Anyone interested in great Scandinavian Crime Fiction will be pleased to hear that I caught up with Markus Ahonen, the Ireland based Finnish author who created the Isaksson series.
Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards crime fiction?
I had written six full-length scripts before my seventh one was published. They were all not crime fiction, but also literary fiction, psychological novels, children’s fantasy and short stories. I did read crime fiction and suspense very early and found my heart and my career through Finnish author Matti Yrjänä Joensuu’s Harjunpää series, which depicted police work and life in a realistic and melancholic way. I’ve had some kind of tendency to twist stories into crime over the years. At one point I was working as a TV scriptwriter and sent a pile of ideas to a TV producer I knew. I got feedback from him telling that the ideas were OK, but one thing: they don’t always have to include a murder.
What is your background and how did you get in to writing professionally?
I was born in Helsinki, Finland and grew up in Martinlaakso, the suburb of Vantaa next to Helsinki, the childhood home suburb of F1 drivers Mika Häkkinen and Mika Häkkinen and heavy metal band Amorphis. I studied Communications and Finnish Literature in Turku and did shorter stints in Upstate New York for a year at 17 and later on for one semester in Holland.
I’ve been working as a journalist already since college times, first as a freelancer, then as Editor and Editor-in-Chief for local newspapers before moving on to TV script writing. I’ve lived in Ireland since 2006 and worked as a flying correspondent, author and also in digital marketing.
I made a decision at age 14 to, at some point, become an author, so I wrote and prepare myself for that silently, then busting myself towards journalism and the book writing.
How do you draw on your experience as a journalist? Do you find yourself using the techniques you learned as a flying foreign correspondent in your writing?
It’s been very fruitful. Journalism has been a good way to gather experience and routine to writing and see life. In that work you hear a lot of stories and meet people from all classes in life. In the latest, fourth Isaksson series novel Sydämenmurskajaiset (Heart Crushing Party), there is lot of documentary material from inside the borders of Syria. I was on a report trip to Lebanon in spring 2012 and met a lot of people crossing the border to North Lebanon. These sad stories stayed in my mind for a long time and made their way into this book, including the things that happened to the people I met and the sad fate of two journalist colleagues who died in shelling in Baba Amr in Homs. Those scenes could be part of some journalistic report also.
How does publishing ebooks differ from printed books? Do you find yourself amending your writing style to suit this more technology based medium?
I started in traditional publishing, having first had two novels published with two separate publishing houses. Then I hit a dead end and decided to go into e-publishing myself. With hard work I succeeded and was contacted by a big publishing house in Finland. The whole series was republished last year in June and the new novel in September. I haven’t changed my writing style depending on the format, but the whole process was different as I gathered an international team to do all the different parts of the process and did the contracts myself. I enjoyed the entrepreneurial period of my life as an e-publisher very much. It was flexible, fast and more easily international. But I don’t want to look at these two mediums competing with each other. Rather filling in each other’s gaps.
As a Finnish author based in Ireland, how do you draw on the dark heritage of both these cultures in your work?
I’m a Finn forever, no matter if I end up living in Ireland for the rest of my life. I grew up there and do get sucked into old memories, music, odd sense of humour, melancholic matters. But Ireland with its friendliness and laid-backness fits me very well as well. I think these things mix nicely in my work. I’ve now started adding more things in my novels from Ireland as well. The last novel has a big story investigation line which takes place in Ireland.
Where do you find your inspiration? Are there any particular places or incidents you draw on when you find yourself with writer’s block?
It’s in a fact the opposite, where don’t I find inspiration? Every day new ideas walk past me, and all my notebooks and computer files are full of ideas and written excerpts or pages. Sometimes things just start rolling in one moment from something someone said, something I saw or something someone I knew experienced. Not only from my own life, but there also. I go well with emotions. If some feeling is deep and strong, it will surely show in the book in the best psychological way. I get ideas when going for super long walks, watching inspirational movies or listening to music that starts drawing pictures in my mind like movies.
If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?
I haven’t thought about it, but I wish I had met Matti Yrjänä Joensuu to understand the world and feelings inside of his head: he managed to put so well and in his superb and touching writings.
Do you have any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?
I’m now in a good phase writing the fifth Isaksson novel and I also have several other books that have been partially written. Some of them just need more time in the middle to get ready in my head. But I will be happy when they are finally finished. Some of them are very personal and therefore also rewarding.
Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to in the future?
In crime fiction, since some of my favourites are not with us anymore such as Matti Yrjänä Joensuu and Henning Mankell, I look forward to Håkan Nesser’s new works. I would also like to see some Finnish authors gather good audience outside of Finland in crime genre, speculative fiction and literary fiction. Maybe that could be the next wave: The Finnish wing of Nordic Noir and other genres.
Do you have anything to add?
Thanks and greetings to everyone. Keep on reading books. And thanks, Hannah!
Thanks ever so much to Markus, it’s been great. To find out more about him and his work click HERE.