In November 2014, Finnish author Maria Turtschaninoff took home her native country’s biggest children’s literary prize for her YA novel Maresi. That novel has now found a U.S. publisher in Abrams, after the publisher negotiated a six-figure deal from Pushkin Press, which held English-language rights. The feminist, folkloric work is the start of a trilogy known as the Red Abbey Chronicles, in which a girl finds a small island inhabited only by women during what is known as the Hunger Winter. The abbey is threatened after they take in a girl who is being pursued by violent men.
Susan van Metre, senior v-p at Abrams, secured U.S. rights this week, after learning of the book just before the 2015 Frankfurt Book Fair. After last year’s fair, van Metre “had a really nice meeting with a Finnish publisher,” she told PW, and so it had stuck in my mind that there was interesting publishing going on in Finland. And when I got this rights report for Elina Ahlback’s agency [based in Helsinki], it stuck in my mind that I should take a closer look because it was from Finland.” So she sought the book out, and its content appealed to her immediately. “When I heard about this book, it sounded so much like fantasies I admire, like [Ursula K. LeGuin’s] Earthsea Chronicles. They mentioned that Pushkin had bought it, and Adam [Freudenheim, publisher and managing director of Pushkin] let me take a look ahead of the fair.”
Abrams has already tuned into Finland’s literary output, having published Sing No Evil, a graphic novel by J.P. Ahonen and K.P. Alare last year. Publishing plans for the Red Abbey Chronicles will commence in fall 2016 for Abrams (with each volume of the trilogy to follow annually), following U.K. publication in January. Pushkin is bringing author Turtshaninoff to the U.K. in January to help promote the book. “They have quite big plans for her, and we will take a look at how that goes,” van Metre said of Abrams’s own marketing plans. As for bringing more of the author’s other work Stateside, van Metre hasn’t ruled it out, saying: “We’ll take a look. The quality of the writing is so strong.”