The Recorder – Fantasy worlds in our backyard and beyond

Jorma Kansanen first considered young-adult (YA) fantasy writing in the late 1990s. He was working with the University of Massachusetts athletic department’s women’s soccer team.

“Girls read Harry Potter,” he told me in a recent interview. The athletes encouraged him to read the popular series and the books became popular with him.

He always enjoyed fantasy; The first full length book he read was “The Hobbit”. He explained that he was inspired by the Potter books to begin planning his own YA fiction.

“What I loved about the Harry Potter books was that there was another world going on alongside ours,” he recalled. “We had parallel planes of existence.” He decided he wanted to incorporate an identical double into his work.

Kansanan did not come to write his first book for several decades. His first obstacle was the frantic pace of work. Not only was he putting in long hours at UMass, he was also doing freelance public relations and multimedia work.

The second obstacle was the health crisis. In the early 2000s, he became increasingly stressed. He thought the problem was work, until one day a UMass police officer stopped him for driving the wrong way, took one look at him and sent him to the hospital.

Kansanen learned he had a serious, chronic case of Lyme disease.

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He couldn’t go back to work at UMass, so he had to freelance as best he could. Over time, with the help of both Western and Eastern medicine, he created a feasible work schedule. He decided to tackle the young adult novel that he had been mulling over for so long.

His first novel “Wild as the Wind” was released in 2000. He planned it as the first in a series. The second book “Sideways” came out last year. It consists of three long stories supplementing the characters of the first book.

The third book “Deep as the Sea” was released on October 26. Like the previous two, it is self-published. It continues the story of the first book.

“Wild as the Wind” centered on Viola Ferriman, a budding athlete and nature lover who discovers a new world in her backyard. Communicating with the spirits she meets in the forest, she learns that she is destined to play a greater role in the universe as a shaman, or sha-woman as she calls herself.

“Deep as the Sea” focuses more on Sebastian, Viola’s fraternal twin brother. In “Twelfth Night,” the shipwrecks and their twins Viola and Sebastian must find their way back to each other, Kansanen named the pair in a nod to Shakespeare.

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Like his sister, Kansan’s Sebastian has new powers. He is less willing to embrace those powers than Viola, at least initially. His story begins on the twins’ 13th birthday. Sebastian attends Pocumtuck Academy in Deerfield, where he longs to study.

He is academically inclined and enjoys the rigorous schoolwork at the Academy. Nevertheless, he is bullied by classmates, and he is debilitated by Lyme disease.

In the first book, Sebastian shared some otherworldly adventures with his sister. In the new volume he has suppressed the memory of that time. A school trip to Japan meets his fate, however, when he stumbles upon the mysterious Akigahara Forest at the foot of Mount Fuji.

Jorma Kansanen explained that he enjoyed researching the twins’ stories. For Viola’s story, he drew on Native American lore. For Sebastian, he read about Japanese culture, samurai history, and Aokigahara, which had long been considered a center for magic.

For both books, he read popular science books that speculated about parallel universes and time travel. “I deal in imagination, mythology, but I have a foot in the scientific world,” he said.

He also enjoyed creating stories that reflected the personalities of their protagonists, he told me.

“With Viola, you run into the woods behind your backyard and create your own world,” he noted. “Sebastian must physically go to the other side of the world to find his place, his identity.”

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The first thing that struck me when I started reading “Deep as the Sea” was the use of present tense to tell Kansan’s story. I asked about this choice.

“I originally wrote the first book in the past tense,” he informed me. “Once I started doing more research into the YA field, I heard that the present tense, the active tense, was preferred. (As a reader), you feel immersed. You feel it right. “

I was definitely drawn to Sebastian’s story, which moves fast and dramatically.

According to Kansanen, the next book in the series will be released in 2023. He originally planned to end the twins’ story in that book, but he’s so happy with his characters and their success that he plans to add to the series.

“We’re looking at six books, maybe seven at this point,” he announced happily. “I also have preconceived ideas.”

Like Jorma Kansanen’s other books, “Deep as the Sea” is available as a paperback ($10.99) and e-book ($2.99) both on and on the author’s website at

Tinky Weisblat is an award-winning author and singer. Her latest book is “Pot Luck: Random Acts of Cooking.” Visit her website


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