Finnish author Hannu Luntiala's novel Viimeiset Viestit (The Last Messages), written entirely in SMS, or "text messaging", will soon be translated into English. Read on to find out more about when it will be available, how Luntiala became a published author, and his sage advice for aspiring writers.
1. Will The Last Messages be translated? If so, into what languages?
It will be translated and published at least in Estonia, in Germany and in Russia. All this happened very fast, within two months after the publishing in Finland. Quite a lot of other countries have also been interested, but so far the deals have been signed with publishers in these countries only. My hope naturally, is that it will be translated into English, French and Spanish; as of now, no deals have been signed.
Actually, I don’t know if the publishing houses in U.S.A. or Great Britain have noticed this book. I hope they will, and of course, my dream is that they would be interested in translating and publishing it. I have noticed on many web sites and blogs in the U.S.A. and G.B. that readers are seriously interested in the novel.
Update: I heard last week that the Information Centre for Finnish Literature (Fili) has given monetary support to promote the translation of some parts of the book in English for those who are interested in it. Unfortunately I don't yet know the exact time frame, but of course, I hope it will be published as soon as possible, perhaps before this autumn...
2. What feedback are you getting?
Most of the feedback has been positive. I would estimate that 75% has been positive, even ecstatic, and about 25% has been clearly negative. The opinions have been strongly divided. Some readers and critics almost hate it, but more than that, it has been mostly loved. In an Internet book shop in Finland, the readers can evaluate it by giving 1-5 stars. The average is nearly 4 stars.
Even those who didn't like the new format say that the story itself is impressive. Some experts have suggested that the story could be a manuscript for a movie. As a matter of fact, one offer concerning the novel to be used as a movie manuscript has been sent to the publisher, but so far I haven't accepted it. I'll wait. Now if they were interested in it in Hollywood…
3. Do you have any stories you'd like to share about your novel's progression from dream to reality?
I got this idea, a text message novel, five years ago. I was afraid that somebody else would have the same idea. Before sending the text to the publisher, I had to convince them of my ability and talent to write in a traditional way. That's why I had to write short stories first for them. When I had delivered the text message novel to the publisher, they said they would comment on it within two months. After just two weeks, they informed me that the book would be published. They informed me about their decision by sending me a text message, early on a Sunday morning. They have a sense of humor...
4. Will you do other works in text message format?
No, I think this was the first in the world and the last for me. There are many other different, interesting ways to re-form literature.
5. How quickly do you text?
I am not a professional… I think I text as quickly or as slowly as anybody else. I would say five to ten words in a minute.
6. How can people purchase the book?
This is a bit of a problem outside Finland. In Finland, you can buy it in every book store. Elsewhere, you can try to order it on the Internet in a book shop called Bookplus, but so far only in Finnish. If somebody is really interested in it, perhaps they can contact me.
7. What do you think about technology's role in our lives? Does it help communication or hinder it?
Both and. It is easier than before to communicate by e-mail or text messages. But it could be a threat, if you believe that you can take care of all your social relationships by using only these. It is even more important today than ever before to meet each other face to face, use the telephone in a traditional way, hear the voice of your friend, and see them near you.
8. What are your other works?
My first book was a collection of short stories, called Hommes ("males" in French), published last year. Before that, my poems had been published in several anthologies, and also my short stories in some anthologies. I was one of the ten winners in the biggest poetry competition in Finland, arranged by the Finnish Fund of Culture, in 1999. I was also the winner in the biggest competition of short stories in Finland in 2002. These achievements encouraged me to send some manuscripts to publishing companies.
9. Where did you first get your love of writing?
When I was young, I read a lot of poems. I loved them and tried to write the same way as my idols did. I sent my texts to some companies, but they didn't want to publish them. I was disappointed and stopped writing for almost twenty years. In 1998, I found my poems again, revised them, and succeeded in winning the Fund of Culture competition.
10. What authors and novels inspire you?
There are quite many, but I don't read very much. I noticed that, when reading, I started unconsciously to “imitate” the style of other authors. I read a little bit of poetry. There are some authors who I admire quite a lot: Philip Roth, Joseph Heller, Kurt Vonnegut…
11. Do you have any advice for aspiring novelists?
Try to find your own voice. Try to get feedback from some authors or friends. Take part in competitions. Send the manuscript to the publishing company only after you have done your utmost with the text. Never give up.
For me, it took almost thirty years to be approved and accepted. It has been worthwhile trying. So, I want to repeat this: never give up.
If you are interested in contacting Hannu Luntiala and finding out more about The Last Messages, its translation into English, or his future works, please leave a comment so that he receives your information.
To read part 1 of this interview, click here.