Milja Kaunisto [milljah]
What did you first read? How did you begin to write? Who were the first to read what you wrote?
I started to read at the age of three, being ill for a lengthy time. The swedish children's books about a tailless kitten called 'Pelle Svanslös' were my preferred reading, all the way to school.
I started to write my first diary at the age of eight, and have written 35 diaries ever since. My mother noticed my passion for reading and writing and encouraged me to write short stories that I then read out loud to the whole family.
What is your favorite genre? Can you provide a link to a site where we can read some of your work or learn something about it?
I love all literature but I mainly read travel books and history. Real people, real stories are important to me. Survival stories. I write historical fiction based on real historical characters, but my blog is a traveler's blog. http://artcondition.blogspot.com
What is your creative process like? What happens before sitting down to write?
I need to be alone for a while. Cooking helps, or a walk. I gather my thoughts that run amok; then, sit down and start writing. It's easy to concentrate when I'm alone in my work space. I've decided to go ahead and write all that comes to mind and go back to edit later; if I wait for 'the perfect phrase' to appear, or if I await an inspiration, I never get anywhere.
What type of reading inspires you to write?
I love a story with a powerful dialog that instantly gives you a peek inside the character's mind. I love strong, human characters with human traits. Shiny, polished heroes are not my cup of tea.
What do you think are the basic ingredients of a story?
I hate analysis, and I'm the last person to judge what is a good or lousy story. But for myself, I think a story needs a believable character, someone you can feel. He/she can lead a most boring existence if the character is strong. Incidentally, a strong character for me requires strong dialog, a language that kills. A basic ingredient of a good story is also the world in which the story takes place. Why is it interesting?
What voice do you find most to your liking: first person or third person?
I like to read and write both. Third person can be challenging, but then it offers rewards that the seemingly 'easier' first person does not. Both are needed.
What well known writers do you admire most?
Fantasy is not my favorite genre but I've got to say J.R.R. Tolkien. To have the sheer patience to come up with a hugely complex plot, a new world, some new languages and characters that seem to have been there from the beginning of time - and in general, to write a book for sixteen years - is an accomplishment not many can claim.
What is required for a character to be believable? How do you create yours?
Once again, I can only speak for myself. For me, a character can be believable only if he/she is fully human - this applies even for a robot. A human makes mistakes, a human stinks and loathes and gets obsessed. I've had the chance of making some great big whoppers of mistakes in my own life, and thus can claim some experience to base my characters on. If my experiences are not enough, all I have to do is to look around me. My surroundings are full of interesting human beings with nasty traits and heroic deeds to their name.
Are you equally good at telling stories orally?
I think I might be better at telling stories orally than writing them. But oral stories are different than the ones I write; they're born at the spur of the moment and are gone as soon as they appear. If I don't blurt them out, they cease to exist. - Whereas writing is pre-ordained, reflected upon, purposely done.
Deep down inside, who do you write for?
I started to write because I wanted to create a book I'd most want to read. I first wrote to entertain myself. And that's the hardest part - to keep it that way. I can not start judging my writing through other people's eyes. I have to keep doing it for my own entertainment. If not, it actually becomes crap.
Is writing a form of personal therapy? Are internal conflicts a creative force?
Internal conflicts are most certainly a creative force; they can be used in creating a character. But in my opinion, there's a limit to the personal therapy aspect, as well. Although my conflicts may matter the world to me, they're probably dead boring to others.
Does reader feed-back help you?
As I'm a first-time novelist that has just started vol. 2, my experience is truly limited. From that limited experience I can say that feedback helps tremendously if given constructively. Professional feedback is great for that. However, plain meanness has never helped anyone. If someone was to tell me I'm no good and my books should be burned to dust, that would mainly encourage me to keep writing. So, I guess it would have been helpful in a way, too!
Do you participate in competitions? Have you received any awards?
No, not a a big competitor. The only awards I've ever received are in music since I'm a musician as well.
Do you share rough drafts of your writings with someone whose opinion you trust?
I have a few trustees that may read my work unfinished. I can count on impartial and professional feedback from them.
Do you believe you have already found "your voice" or is that something one is always searching for?
I'm not consciously trying to find a 'voice'. I may never find one this way. Or I may have it already. I do believe, if one is fortunate enough to have a 'voice', then it alters with time anyway.
What discipline do you impose on yourself regarding schedules, goals, etc.?
I work well when I have a deadline. I thus impose one on myself if none is given. If I have none, nothing happens. I do, however, work better when slightly in a hurry, so a tight schedule is the one for me.
What do you surround yourself with in your work area in order to help your concentrate?
I need my piles of papers that no-one touches but me. It's an organized chaos. I need a beautiful view from my window to relax my eyes on. I need fresh fruits.
Do you write on a computer? Do you print frequently? Do you correct on paper? What is your process?
I write on my computer, rough-edit on the computer, but truly edit only the paper version. It makes it more real to me, the paper does.
What sites do you frequent on-line to share experiences or information?
I like to read writer's Tweets and some blogs, but I try to spend as little time on the internet as possible. It's the tool of endless procrastination.
What has been your experience with publishers?
Small. I found my publisher fairly painlessly, which from what I've gathered is fortunate. I can tell, however, that my manuscript was not at all read by some publishers I set it to. That kind of hurt - that my first pages were that low-quality to someone...!
What are you working on now?
I'm writing the second volume of a historical trilogy set in 15th-century France and Finland. Loving the background research, and equally loving that my characters are already there with their personalities and language so that I don't have to re-create them from scratch.
What do you recommend I do with all those things I wrote years ago but have never been able to bring myself to show anyone?
Read them again and again, correct every part that you feel shameful of, until one day you will not feel ashamed of your text anymore...