I’m delighted to welcome best-selling Finnish crime writer, Kati Hiekkapelto, to the CTG blog for today’s stop on her blog tour. For her guest post, Kati kindly agreed to talk about what it was like writing her latest book THE DEFENCELESS …
When I was writing The Defenceless, I read an article about Pakistani author Aslam Nadeem, who was locked in one room when he was writing the novel Wasted Vigil. Someone gave him food through the hatch in the door, and he requested that no one let him out until the book was finished. He stayed in that room for seven months without seeing anyone, doing nothing but writing and sleeping. My first thought after reading about his isolation, was Wow! That’s exactly what I need. To be an effective and productive writer I really do need total solitude, without Internet access – some sort of all-inclusive accommodation, somewhere far away and a secretary! Or even better, a wife.
I’ve often been asked if it is difficult to ‘return to normal life’ after an intensive writing session. The answer is yes. However, in my experience it is even more difficult to ‘return to writing life’ after an intensive period in real life. The trouble is that reality lurks everywhere, all the time, and it is often very invasive. It has the shape of family, friends, lawnmower, snow shovel, washing machine, grocery list, shopping centre, bills, and millions of other things you can not escape.
I usually work in the mornings. I like the purity of thought that occurs after a sleep and therefore I don’t allow myself to use the Internet or talk to anyone before I have written my daily words. I often disobey my own rules and check Facebook or emails. Sometimes I have to ring or text, or sit down for a chat with my children. Yes, I get disturbed, but I try to get over it. I have to. I write for between three and five hours a day and after that I answer my emails, surf the internet and take part in the usual round of social media that seems to be part of being a writer these days.
Then I have to stop. I have to cook, do the laundry, be with my children, clean the house, meet my friends and do all that stuff that everyone else has to do too. At first my thoughts and soul are absent from these activities – they want to remain in my fiction world and I want to keep them there, too. After a while reality and its never-ending responsibilities drag my mind into my body again and the text begins to fade away. Finally I’m present in my normal life.
And then the next morning it’s time to start writing again – forget about everything else, get into the right mood, find the right words, sentences, rhythm and try to ensure that the text continues to flow, that it takes on shape as a cohesive whole. And there it is again! That temptation winking at me from the real world, which suddenly seems fascinating. Even washing dishes and Hoovering suddenly looks like a good idea, as does time spent with my family. The longer the ‘real-life’ period lasts, the harder it is to get back to writing. But back I go, because I have to. Not just because it is my job, but because I am compelled.
When I wrote my first novel, The Hummingbird, I did not have a designated room nor a good desk or even a decent chair. I sometimes wrote on the bathroom floor! (No wonder I had to go for physiotherapy several months after finishing the book.)
Nowadays my writing conditions have improved. I have a writing room and an electric desk – I like to write standing. I think my room absorbs all the feelings I want to have in the text and therefore it helps me to find the right mood every morning. Sometimes I need (or rather the text needs) a writing period longer than four hours per day and I have to pack my computer and notes and go away for couple days. When I wrote The Defenceless, I used my aunt´s cabin in Lapland. It was amazing to write murder mystery in the wilderness, surrounded by November darkness…
I envy my colleagues who can write in cafés surrounded by people and voices. I need absolute silence. Some authors also manage to write when they are travelling. Because of many foreign translations of The Hummingbird and The Defenceless, I have to spend a lot of time promoting my books abroad. It is fascinating and inspiring, of course, but it also means putting my writing aside to talk about previous books, which sometimes feels like schizophrenia. In that state of mind, I find it impossible to concentrate on writing!
The Defenceless was partly inspired by Nadeem’s Wasted Vigil. Conception of time is often circular in Eastern cultures, not horizontal as it is here in West, and Nadeem´s novel is a beautiful example of this. Because one of the main characters in The Defenceless is a young Pakistani man called Sammy, I wanted to get similar feeling of roundness in my book, as a reflection from his culture. Crime fiction is a very plot-orientated, horizontally proceeding genre and therefore I had to do my circles with a light hand. I was so happy when one Finnish literature journalist noticed my efforts! But I cannot escape reality around me, like Nadeem did, and, perhaps I wouldn’t want it after all. Maybe constant balancing between sinking down to the text and floating up to real-life duties is exactly what I need to be a productive writer. To have all the time and silence in the world and meals from a hatch would most likely make me so lonely, lazy and bored that I wouldn’t write anything worth reading. I have learned to work under in the ‘unsatisfactory circumstances’ otherwise known as ‘normal life’, and it is probably this that makes me the writer I am today.
A wife, however, would still be useful!
A huge thank you to Kati Hiekkapelto for taking over the reins of the CTG blog today and telling us about her writing process and how it felt when she was writing THE DEFENCELESS.
THE DEFENCELESS is out now from the fabulous Orenda Books. Here’s what the blurb says: “When an old man is found dead on the road – seemingly run over by a Hungarian au pair – police investigator Anna Fekete is certain that there is more to the incident than meets the eye. As she begins to unravel an increasingly complex case, she’s led on a deadly trail where illegal immigration, drugs and, ultimately, murder threaten not only her beliefs, but her life. Anna’s partner Esko is entrenched in a separate but equally dangerous investigation into the activities of an immigrant gang, where deportation orders and raids cause increasing tension and result in desperate measures by gang members – and the police themselves. Then a bloody knife is found in the snow, and the two cases come together in ways that no one could have predicted. As pressure mounts, it becomes clear that having the law on their side may not be enough for Anna and Esko. Chilling, disturbing and terrifyingly believable, The Defenceless is an extraordinary, vivid and gripping thriller by one of the most exciting new voices in crime fiction.”
You can find out more about Kati Hiekkapelto on the Orenda Books website and make sure you follow her on Twitter @HiekkapeltoKati
To get the book from Amazon, click on the book cover below:
And be sure to check out all the other excellent stops on THE DEFENCELESS blog tour …