Known as one of Finland’s funniest and most effervescent writers, Miina Supinen has earned fans with her award-winning breakthrough Jelly Control (WSOY 2007) and most recently her genre-bending love story Ray Girl (WSOY 2013), sold in Germany, Denmark and the Czech Republic.
This fall will see the publication of her new novel Jingle Land (Mantelimaa, WSOY 2015), a dark, satirical, a touch supernatural and surprisingly heartfelt look at winter holidays gone awry. An English-language excerpt of the novel, set in an over-the-top holiday park owned by a man obsessed with Christmas, was included in the celebratory fall 2014 issue of Granta in Finland.
We recently chatted with Miina about the mad spectacle of the holiday season and her inspiration behind Jngle Land. Read our interview below!
Q: What sparked the idea for Jingle Land, and how did it evolve?
A: I’m always intrigued by the social masks we all wear, and the theater in which we all have to take part. Christmas is probably one of the biggest “performances” of all, especially for moms. It’s supposed to be a lovely, sweet-spirited holiday with all these warm and fuzzy traditions. But that’s actually quite a tall order: how do you manage to bake, cook, clean the house, decorate, buy presents in crowded shopping malls and still remain calm and christmassy in your heart? In Finland Christmas takes place during the darkest time of the year, and everybody just wants to curl up and sleep. So, in the end most of us end up pretending – for our kids, for our Facebook friends, and even to ourselves.
I wanted to write a comedy about the worst Christmas possible, and got the idea of a Citizen Kane-like character who wants to build a vast, sparkling theme park in which Christmas is eternal. Then the character of Molly, a former pop singer and mother of two who comes to work in Jingle Land, came along.
Q: Does Jingle Land have any intentional ties to the real-life Santa Park that exists in Finland?
A: Jingle Land is one hundred percent fictional! The story takes place in contemporary Finland. The theme park of Jingle Land is Christmas gone gloriously bad – it’s sort of a surreal, grotesque, tingly, sparkly nightmare, where all you can do is shop and party and ogle strippers dressed as elves. I sincerely hope that real-life Santa Claus parks are nothing like that. Obviously Jingle Land is partly a satire about the commercialization of Christmas, but it’s also a satire of the warm, quiet family holiday we are all supposed to have.
Q: The story is a mix of heartfelt, nostalgic, sinister and slightly supernatural. Was this balance intentional on your part?
A: Jingle Land is sort of a comedy-thriller. It’s also a story about a mom who really loves her kids even though she hates putting on the spectacle of Christmas. I hope it offers readers some relief: no matter how badly you mess up your own Christmas, it can never be quite as bad as Jingle Land.
Q: Which authors or artists inspired the style of Jingle Land?
A: Jingle Land is influenced by Strip Tease (by Carl Hiaasen) and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. While writing I also thought a lot about the film Spirited Away by Hayao Miyazaki. Jingle Land is crazy and surreal, and it has a dreamlike quality. And in the end there’s some beauty too, but my characters have to go a long way to find it…
Original publisher: FINLAND, WSOY
CZECH REPUBLIC, Nakladatelství Brána (Ray Girl)
DENMARK, Turbine (Ray Girl)
GERMANY, Suhrkamp (Ray Girl and Jelly Control)
Reading materials: Jingle Land
Reading materials: Ray Girl