Fantasy worlds in our backyard and beyond

  • “Deep as the Sea” is the third book in Kansanen’s series of young adult novels, which began with “Wild as the Wind” (2000) and “Side Roads” (2021). CONTRIBUTED

  • Author Kansanen named his two protagonists in “Deep as the Sea” Viola and Sebastian, as a nod to twins Viola and Sebastian in Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.” PHOTO BY CHRISTOPHER EVANS

For the Recorder
Published: 10/28/2022 2:48:31 PM
Modified: 10/28/2022 2:48:17 PM

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

“The girls were reading Harry Potter,” he told me in a recent interview. The athletes encouraged him to read the popular series, and the books hit home with him.

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

“What I liked about the Harry Potter books was that there was literally another world happening alongside ours at the same time,” he recalled. “We had parallel planes of existence.” He decided he wanted his work to include a similar duality.

Kansanen didn’t actually get around to writing his first book for couple of decades. His first stumbling block was the frantic pace of work. Not only did he put in long hours at UMass, but he was also doing freelance public-relations and multimedia work.

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

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

He wasn’t able to return to UMass to work so he had to make a living freelancing as best he could. Over time, with the help of both Western and Eastern medicine, he devised a doable work schedule. And he decided to try his hand at the young adult novel he had been contemplating for so long.

His first novel, “Wild as the Wind,” came out in 2000. He planned it as the first in a series. The second book, “Side Roads,” came out last year. It consists of three long stories that supplement characters in the first book.

Book three, “Deep as the Sea,” came out on Oct. 26. Like the previous two, it is self-published. It continues the saga of the first book.

“Wild as the Wind” centered on Viola Ferriman, a budding athlete and nature lover who discovers a whole new world literally in her backyard. In communing with spirits she meets in the woods, she learns that she is destined to play a larger role in the universe as a shaman — or, as she calls it, a sha-woman.”

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

Like his sister, Kansanen’s Sebastian has newfound powers. He is less willing to embrace those powers than Viola, at least at first. His story begins on the twins’ 13th birthday. Sebastian is going to a school he has longed to attend, Pocumtuck Academy in Deerfield.

He is academically oriented and enjoys the academy’s rigorous schoolwork. Nevertheless, he is bullied by classmates, and he is weak overall from a bout of 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 confronts him with his destiny, however, as he stumbles into the mysterious Aokigahara Forest at the base of Mount Fuji.

Jorma Kansanen explained that he enjoyed the research the twins’ stories entailed. For Viola’s tale, he delved into Native American lore. For Sebastian’s, he read about Japanese culture, about Samurai history, and about the Aokigahara, which has long been seen as a focal point for magic.

For both books, he read popular-science books that speculate about parallel universes and time travel. “There’s imagination that I deal with, mythology, but I also have a foot in the scientific world,” he said.

He told me that he also took pleasure in creating stories that mirror the personalities of their protagonists.

“With Viola, you’re running into the woods behind your backyard and making up your own world,” he noted. “Sebastian physically has to go to the other side of the world to find his own place, his identity.”

One of the first things that struck me as I started to read “Deep as the Sea” was Kansanen’s use of the present tense to tell his story. I asked about this choice.

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

I certainly felt drawn into Sebastian’s story, which moves swiftly and dramatically.

According to Kansanen, the next book in the series will come out in 2023. He originally planned to end the twins’ story with that book, but he is so pleased with his characters and their success that he plans to add to the series.

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

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

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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