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On The Table Read Magazine, “the best book magazine in the UK“, author Jani Anttola shares the experiences in the Bosnian war that inspired him to write his new novel, Father Of One.
Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed Jani Anttola about his life and career, what inspired him to write about the journey of a soldier trying to reunite with his family in the Bosnian war, and his creative writing process.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
I’m a writer and a medical doctor. I’m originally from Finland but I live and work internationally.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
In 1996 when I returned from the war in Bosnia.
When did you take a step to start writing?
Well in 1996. I borrowed a laptop from a friend of mine, one of these early heavy monstrosities, and began to type. I wanted to tell people what I’d seen in Bosnia, as fresh as it was, but I’d never written anything and I did not understand that if you leave some distance, it will make your writing more powerful.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
I don’t remember. I wrote the first draft in four months, writing in the evenings. It was quite slapdash.
How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?
To write a book is the easiest part. I do about 500 to 700 words per day, on average, so theoretically I spent half a year on my 90 thousand-plus manuscript. But if you’re not an established name, the hardest part comes afterward: finding an agent (unsuccessful), finding a publisher (finally successful), and all the publicity work that now needs to be done by the author. The first idea for this book came in early 2019, and the title was released in July 2023.
Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write Father Of One?
I happened to meet this married couple from Srebrenica, Bosnia, and understood that their story was unique even in the context of that messed up war. It had everything in it, love, brutal warfare, loss, hope, compassion, you name it. I’d never heard anything like it before, so I asked if they were interested in telling it to the world. I knew it would make a great book. It doesn’t just portray the horrors of the genocide but also shows that there were individuals on the perpetrator’s side who didn’t want to participate in the crime – and who took an active role in helping the victims.
What were your biggest challenges with writing Father Of One?
I wanted to tell it in a novel form. The main events and many of the details are accurate, but I needed some space for creativity. My artistic license was limited because of the gravity of what had happened. 8000 people got murdered. So I was balancing between trying to tell the story as true as I could, but not being too grim or not hurting any of the facts with my fictional input.
What was your research process for Father Of One?
I didn’t need to research extensively as I had spent time in Bosnia during the war and had read a lot about it afterward. Still, the details of the events in Srebrenica were not very familiar to me. But I could find all the information I needed online, in various reports, articles and eyewitness accounts.
How did you plan the structure of Father Of One?
I didn’t plan. From the start, I had a vision of how I wanted to tell it.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Father Of One need?
I did commission some professional editing services, but they mainly commented on the overall structure of the book. I wish I could have worked closely with some good editor, like I did with my earlier works in Finland. But in the end, I edited the manuscript myself.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a book?
Well, you need two things… a good story, and a good technique. For the latter, you have to read a lot, and you better read authors who are dead. Prefer classics and Noble prize winners. They won that price for a reason. You don’t need to attend creative writing courses at your local university. Vonnegut and Dostoevsky never attended any. For the first, I don’t know… Maybe, just go out and experience the world?
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
I think a writer shouldn’t talk about his writing. He should write, and when or if he gets published, it’s up to the readers and the critics to talk about what he has written.
And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
I don’t know if ‘proud’ is the right sentiment, but the early reviews are good and it seems that I was able to give those readers an immersive experience. I’m happy with that.
Pop all your book, website and social media links here so the readers can find you:
I’m not on social media, but anyone can send me e-mail via the ‘contact’ form on my website: www.jani-anttola.com
My book on Amazon UK:
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