MER: “U.P” discusses the harsh lives of youngsters and that “it’s not easy growing up” and the struggle for survival during the winter time. What made you write this kind of novel? Why is the winter element the example for suffering?Read the complete interview.
Riekki: Wow. Great questions. I think the novel was just inside me -- had to come out. I remember Ice T (of the Metal band Body Count) saying how he just writes this kind of stuff, just comes out of him. He can’t control it. I’m like that. These books and plays just bleed out of me. From pain I suppose, loss. I really didn’t like a lot of aspects of my childhood. I prefer adult life. Maybe it’s because in my adult life I got out of the cold. I lived in Northern Michigan growing up, large Finnish community. I think all the Finns moved there because it echoed Finnish landscapes and weather. My family is originally from the Lapland, but I am not a cold weather person. I used to live very near the equator and that was the climate for me. In the book, there’s a line about it getting so cold in the winter that cows' ears would freeze and break off. I remember making a tunnel through the snow to get to our mailbox. And radio reports of wind chills in the negatives -- negative thirty, negative forty, negative fifty. Warnings not to go outside, that you could die. I hated that. I like to be outside. So I guess the suffering of the characters — their isolation and loss of not having fathers (one kid’s dad is in prison, another is homeless and addicted to heroin, etc.) — is exemplified in the weather. Outside is how they feel inside. Cold, alone. I liked that question it was a good one.
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