Finding Yourself in Finland

Disturbed08Cover600-200x300

I was contacted by an author after he saw my series about traveling to the places you write about. He said he had recently been to Finland, and since I am of Swedish descent, it piqued my interest. The Finns and Swedes are neighbors. Below I am sharing his very interesting piece, not just about the country, but the people.

This past May of the year 2015, I took a week long trip to Finland. In the process, I saw the capital, Helsinki, and a few other small locales. It was my first time ever in a Nordic country, and indeed my first time ever with boots on the ground in Europe proper. But I–an American of questionable heritage who can scarcely speak a word of Finnish, and can barely get by in Swedish–never felt out of place or overwhelmed.

Two jokes may explain the reasons for this:

  • An introverted Finn looks at his shoes when he’s talking to you. An extroverted Finn looks at yours.
  • Timo and Jaako agree to go fishing on a lake. They begin at dawn, and at dusk, over twelve hours later, they remain entirely unsuccessful. Timo says, “They aren’t biting very much today, are they?” Jaako glares at him and says, “Did we come here to fish or to talk?”
Clearly, Finns are often thought of as shy or socially awkward. I believe that this is a mistake. Finns are reserved, certainly, and shy to open up to strangers, or indeed friends and family. But I never perceived anyone to be uncertain of themselves or hesitant to speak when the time was right.
Or perhaps it’s my own bias. Several years ago, I went on a car trip that lasted some six hours, and when it finished, I was asked by my companions why I was so angry, as I had said nothing for the duration of the trip. The truth was that I wasn’t angry, nor was I sad or upset in any fashion. I simply didn’t see a particular reason or opportunity to talk.
These are certainly rare traits for Americans, and they are among the reasons why I have always taken a longer time than most to fit in among new social groups and settings. But in Finland, I felt that I understood everything and everyone the moment I saw them. The clean quiet streets, the restaurants that opened in the late afternoon for dinner and then closed before it was too late at night, the endless forests and lakes, the people who waited in lines with several yards of space between them, the endless bike trails and the preference for public transport over private vehicles.
Until November of 2014, I never seriously thought that I would make it to Finland. But then an opportunity to visit with a friend who had lived there for some years showed itself, and I jumped on it. I ended up traveling solo, but I wouldn’t trade the experience for almost anything in the world.

My first ever published piece, Maaselkä, takes place in once Finnish, now Russian territory, and I wrote it long before I ever took the possibility of traveling to Finland seriously. But looking back on the way I wrote that piece, I think I got the Finnish experience right. The Finns are quiet people, reserved even, and their landscape is one of harsh winters and endless sprawling lakes and hills. But there is real beauty in Finland, and real brutality too, lurking just beneath the surface, and it doesn’t take much effort to be immersed in it.

I don’t know when or indeed if I will return to Finland again. But the truth seems to be that the Finnish feeling has been part of me for as long as I can remember. To continue to write horrors like Maaselkä, I don’t need to go anywhere, or do anything. All I need to do is to draw from that which is apparently an inextricable part of who I am.

           Signed:

           Alex Ross
         Find it here:  Maaselka
Advertisements

Firsthand Experience

Today I am hosting fellow Fire and Ice author,Martha Deeringer. Nothing warms my heart more than to see other teachers find their inner writer! Martha  tells us about the setting that inspired her to write, Speak of the Tiger.

Here is what she has to say:

Nothing makes a book come alive for me like the feeling that I’m there with the characters in a real place that I can see, touch, hear and smell. So when I’m planning a book, I choose a location that speaks to me.  I want to make it come to life for my readers like it did for me.

When I wrote Speak of the Tiger, this was simplicity itself. During my teaching career, I accompanied busloads of sixth graders to the famous YO Ranch near Mountain Home, Texas every year for a three day leadership course where we hiked, camped out under the stars, rode the ranch’s famous horses, swayed in the tops of trees on a ropes course and got close-up experience with exotic wildlife.

The setting of Speak of the Tiger is nearly as important to the story as the characters. Without an intimate knowledge of the YO Ranch it wouldn’t have been the same book; the dust, the Texas heat, the shallow river and the spines of the prickly pear are an integral part of the story.

My next book, Orphans’ Inn,  (out in October) is historical fiction, and while I can’t go back to see the setting in the 1840s, visiting the modern location (Austin, Texas) and studying historic photos of the area have made it easier to get inside the head of the main character, Charity Bullock, an orphan who travels across the Texas plains to Austin to live with a great-uncle whom she has never met.

I’ve also written many history articles for magazines, and have found the same truths in these shorter stories. Writing about the US Camel Corps at Ft. Lancaster wouldn’t be the same without visiting the Caprock canyons of west Texas.  To make settings come alive—go there!

Martha Deeringer Find it here at Amazon – Speak of the Tiger

and at Fire and Ice Young Adult books – Speak of the Tiger

It’s Hot Out There

FloridaHeatFinalFront

Settings. They need to be included in a story. Without them it’s hard to picture what’s going on. For me, it’s one of the hardest things to do, describe a place. Does it help if you’ve been there? I have been to some of the places I’ve written about and it does help. You get a different perspective. You smell the smells. Walk the land. It  becomes up close and personal.

Not to say you have to go to every place you want to use in your book. The internet is a great place for an overwhelming amount of pictures and information.

I reached out to other authors and asked their views. I wanted to feature people who have been to the place where their book takes place. Last week I had Mysti Parker tell us about her journey. Today I want to introduce you to another author friend, Jody Vitek. She will tell us about her book and how she got the idea for her setting. Read on:

Thanks for inviting me, Nancy. I love to travel, but that doesn’t mean I get to do it often. My family and I usually stay in Minnesota. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel within the fifty United States, and venture to Cancun, Mexico when I was a nanny. It was when my friend took me on a vacation to Siesta Key, Florida that I was inspired to write the novel that would become my debut release, Florida Heat.

The white sandy beach, warm sunshine, and the aqua blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico were the setting. Witnessing offshore powerboat racing for the first time, gave me the action and danger element for the hero, Trent Randall. A beachside, yellow house was the perfect home for my heroine, Maggie Carlisle. My friend and I visited the local shops and restaurants, which I used a few in my book, as well as share their website links on my website for the book.

I don’t always write in a location I’ve visited, but am more comfortable sticking with where I am familiar. When my readers asked what happened with the secondary characters in Florida Heat, I decided to write their story, Texas Two Step. The book is set in Dallas, Texas—I’ve never been to Dallas or Texas. Making up places is fun, but I’d rather travel and visit the location I’m going to write about. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean I’m going to be able to visit.

Jody VitekFind Jody’s book here – Amazon – Florida Heat

Satin Romance: Florida Heat