- How did you become a writer?
"I started writing for children at a relatively advanced age (I was 43 when my first children’s book came out) and it happened quite by chance. Maybe there was even a little mystery there.
Before starting writing for children, I had written a Finnish language textbook, a few books on language policy and defended my doctoral thesis about language policy. I had no intentions whatsoever to start writing children’s books. But in January 2002 I dreamt about the famous Swedish children’s author Astrid Lindgren. In the dream we did not speak, but I realized from her behavior that she wanted to tell me something important. A few days after this dream I read in a newspaper that Lindgren had passed away. I was very sad, for Lindgren is one of my favorite authors. However, I did not know what to make of all this.
I forgot the whole thing for several years. But then, during a business trip I remembered the dream about Lindgren. I decided to write a short children’s story about some childhood pranks of my younger son. After a week I wrote another one. I sent the two stories to a children’s magazine and its editor Leelo Tungal encouraged me to continue. Upon her advice I put together a manuscript of stories, which was published as a book in 2007. „Tere, Volli“ (Hello, Volli), my first children’s book, was listed among the six best children’s books of the year by the Literature Endowment of the Cultural Endowment of Estonia.
But event then I did not realize that I was going to become a children’s author. But I did continue writing and in 2011, „Volli vanad vigurid“ (Volli Is Up to His Old Tricks Again), the sequel to the Volli-stories, won the main prize for children’s literature of the Cultural Endowment of Estonia. It was only then that I understood the need to take a more serious attitude towards writing.
I have never been a full-time writer; I also have a regular job. However, I have turned out three books a year on the average, lately even more.
2. Which themes speak to you and make you reach for a pen? What is the secret of your success? You have received several Estonian Children’s Literature Awards, namely the Nukits Awards , so how do you find themes that children like?
Children like stories that are about themselves and that help them feel better or wiser. A book must be exciting, and if possible, funny. And most importantly, every children’s book must offer the reader some new knowledge.
Generally speaking, though, life itself comes up with the themes. I have worked as a teacher and since I became a civil servant, I have kept in contact with the schools. Thus, I know how the kids think and what interests them, I can look at the world through their eyes.
I am interested in science and technology myself and therefore my stories always contain some information about cutting edge research. In the two books of my young criminalist series that were awarded the Nukits Award the detectives use their knowledge about the internet and various state-of-the-art technical devices, e.g., smart phones, drones etc.
In my Time Travel series, another Nukits Award winner, the young time travelers make use of their knowledge of history, geography, astronomy, and quantum physics. To my joy, many language teachers and librarians have told me that they do not have to make children read my books, they do so voluntarily and happily.
I write books that I would love to read myself."
Ilmar Tomusk Author page in Amazon