Maria Turtschaninoff

What books did you read when you were a child?
I read a lot of fairy tales. Every summer I would spend a lot of time reading through as many of Andrew Lang's Fairy Books as I could lay my hands on. I loved all kinds of fantasy, even though I had never heard that term. Some of my favourite authors were Diana Wynne Jones and Lloyd Alexander, as well as Swedish Astrid Lindgren and Finnish Irmelin Sandman Lilius.

If you could be a storybook character who would you be?
Right now I would have to say Bastian Balthazar Bux. I recently re-read The Neverending Story for the umpteenth time, and I still cannot resist the premise of a child getting to travel into the story they are reading – plus Bastian goes through a wonderful growth process throughout the story. We could all use to grow and learn and bring home some of the water of life from Fantásia!

What is the best thing about reading?
Being somewhere else, seeing with someone else’s eyes, without leaving the comfort of my own reading chair (named the USS Enterprise for that very reason).

What is your all time favourite book?
That is the one, impossible question all bookworms dread! One of my all time favourites is the The Neverending Story.

Other than reading books what is the most important thing a parent can do to help develop their children’s communication skills?
Tell stories! It’s quite a different experience to reading out loud from a book: you can have eye contact with your child, they can input and suggest what should happen next which teaches them the fabric of a story and, as there are no ready-made images to go along with the tale, it really exercises their imagination.

How big a part did your parents play in encouraging your writing skills?
My mother encouraged everything I did, but my desire to write was something I kept very secret. Becoming a writer was my own, private dream and I wanted no-one to meddle with it. Both my parents read a lot to me, and I was always surrounded by books. They both read in my presence, too, and I think that is vital: setting an example is very underestimated. The summers were spent in cottages in the woods or on islands with no TV or other entertainment than a backpack full of library books. Boredom was a great incentive to read! And reading was the best education to becoming a writer.

How do you encourage your children or grandchildren to read, what books do you enjoy reading with them?
I have read to my son since he was born. He’s five today, and just leaning to put together letters into words. I hate playing with Legos and cars, but I will always read him a book if he asks – and often when he asks me to play I suggest reading instead. This Christmas he got a Pixi-book advent calendar with a book for every day. I try to avoid spoiling him, but with books it’s fair game!

Born in Helsinki in 1977, Maria spent her childhood reading and writing and crawling into wardrobes, hoping they would lead to Narnia. As they inevitably never did, she became a writer to find her way there. Her latest book Maresi won the Finlandia Junior Award in 2014 and is out now.

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