Finnish comics author Kati Närhi visited Prague last week and attended Book World Prague 2018. The Embassy had a pleasure to discuss with her about her work and her latest comics book Agnes and the Seventh Guest recently translated to Czech. Kati Närhi was very kind to answer a couple of our questions related to her work, where she looks for inspiration, what her plans for the future are and how she enjoyed Book World Prague 2018.
We are now in the middle of Book World Prague 2018 fair and can you tell us how do you like the fair and what do you think about it?
This is a lovely book fair. I must say that I am overwhelmed because the venue is so beautiful, probably the most beautiful book fair venue that I have ever seen. But I haven’t seen that many book fairs yet. I have been obviously to book fair in Helsinki, then I have visited a couple of times children’s book fair in Bologna, Italy. It is quite different in Bologna than here. Book fair in Bologna is huge. If you’d try to visit all those halls in a day, you would be exhausted. But here in Prague, this venue seems to be a nice size for a book fair. I mean you can still see many things here and you can manage it without being tired of it.
There is your comics in front of us on the table, a book called “The Seventh Guest” in Czech translation it is then “Agnes and the Seventh Guest”, could you please introduce the book to the readers? How would you describe the book to someone who is about to read it?
Well, it is a story about a young girl, called Agnes, who is an orphan. She had been brought up by her “a little bit strange” grandmother, who already passed away. So, Agnes now lives with her aunt. In this book Agnes and her aunt are visiting an old mansion in a isolated island, all which is owned by a gentleman called Orkolora. There are also other guests, who seem to have hidden motives for their visit. It seems like there is something quite peculiar going on, and Agnes is going to find out what it is... Also, in this book Agnes solves the mystery about her parents’ death.
And in 2016 you received Sarjakuva Finlandia comics award for this book. What does the award mean for you?
It was very nice news for me. Of course, I was very happy when I received the news about winning the award. I still remember the moment when I got the news. Actually, I was in an artist residence in Italy at that time. I arrived from Finland to Italy to work there for about two months, and the second day after my arrival I got called that I have to come back to Finland and receive the prize.... which, of course, I did not mind at all! For me the most important thing is even when you are nominated for the prize, because there is a big amount of books being read and even being among the best ten books is a big success. The jury for nomination the best ten is composed of many people and at the end it is the only one person who makes the choice about the winner. So for me even the nomination for the prize was a success.
And talking about your work, about creating your comics, where do you normally get inspiration? What inspires you?
Well, probably just...I read a lot of books, not just comics but also literature, I used to study literature and I am still very fond of reading. I also watch a lot of movies. I like to visit movie festivals, for example, recently I was at movie festival in Edinburgh and Budapest. But I don’t know, sometimes it is difficult to say where the inspiration comes from. I think I often just gather things around me without even noticing it. And when I start drawing, I have this ”storage of ideas” already waiting for me.
Talking about literature, what do you read yourself? Do you have any favourite authors?
I have many favourite authors. Recently, for example, like everyone else I have been reading Elena Ferrante. I also like to read books from Margaret Atwood, Kate Atkinson, Sarah Waters, Paul Auster, Kazuo Ishiguro and Haruki Murakami.
Can you tell us how do you normally create your comics? What comes first the text or picture? Do you have any favourite period of day or night you prefer to work?
Well, normally I work during day time, because people around me are also working during day time and I would probably disturb them during night. And about creating my comics it is always picture that comes first, and only after that follows the text.
Can you tell us about your plans for the future? What comes next? What are you working on now if it is not a secret?
It is not a secret and I can say something about it. Now, I am also working on a graphic novel, and it is a kind of a picture book for adults and the subject of the book is depression.
Thank you, Kati Närhi, for your time and answers. We wish you all the best and many satisfied readers of your books!