LATITUDE 46 PUBLISHING: Surviving Stutthof
Last month, Latitude 46 Publishing hosted a book launch event where they introduced the five novels they will be releasing this fall. We had the chance to speak with each of these authors and find out more about their novels, their inspirations and any tips they might have for potential authors. Today we’re sharing our interview with Liisa Kovala, author of Surviving Stutthof: My father’s memories behind the Death Gate
Tell us a bit more about Surviving Stutthof: My father’s memories behind the Death Gate.
My father, Aarne Kovala, was a sixteen-year-old Finnish merchant marine when his ship was detained in Danzig, Poland in September 1944. The sailors were arrested and sent to a Nazi concentration camp where they faced terrible working conditions, starvation diets, Death Marches, and a naval evacuation. Surviving Stutthof tells his story from the time the first Russian bombs hit his hometown during the Winter War until his liberation in May 1945.
What inspired you to write this story?
I always knew my father had an incredible story to tell and had heard snippets of it growing up, but I could never put together the pieces. As I grew older, I knew it was important to record his memories for our family, especially his grandchildren.
You’ve already had pieces published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas in Canada, Canadian Teacher Magazine, and Sudbury Living what would you say has been your biggest creative accomplishment so far?
I’ve had a creative non-fiction and short stories published in a variety of anthologies, magazines, and online sites, including Along the 46th, Canadian Stories, Creepy Capreol, CommuterLit.com, Kippis! Literary Journal, and two Chicken Soup for the Soul (Christmas in Canada and The Spirit of Canada) anthologies, to mention a few. Every piece allows me to flex my writing muscles and experiment with ideas. I like the challenge of reading a story callout and thinking, I can write something for that, and then just giving it a go. Each piece has given me new opportunities, like conducting creative writing workshops, speaking to audiences, and even hosting a bus tour about ghost stories. Although I’m always working on the next project, no matter how many stories or novels I write in the future, Surviving Stutthof is, and will always be, the most important book I ever wrote.
Can you tell us about the novel you’re currently working on?
I’m currently working on a historical novel that moves between the Winter War in Finland during 1940 and Northern Ontario in 1980. My protagonist, Meri, is haunted by her experiences as a Lotta Svärd during the war and is struggling with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. The novel explores the relationships between family members, specifically mothers, daughters, and sisters and the need to protect one another in times of trials. It also deals with the nature of love and betrayal, memory and the loss of it, and questions whether the enemy is really who we think they are.
Any tips for future authors who are looking for the inspiration to start writing their first novel?
Stories surround us. Inspiration for my writing comes from our unique northern landscape, the people who came here to call this place home, and the places from where they came. My best advice to new writers is to listen to stories real and imagined, read as much as you can in and out of the genre you are interested in and write often and in a variety of genres. For me, creative writing courses were integral for learning craft. Just start somewhere and don’t give up.
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