Anja Snellman

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Pasi Leino

TURKU BOOK FAIR

Digging into the Core

Anja Snellman and Emmi Itäranta, author of the award-winning Memory of Water, discussed the relationship between authors and their publishers at the Turku Book Fair at the beginning of October 2021.

“The publisher must understand and support the author’s distinctive qualities. The editor should be a careful and unforgiving reader who has the courage to question and challenge,” says Snellman.

“I like being challenged by the editor. When I get back home, I may decide to ignore their suggestions and stick to my original version, but I want to be challenged nonetheless.”

ITÄRANTA AGREES: A good editor is a good reader because they understand the author’s distinctive qualities. They can help the author because they can see what the author is trying to say.

“For me, a sense of urgency is the worst. I know there are authors who thrive under tight deadlines, which boost their productivity. Unfortunately, I’m not one of them,” Itäranta says.

“I lose my creativity if the schedule is too tight. I feel like a caged animal with no room to move. I’m much more productive when I have ample time for my work.”

SNELLMAN SAYS that editors need to be “patient as hell”: she rewrites her manuscripts many times over, and even the themes may change in the process. She benefits from a reader with a fresh pair of eyes.

“I keep quarrying for the core for a long time. It’s important that the editor understands this and encourages me to carry on,” Snellman explains.

“When the substance begins to take shape, the editor must read the manuscript carefully because I have already become blind to any errors or inconsistencies. For example, the breed of a dog may have changed from German Shepherd to Labrador between chapters two and seven, and I don’t notice.”

ITÄRANTA IS BILINGUAL. She has lived in England and has studied creative writing at the University of Kent. She writes both a Finnish and an English version of each of her books.

“I recognize the idea of quarrying. I write multiple versions of my manuscripts, partly because I write in English and Finnish at the same time. It’s important that I can rely on the editor beyond the point when I become blind to the details.”

It is important to Itäranta that the editor provides suggestions and ideas but doesn’t make decisions on her behalf.

“Finnish editors also need to be able to spot any Anglicisms in my writing. I try to be careful not to use them, but sometimes I slip up. Readers are also very particular about good language, so it’s important that any foreign structures are edited out.”

WHAT HAPPENS to material that doesn’t make the final cut?

“I favor literary recycling: I have a file that serves as the editing room floor for all excess material,” says Itäranta. “I can retrieve material from there, even after a long time. For example, I have used a subplot ten years after it was initially discarded.”

Snellman doesn’t have an “editing room floor,” but she has worked in an operating room that had a garbage can for discarded organs. She applies the same principle to excess material.

“I immediately delete any excess material, even if I think that the material is good,” she explains.

“Poems are the only exception. I may use a good line or expression in another context later.”

Reported by Anne Kortela

New Terrain Press 2021. All rights reserved.

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