Interview: Johanna Sinisalo

johanna sinisaloCould you share with us a bit about yourself? Your background and life in Finland?

I’m fiftyish, a full-time writer since 1997 (before that I worked in advertising, as a copywriter/executive and a shareholder of the agency; I left to follow my muse). I have an university education, majored in literature and drama, and I also had side studies in journalism and social psychology. I’m living with a soul mate, have an adult daughter with a life of her own, and I’m a very keen mountain hiker – I have hiked, among other routes all over the world, half of the Appalachian Trail in USA in 2007. 

I live in a town called Tampere, which is big by Finnish standards, having about 200 000 inhabitants, and it is very beautifully situated between two large lakes, surrounded with forest land.

Your novelette “Baby Doll,” which was recently on the final Nebula Award ballot, concerns the sexuality of prepubescent children who are forced to grow up too soon. I found it relevant to modern life with its emphasis on sexuality and exploitation. What compelled you to write this story?

Everyone who keeps one’s eyes open can see how the adult world has infiltrated the world of children. I have seen eight-year-old girls who wear clothing that, in earlier years, would signal “Hi, sailor!”

I’m not a prude – I know that playing an adult is a very important phase in childhood – but somehow I find it very disturbing that parents do allow their children to be mini-adults at the age when kids themselves do not really realize what kind of signals they’re sending around. 

I had observed that phenomenon for quite a time, but what compelled me to do the actual story was when I was asked to write a short story for a crime fiction anthology. The brief was: combine crime with sexuality and/or eroticism. I did not want to write the obvious passion crime story or the story of erotic blackmail etc., and I gave the brief a lot of thinking time – and then I saw Repo Man, in which the petty criminal, when finally caught, said “I blame the society.” And I thought: hell, what if I wrote a crime story where the society really was the guilty party? The society – and the media? The peer pressure? And so “Baby Doll” was born.

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