Anja Snellman


Heikki Saukkomaa/Lehtikuva


“Life Lives Me, Books Write Me”

Author Anja Snellman says she is a fatalist: she strongly believes that everything has a purpose.

“Being a writer is a journey where books are mileposts,” Snellman says. “I have never thought about how many books I will write, because books write me and life lives me.”

SNELLMAN’S JOURNEY as a writer has lasted for more than four decades. So far, she has written 26 novels, three poetry collections, and several works of nonfiction.

While studying at the University of Helsinki in the late 1970s, she wrote seven drafts of her first book, Sonia O. Was Here. The book was published in 1981 and remains the highest-selling debut novel in the history of Finnish literature.

SNELLMAN FEELS that her first book, with all the rounds of rewriting, served as an excellent introduction to the demanding profession of being a writer. 

She still writes the first draft of her novels by hand. After the handwritten draft, she writes three more drafts, in which the plot and characters may still change.

“The handwritten manuscript is the most important draft to me,” Snellman explains. “It makes it easier to see what I’m actually doing.”

ANJA SNELLMAN started to devour books as soon as she learned to read at the age of four

At four, she was too young to be issued an official library card. One of the librarians cut out a round card from paperboard and wrote Anja’s name on it. 

“I treasured that card,” Snellman says. “It was my most cherished possession.”

It was clear to her that she wanted to become a writer. Her talent for writing was noticed at school, and she has had many types of teachers during her journey, some less encouraging than others.

“Over time, you learn to deal with the anxiety inherent in writing.”

SNELLMAN DESCRIBES herself as a nomad. She has changed publishers several times during her career, and she currently writes for multiple publishers.

“The publisher is the only party with whom I can discuss works in progress,” Snellman says. “When an author changes publishers, new editors bring a fresh,  unbiased approach to the work.”

Snellman also feels like a nomad in the sense that she has lived and worked part of the year on Crete since the 1990s, most recently at Easter 2023. She feels at home on Crete, so much so that she calls herself an “adopted Cretan.”

She also writes in India. “For a writer, restlessness is a positive.”

Source: Jarvenpaa Library

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