On November 1, the Consul General of Finland, Manu Virtamo, hosted YA author Salla Simukka along with Elina Ahlbäck of the Elina Ahlbäck Literary Agency, Penguin Random House staffers, as well as invited guests, at Virtamo’s Manhattan residence. Simukka traveled to the United States from her native Tampere, Finland, both for Crown’s forthcoming publication of the first volume of her Snow White trilogy As Red as Blood (January 2017), and also to meet with the team producing a film adaptation of the series in Los Angeles.
The trilogy – a teen Nordic noir – has been published in 52 countries. It was previously published in the U.S. by Amazon, but Phoebe Yeh, v-p and publisher of Crown Books for Young Readers, explained that Amazon had chosen not to complete publishing the series, meaning Ahlbäck had the U.S. rights to sell once more. Yeh then acquired the series for Crown, both re-editing the manuscript and repackaging the trilogy. With that republication, as well as the film deal with production company Zero Gravity and a forthcoming middle grade fantasy novel entitled Sisterland, Simukka is poised to create a large splash for Finnish literature for young readers in the U.S.
Ahlbäck, Simukka’s agent and a powerful force for bringing the literature of Finland to the international stage, began the evening by introducing Simukka and Yeh. Yeh told the audience that her boss, Barbara Marcus, who once lived in Sweden, had been on the lookout for a Nordic thriller for young readers. Simukka’s series fit the bill, with its complicated, lone wolf protagonist and a gritty atmosphere that draws on elements from the Snow White fairy tales. The novels follow 17-year-old Lumikki Andersson as she uncovers a mystery set in Tampere.
Yeh and Simukka then participated in a conversation, with Yeh discussing her work on editing the translation, and her excitement at the novel’s gripping pacing. Yeh and Simukka shared an interesting point on the novel’s translation: it presented an unusual challenge, because in Finnish there is no gender, and one character’s gender was left ambiguous by Simukka in the first novel of the trilogy intentionally. Yeh chose to keep the character’s gender ambiguous with non-specific pronouns until the character’s identity is revealed in a later volume.
Simukka then described the origins of the story. “There are children’s detective novels and adult crime novels, but nothing in between. I wanted something that wasn’t just ‘someone has stolen the principal’s money.’ ” From there, the image of blood on snow in “Snow White” inspired a mystery for Simukka that she channeled into the novel.
She also shared her experiences meeting fans abroad, where she has encountered a great deal of enthusiasm from fans, in particular in Japan. Simukka fielded questions from the audience, including one in which she was asked if the novel had many male readers. She stated that she had male teen readers, but adults were often hesitant to offer a “girl book” to boy readers, to which she responded: “Why would we want to read about a character who is like us? That’s the magic of literature. We don’t ask, ‘Can a girl read Harry Potter books?’ ”