this book's narrator. "I will do my best only to describe what is relevant to my story and leave out everything else." 

She makes these claims on the first page, but they are disproved on every subsequent one. For Maresi, along with the book's Finnish author Maria Turtschaninoff, proves to be a riveting storyteller.


That London Post - finally!

Today I woke up almost two hours before the rest of the family, so I finally had time to write the rest of my London report!

On Tuesday evening Pushkin Press arranged a wonderful dinner at a small French restaurant in Soho. We ate way too much as one delicious dish after another was carried to the table, and I got to chat with the most interesting people from Pushkin, Riot Communications as well as journalists and buyers, critics and editors.

On Wednesday I began the day by being interviewed by Becki Hawkes for The Telegraph in the lobby of my hotel. Becki Hawkes is one of the people quoted on the back cover of Maresi, and it was great to sit and chat with her a while. That interview is still coming up. Then I was whisked off in a cab to Foyles Charing Cross where I had lunch with my absoultely wonderful translator Annie Prime. We had not met until then, but immediately hit it off. First off, Annie really gets my books. She's a wonderfully intuitive and sensitive translator, who patiently puts up with this nitpicky writer. I am so happy that she is coming to Finland this spring, to spend a whole month at a residency on Suomelinna! I will get to hang out with her more, which is brilliant.

Then it was time to do a stock signing of books, which I did first at Foyles, then at Waterstones Piccadilly and lastly at Daunts. I was escorted by the lovely Georgina Hanratty from Bounce, who told me a lot about how book selling works in the UK, which was very interesting. And I got to spend time in these lovely bookstores, which kind of was the highlight of the trip for me! I could of course have spent a day in each one of them. Foyles had such a massive selection of books, and the restaurant was lovely. Waterstones had a fabulous view over London and a wonderful atmosphere. And Daunts had the most interesting way of sorting books I have ever seen - by country! Travel books and poetry and fiction, all according to country. Very fresh and an extremely tempting way of displaying books! In general that is what struck me most: how temptingly and tantalizingly all the bookstores managed to present their wares. This is something the stores here in Finland should learn to do. I myself bought ten books in total (I traveled with a half-empty suitcase as I knew this would happen). I don't know when I have last bought that many in one day, from physical bookstores. Probably never.

View from Waterstones

All of the books save one (a detective novel for my mother)

At Daunt

After this I was knackered, grabbed a cab to the hotel and collapsed for all of, oh 40 minutes, before it was time to jump into another cab and head on over to the French restaurant for another dinner. And I have to say, everyone I met on my trip was so lovely and kind and interesting! Maybe it's because they are all book people? This time I met more bloggers, editors and journalists, and we had a marvelous time. I am still stunned that so many people came in support of Maresi! Annie Prime was also able to join, which was wonderful (I am using so many adjectives, I know, but I just can't help it).

Thursday I had an easier schedule. I spent the morning walking around Covent Garden, popping in and out of shops (and buying three discounted dresses at Cath Kidston...), eating lunch at Jamie Oliver's Italian restaurant and simply feeling that I was IN LONDON. After that I rested in my hotel room for a long time, just sipping tea and leafing thorugh the new books. In the afternoon I had one more interview, with the site For Books Sake, after which I ordered room service for the first time in my life (my room came with a voucher, so it was basically free) and then made my way to the Prince of Wales Theater which was a ten minute walk from my hotel. There I had a third-row seat for The Book of Mormon, which simply is the best musical I have ever seen. So professional, sharp, entertaining, funny and smart.

Friday was my last day in London, with one radio interview for Down the Rabbit Hole, time for an hour long walk along the Thames and then on to Heathrow, where I had afternoon tea with scones and clotted cream. And then - home.


In the editing bubble

Yes, I am still editing like crazy. I have to get it done this week, and all of Thursday will go to meetings and doctors appointments and such. But I finally feel like I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I am still unsure about a few of the changes I have made (especially some parts I cut), but luckily I will still get to discuss them with my super editor. The hurry I feel mostly has to do with my Finnish translator, who has to have a chance to start working asap.

The Telegraph has put Maresi on their "Best YA of 2016"-list, which makes me all shades of happy. (I'd put a link in, but that page is down right now, will fix as soon as it's up).

Reviews keep coming in, and I am especially thrilled by the ones by younger readers, such as this one. One of the reviewers writes: "I really enjoyed ‘Maresi’ and thought that it had a great plot. Every now and then, I still find myself thinking about Maresi, as if she is a real person."

I still plan to write about London, but it just has to wait. Naondel takes precedence.


No time, just links

I don't seem to get that little breather, when I imagined I would pen a post about the trip to London. The editing process is all-consuming at the moment. So I will have to contend with a link salad instead, and hope to get back to the proper post later.

Here is the piece I wrote for The Guardian on Top 10 feminist heroines in children's fiction.

Here's a piece I wrote for Reading Zone.

Here's a review in Tearaway (New Zealand). "Both magical and sad, inspiring and frightening, Maresi is a fairytale for the modern world." Yay!

Blogger Philippa on When you close the book also reviews Maresi so beautifully I just have to share it. "Honestly, I can't think of many reasons why someone wouldn't enjoy this book." Double yay!

And here's an interview with me at Serendipity Reviews.

Some of the stuff I did in London, like the BBC interview and the interview with Down the Rabbit Hole, are still coming up.



...that said, I kind of just have to publish these two pictures. The first from the Financial Times, the second from the South Wales Evening Post.

Hard deadline

I know, I know, I have so much to report from the London trip, and so many links and photos to put up -

But first thing's first. I have a hard deadline this month - I have to finish the edits on Naondel. My Finnish translator is waiting, my Finnish publisher Tammi needs to start planning the cover. So everything else has to wait today, until I have at least a few solid hours of editing under my belt.


Two articles

Here are two articles I wrote recently. Why is feminist fantasy important for The Bookseller, and Are There any Feminst Fairy Tales for The Standard Issue.

TV and BBC!

What a day I had yesterday! Not a lot of time to breathe, but I met so many interesting people and got to do so many cool things. First, there was the TV interview for TRT World. Vanessa Cuddeford had some very good questions and I rambled on, as usual.

 Green room & tea
And then it was on to the BBC!

We recorded an episode of The Conversation for BBC World Service. The other guest, who joined us from Barbados, was author Karen Lord. It was such a great conversation and I could have continued chatting to Karen and our host Kim Chakanetsa for ages. 

There, that's all the reporting I have time for! Time to start this day, with interviews and signings!


London, here I come!

Tomorrow my Big London Adventure begins! I am a bundle of nerves and erratic packing. I am doing five interviews (booked so far), two dinners with bookstore buyers and bloggers and two signings. If anyone is interested in coming to the signings they are on Wednesday in Foyles Charing Cross at 2.30pm and after that at Waterstones Piccadilly (I don't have an exact time) plus possibly at another store after that. I will keep you posted as soon as I find out more. Probably not on the blog, though. I will report on my trip on Instagram and Twitter as much as I can get online. And as much as I have time - especially the first two days my schedule is really tight.

This really is the biggest, most marvelous carreer related adventure I have ever been on! I get to meet everyone at Pushkin Press, and some of the fantastic people at Riot Communications who have worked so hard on marketing Maresi, and some of the book bloggers and vloggers who kindly read and blurbed the book. And I get to go to the BBC. To record a radio interview. How insanely cool is that!

Yes, I am using a lot of exclamation points right now. This warrants it.


Down the Rabbit Hole

Down the Rabbit Hole is now officially my favourite podcast! In the latest episode, the Christmas special listing the best books of 2015, Maresi gets a mention. Even though the book wasn't out yet then, and not at all in 2015. I also picked up some great tips on books to look out for during my trip to London. I will be visiting (and signing at) both Folyes and Waterstones Piccadilly (both on Wednesday) and plan to buy bunch of books at the same time.

The reading guide for the episode can be found here.


Where I write

Head on over to my (super fabuolous) publisher Pushkin Press where I give a tour of my writing space!

En vecka kvar!

Dagis börjar igen idag, hurra! Föräldrarnas lättnad är stor, barnet är måttligt roat. Vi har väl sådär -24 grader här just nu, det var kallare under natten. Barnen får leka inne idag, som tur är.

Om exakt en vecka lanseras Maresi i England. Så. Ohyggligt. Spännande. Men den lär finnas till salu i vissa bokhandlar redan. Idag skall jag få mitt slutgiltiga schema för resan, men det vet jag redan att det är späckat. Det är oerhört spännande och intressant att få följa med hur en PR-byrå som Riot Communications arbetar och hur mycket de verkligen får till stånd. Recensioner, intervjuer med olika media, artiklar - listan på sådant som redan skett, sådant som är bokat och sådant som fortfarande är under förhandling är flera sidor lång. Och ja, jag får fortlöpande skriftliga rapporter på hur arbetet fortskrider.


Trettondag är jobbardag

Långsam och skön morgon med högläsning för femåringen under täcket, följt av avocadosmörgåsar och Hbl och nu: redigera manus. Ja ja, det är trettondagen, men mina deadlines bryr sig inte om det. Jag har dragit på mig pulsvärmare och har långkalsonger under verkkarna* för det är svinkallt ute och lite kyligt här inne också. -20 ute och 20 inne (inte alls kallt egentligen, men jag är en frusen sort och skrudar mig i ylletröja och tjocka sockor medan sonen springer omkring naken och ropar "Jag är varm!"). För ovanlighetens skull kommer jag att lyssna på musik i höglurar medan jag jobbar - för att kunna dränka ut ljudet av Astrid Lindgren som drar olika skrönor för sonen i rummet bredvid. Ljudböcker, alltså. Mest Lotta på Bråkmakargatan.

Men allra först skall jag skicka iväg min artikel till The Guardian :-)

*Mjukisbyxor för er i Sverige


US cover!

Last night I got to see a first version of the US cover for Maresi. And let me tell you, I am very lucky when it comes to covers. Can't wait to share it with you!


Maresi and The Times

I finally got a hold of the full review of Maresi in The Times. The Times!! I am beside myself with joy. It's really scary to be reviewed by such a huge publication and it takes some getting used to.

In eight days I will be traveling to London where I will get to meet so many cool people and be on the BBC and oh my! 2016 is certainly off to a running start. I will blog more about the upcoming trip later in the week.

Alex O’Connell
Published at 12:01AM, December 26 2015

Think Powell and Pressburger’s Black Narcissus crossed with Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and you have a taste of this unusual book from a respected Helsinki writer — the first in the “Red Abbey” series around which there is more buzz than an apiary.

The premise is strong: Maresi, our heroine, is a novice who lives in the remote Red Abbey on the island of Menos. She left home for the women-only sanctuary after her younger sister died of starvation during the “hunger winter” (so far, so feminist dystopia).

The First Sisters arrived on the island many years before and created its architecture: the Knowledge House, Sister House and the Temple of the Rose, controlled by a beautiful goddess. The nuns’ survival is partly dependent on a colony of blood snails (still with me?) who produce a precious red dye when scared. Fable has it that a curse will befall any man who sets foot on the island.

This myth is tested when Maresi, the Mother, the Sisters and fellow novices are joined by Jai, a blonde in distress, who arrives on a boat having escaped her cruel father who buried her sister alive. After the Moon Dance (absolutely nothing to do with Van Morrison) the koan birds bring a warning. Jai’s worst fear about her pa (“He will have his revenge on everyone who sheltered me. Everyone”) is about to be realised.

It’s hard not to be impressed with Turtschaninoff’s magical world — with its brave women and fauna — but anyone used to pacey dystopian thrillers might find this story action-lite. Like the first episode of many a TV box-set drama, the story is bogged down with set-ups. I longed for more jeopardy throughout and when the suspense does arrive two thirds of the way through, the resolution is too speedy to satisfy.