Anna-Leena Harkonen


Mari Lahti


Honest to the Extreme

Anna-Leena Harkonen has never been afraid of tacking difficult topics and putting herself out there. In her novels, she draws on the highs and lows of her own life. The events may be fictional, but the emotions are always true.

Where does she get the courage?

“Perhaps I’m driven by a need to be honest to the extreme, to voice the thoughts and feelings you are not supposed to talk about, even though everyone has experienced them,” Anna-Leena says.

“My books have one thing in common: the intention that we should talk about feelings plainly and honestly, without seeking approval by trying to sound conventionally appropriate.”

ANNA-LEENA OFTEN HEARS from readers that her books have touched and consoled them. Does she see herself as a helper?

“Ultimately, I don’t write to help people. That is not my motive, but I’m always delighted to hear that my books have brought people solace. I write because being an author is my profession.”

She has come to the conclusion that suffering does not make us better or more mature people.

“Life is unfair. Some have it easier, while others have it worse—and everyone must somehow find the strength to survive. In the grand scheme of things, my life has been quite easy.”

WORK IS IMPORTANT to Anna-Leena and fills her life. She takes her work very seriously: each project feels like a matter of life and death.

“I feel you should do your work properly or not at all,” Anna-Leena says. “I tend to stress about work, and careful preparation is the best way to manage that stress.”

SHE CONFESSES that because she is very disciplined and diligent about her work, she has very little patience in other areas of life—waiting in line, for example.

Her nerves get stressed easily when work is a matter of life and death. Writing, however, is also very rewarding.

“I feel immense joy when I come up with the perfect sentence to describe an emotion or a solution to a problem with the plot,” she says. 

“When writing a novel, you have to think about how to fit all the pieces together. Moments of insight are moments of pure delight.”

By Katariina Romppainen

Published with permission from Eeva magazine

New Terrain Press 2024. All rights reserved.

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