INTERVIEW: Salla Simukka on AS RED AS BLOOD

In the midst of the freezing Arctic winter, seventeen-year-old Lumikki Andersson walks into her school’s dark room and finds a stash of wet, crimson-colored money. Thousands of Euros left to dry—splattered with someone’s blood.

Lumikki lives alone in a studio apartment far from her parents and the past she left behind. She transferred into a prestigious art school, and she’s singularly focused on studying and graduating. Lumikki ignores the cliques, the gossip, and the parties held by the school’s most popular and beautiful boys and girls.

But finding the blood-stained money changes everything. Suddenly, Lumikki is swept into a whirlpool of events as she finds herself helping to trace the origins of the money. Events turn even more deadly when evidence points to dirty cops and a notorious drug kingpin best known for the brutality with which he runs his business.

As Lumikki loses control of her carefully constructed world, she discovers that she’s been blind to the forces swirling around her—and she’s running out of time to set them right. When she sees the stark red of blood on snow, it may be too late to save her friends or herself.

as red as blood by sala simukkaOlivia: Salla, welcome! We’re here today discussing your novel, the Snow White-inspired thriller AS RED AS BLOOD.  You have a long career, but this is the first chance for English readers to get to know you, yes?

Salla Simukka: As Red As Blood is my first novel to be translated in English. I have written altogether 13 novels and my debut novel came out in Finland in 2002.

OH: Let’s talk about Lumikki Andersson.  How did you two first meet?  What makes Lumikki the perfect character to tell this story?

SS: We met first already in 2011. I was in a book store in Frankfurt when I got the first idea for the whole trilogy. I had never written a thriller before but I thought it would be interesting to write one for young adults. And in that book store I thought to myself: As Red as Blood would be a great title for a thriller. Instantly I knew that if I was going to write a book called As Red as Blood, I would also have to have a book called As White as Snow and a book called As Black as Ebony. So I had titles for three books and I just knew that I would have to write them.

Lumikki Andersson came to me soon after the titles. I wanted to have a Snow White in the story, so that is how she got her name: Lumikki means Snow White in Finnish. Lumikki came to me as a whole person: I somehow knew everything about her even though she is not based on a real person. It was as if I had met her on the street and she would have said to me: Hi, I’m Lumikki Andersson, would you like to write three books with me?

Lumikki is in many ways not your average girl. She can run very fast, she can hide, she can stay really quiet. She is strong, she likes her solitude, she is a lone wolf. And she also kicks ass. All of these are qualities that make her a great main character for a thriller.

But as a writer I’m never interested in characters that are just strong. I want to know, what has made them strong and what are their weaknesses. Lumikki has suffered severe bullying in school and there is also a dark secret in her family. That is why she is so independent but that also means that she doesn’t usually trust people that much.

OH: Your novel has been compared to THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO!  What sets Lumikki’s story apart from other YA thrillers?  What will readers find that is unique to this tale?

SS: I think the combination of a thriller plot set in a real world and fairy tale elements in language and as references is quite unique. And even if the novels are thrillers, they have much more in them and for me as a writer the whole trilogy is about Lumikki, her personality and secrets and fears and desires and sorrows and choices. I also believe that it  is interesting for readers all over the world to learn something about Finland which can be quite an exotic country for many.

The Snow White trilogy is said to be thrilling, lyrical and witty at the same time.

OH:  What non-book influences (films, television shows, music, plays, etc) helped spark this story?

SS: I was actually nearly shocked when I was writing the first book, because I just then learned that there would be not one but TWO big Hollywood movies based on Snow White (Snow White and the Huntsman & Mirror, Mirror)! There was definitely something in the air… I didn’t go to see the movies because I wanted to keep my story pure. But because of the first film I got to know the band Florence and the Machine which has really influenced my writing of the trilogy. Florence and the Machine and Massive Attack are the soundtrack of these books.

OH: When you were a teen, what was your favorite book (YA or otherwise)?  Now that you’re an author for teens, what is your favorite contemporary YA?

SS: There was a time when I read mainly fantasy and scifi. So I was a fan of J. R. R. Tolkien and David Eddings and Douglas Adams and Isaac Asimov and Philip Pullman.

Nowadays I really like John Greens The Fault in Our Stars, the Swedish Circle by Sara Bergmark Elfgren and Mats Strandberg. As for Finnish authors, I’m a huge fan of Siri Kolu. Her YA novels have not yet been translated to English but I’m really hoping they will be some day.

04
Author Salla Simukka. Photo: Lars Kastilan

OH: This is the first in The Snow White trilogy.  Tell us a little more about this next story in the series?

SS: AS WHITE AS SNOW takes place in Prague, in very hot summer heat. Lumikki is backpacking there and hopes to have some days just to herself. But then a young woman comes to her saying: Hello, I think I am your sister. Lumikki has never had a sister and she has to try to find out, if the woman is telling the truth or not. Lumikki also comes in contact with a dangerous religious sect – and has to run for her life once again.

OH: This novel has been translated from its original Finnish language.  What have been the best parts and the most challenging parts of working with a translator to see your work reach international audiences?

SS:  I think the best part is that both the translator and my publishers in US and UK have wanted to preserve as much of the original feeling of the novel as possible. The names are the same etc. I believe that the translation is good and I trust the choices he and my editors have made.

OH:  Are there pieces of Lumikki’s culture and world which might interest English readers to know are inside jokes or pop culture references in your country?

SS: There are quite a lot of references to Finnish music and literature in novels that are hard to spot, if you don’t know the culture. In the first book there is for example a reference to Väinö Linnas Unknown Soldier but also direct quotes of a poem by Edith Södergran. I hope that the books can wake an interest towards Finland and Finnish culture.

OH: If you could cast the Dream Film of AS RED AS BLOOD, who would be in the lead roles?

SS: Actually I think that because all of the most important characters are young people, it would be best if this would be an opportunity for young, rising actors to show their talent!

OH: What’s up next for you in YA land?  Any pet projects you can tease us about?

SS: Of course I have some projects all the time because I have the mind of a writer. But at this point nothing with a deadline yet, which is great! But I can say that the next thing I’m going to do is going to be in some ways very different and in some ways same…

OH: All right, last one!  If you could spend one day with Lumikki, what would you do together? What would advice would you give to Lumikki about her past or future?

SS: I think we would go for a long walk and then have some strong coffee. I would tell her that everything is not going to go as planned but it will still be good. Life isn’t a path. It is a mixture of different paths and roads and rails and rivers.

OH: Thank you very much, Salla!  And again, congratulations on AS RED AS BLOOD!  We look forward to hearing a lot more from you in years to come!

~*~


Readers, be sure to check out Salla Simukka at her website. Or follow her on Twitter @SallaSimukka.

AS RED AS BLOOD, published by Skyscape, is now available at your favorite retailers, local independent bookstores, and Amazon.com!


Interview by Olivia Hennis, originally published 11/10/2014 on YoungAdultMag.com

http://youngentertainmentmag.com/young-adult-books/as-red-as-blood-by-salla-simukka/

Follow me on Twitter @OliviaHennis!

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