This week we had the pleasure of interviewing Paula St. Paul, a Finnish writer who has written and published works in both Finnish and English. Her English trilogy is a metaphysical journey that follows the lives of Cain, Thomas, and Adam as they question the meaning of their existence and develop their relationship with God.
We appreciate her unique perspective on language, life, and the writing industry. Read on to find out more about her writing journey.
When did you decide to become a writer? Was it something you always wanted to do or did your interest develop over time?
I typed my first “short story” when I was three. I guess, nobody in my family thought that writing could become a career for me so I wasn’t ever encouraged to take that path. I grew to understand my calling and talent in my late twenties. I was studying Horticultural Science and got so much positive feedback from my teacher concerning my essays that I decided to apply to university and study History of Science and Ideas. But the years following took me to a rocky road: I didn’t get much support at the university (“too many typos” and “writing is just a hobby”) and almost everyone sneered at my dreams and hopes. So solitude was my friend and in solitude, I practiced my skill. And here I am!
You’re actually a Finnish author who decided to write your novels in English. Did you find the transition between languages difficult? Did the change in languages add a different flavor to your stories?
My father taught us kids English. He had been living in Canada, Vancouver BC when he was a kid. So I am bilingual. It’s actually easier for me to write in English than in Finnish. Most of my thought patterns happen in English so sometimes even speaking out my thoughts in Finnish is a task, since the language lacks, for example, all the tender and soft phrases concerning romantic and spiritual love. Finnish is a harsh and very down to earth language and I guess, it has also lots to do with the “Finnish mentality”. I’m a tender soul and English is “my language”. It’s also seen in how I got the publishing deal. For nine years I had been pursuing a writing career here in Finland using Finnish and the Jewish Community was my only supporter, enjoying my sense of humor which is very dry. I got frustrated and decided to build connections overseas. I got an instant positive feedback both from publishers in Ireland and the UK but after hearing that I’m from Finland and doing research of our local book business, they decided that it’s too difficult for a small conservative publisher to get in and make some money. They still wished me luck, and then I found Michael Terence Publishing. I sent a whole script to them when they only asked for a synopsis and a short example of the work, and it took two days for them to contact me. So I guess, that tells you something about my language skills.
What kind of stories do you enjoy reading? Do you have a favorite genre?
I only read the Bible (NASB) these days. I did have tons of books in the past but came to the conclusion that they lack morale and ethics. So I donated them to my local library. To me, it’s important that the author reminds readers of Death and the importance of living our lives here on Earth honestly and with dignity. I did save two books, The Lord of the Rings and The Count of Monte Cristo, but I keep them in my storage. The one hardcover I have wanted to get in my hands is Wittgenstein’s “Tractatus” without the jibberish of Russell or any other person in it. To me, Wittgenstein has always been a misunderstood soul and you can only understand what he’s getting at if you have thought about the same ideas yourself, in some form.
You describe your trilogy as biographical and metaphysical. The Garden of Eden is a love story set in the 18th and 19th centuries, while Cain is set in the present and Adam is set in the year 2019. Are these stories based on the lives of real people? How did you discover them and why did you decide to tell their stories?
No, these stories are not based on the lives of real people if by that you mean that I took vital elements of someone’s life to these stories. But they are biographical in a sense that they tell about “real people” and the books are a free flow of thoughts of a person as I imagine a certain kind of person (a Cain, a Thomas, and an Adam) could analyze things inside his head and based on that, how he acts and has acted in the past. Thomas lived in my head for over twenty years but was only ready to step out after Cain. Cain had to step out first because through him came out all the rubbish I had dealt with in my 34 years of this Earthly walk. He and the story is my deepest dedication to the higher love I experienced with my American mentor. When I was 33, he gave me the strength and the courage to face my inner demon and turn my flaws into something productive. He is the wisest person I have ever met and my heart ached because of the difficulties he had faced in life. Adam is from this perspective a cry for help: I don’t want any white heterosexual boy or man to feel that they are forgotten in the age of feminist and cross-sexual rampage. History has proven that no matter what the culture and what the time is, if boys and men lack education, lack of love (mother’s and wife’s care) and lack of positive and productive hobbies (for example music and art) then we are on our way to war.
Can you tell us a little bit more about the metaphysical aspect of your stories?
What is life? Cain, Thomas, and Adam all ponder the reason for their existence but of course from a very different point of view which is mainly determined by the surrounding society and the era they live in. The Garden of Eden is in the core in this subject. When you strip down modern media and social networks and go back to the basics, what all individuals need in this life to somewhat survive, then your connection to God is clearer. Your heart is more open and you can make more honest decisions. How should I live my life so it’s the best possible for me and the hurt my actions could cause to others are by this way in minimum?
What do you think is the most important part of a story? (characters, theme, setting etc)
To me, it’s an interesting character. If you can’t relate to the character, then it’s pointless to read the book. Through him or her there has to be a very profound connection to the things that are same to us all: hopefully a good birth and to a good loving family, random adventure through this thing called life, and then hopefully a peaceful death. This is the ideal. But there are always wrong notes in every life story, in every “song”. If through these wrong notes the reader gets aggravated and wants justice, peace, and love to the character, then it’s a success.
You mentioned that it only took two days for Michael Terence Publishing to contact you to work out a deal. How was the publishing process for you? Do you have any tips for new authors on how to get noticed by a publisher?
MTP wrote off or drew over 0% of my script. They made the proofreading, but otherwise, the stories are exactly as they were when I first wrote them. This was something my fellow Finns could not understand since publishers usually want to mold the story for their own purposes.
There are no tips, really. I know it doesn’t help any struggling writer to hear this, but everyone will find their place somewhere and when it’s found, it instantly washes away all the anxiety and doubts you might have had for not getting your chance before. I believe in God and his timing. All the heartaches are there to make you better and stronger. If you are truly on the right path and writing is your calling then any road will lead you there. And maybe when you get there, you notice that it wasn’t the thing after all and something else is waiting for you. Just relax and put down the words as they come to you.
How do you handle rejection or negative reviews?
Haha, I write a blog with an ironic and sarcastic tone. But to tell you the truth, I don’t really care what people think of me and my books. The bs I had to deal in my life before becoming an author and the help from my mentor made me realize that you just got to stick with what you are given and who you are and only God can judge you. People who have the need to say purely negative things to other people usually do it because of their own insecurity, envy, or jealousy. And man, there are lots of those around! And hey, I don’t like 99.9% of things, so why should I cry if a random person thinks my books suck. I myself know that they are not the new Bible.
How do you find your courage? A lot of new writers are scared of putting themselves out there to be judged. So much so, that many of them never even take the first step. What advice would you give to them?
I have God and the understanding that all that is meant for you will come to you. All things must and will pass. I think the lack of courage is a sign of insecurity: is this really my gift and calling? If the person is so afraid to put out their work, then I think they should ponder: is this really my thing? You should also find a mentor. Not the one who is all about “proper punctuation” or nonsense like that, but a person who makes you face your inner demon, crawl, and whimper, and eventually turn your negative side into a positive one. It’s usually the most unexpected person, but when you get a unique and out of this world feeling of someone, don’t let him or her go. It’s like climbing a mountain, but the view from the top turns the sour into sweet.
What’s next for you? What are you working on now?
I’m waiting for results. I have short stories and poems cast all around the globe and it takes from six months to even a year to hear anything. I’m taking my time now, watching the wheels go round.