Let’s take a cruise

I once tried to estimate the number of times I’ve been on these ferries that traffic between Sweden and Finland. It’s almost like one of those questions you might expect to get at a Google job interview in which the right answer is less important than how you try to get there.

The first three – six, if you count return trips, and why wouldn’t you? – are pretty easy.

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Five questions

Scandinavian Traveler, September 2019 (pdf)

Risto Pakarinen about his book Someday Jennifer

What’s your new book about?

Someday Jennifer is the story of a man in a mid-life crisis who, having watched Back to the Future at the end of a drunken night, decides to solve his problems by traveling back to the good old 1980s, when everything was all right. Going back in time, he knows things worked out OK. Also – and this is important – back in the 1980s, he had Jennifer in his life. But, since he’s not crazy, he knows he can’t build a time machine. He simply re-creates the world around him in the 1980s style by wearing old clothes, listening to all those great tunes and watching movie classics such as Trading Places and Ghostbusters while moving back in with his parents.

It’s a feel-good book for sure, because I wanted to read a book that gave me hope and didn’t deal with the horrors of life. I promise that you’ll smile while reading Someday Jennifer.

Tell us a little about yourself and your background.

It’s sort of funny that I have been a freelance writer for 15 years because I never planned it that way. I have a business degree from Helsinki Business School and I originally wanted to be either in advertising or a hockey agent. Then I moved to Stockholm to work with custom publishing and was asked to write. My pieces got longer, and I became a writer. I even managed to combine hockey with my work, and I’ve covered World Championships and Olympics, and big games in Europe and the NHL since 2003.
When I got the idea for this book, I decided to give writing a novel a serious shot. And here we are – Someday Jennifer came out in English in August, while Swedish and Finnish editions will be published by HarperCollins in September. A German edition will be published next summer.

How did you come to write this book? What inspired it? ‘

Well, it wasn’t a huge leap for me to get into the shoes of a middle-aged man in a mid-life crisis. I also love Back to the Future and remember vividly the first time I saw the movie. And don’t we all sometimes wonder what might have happened had we taken door number two? One night a couple of years ago, I was walking home from the gym, listening to my 1980s playlist, when Peter, the main character, popped into my head and told me he’d figured out a way to become a time traveler. The book is set in Finland, so I’d already done most of my research by living through the 80s.

Is there a next book in the works?

There’s always a book in the works, but it did take me a while to get completely out of this book’s fictional world and back to creating a new one. I do hear new voices in my head now, and they seem to belong to a gang of interesting and funny people that I want to write about. But that part of writing a book is easy. It’s the sitting down and actually writing one that makes it feel like work.

And if you had a time machine, where would you go?

I’d go to 7 July, 1978 and walk right into the Roxy in LA and catch a Bruce Springsteen show. Fortunately for all of us, we can travel to 2020 and see him in Asbury Park, NJ.

by Risto Pakarinen
A feel-good novel about a man who wants to travel back to the 1980s, but since he can’t actually time-travel, he simply fills his world with things from the 80s to get the same effect.

Door 24: Lots of chocolate

I’ve always thought that in a good advent calendar, Door 24 should be the best one. It’s often a double door and in the case of a chocolate calendar, the last piece of chocolate is twice as big as the other ones.

This may not be a good advent calendar because it doesn’t have that.

There’s been traditions, rusty cans, buddies, campfire stories, debates, Finland, dreams, love (because it’s all you need), memory lane, music, legends, hockey, flashbacks, more movies, poses, planes, trains, and automobiles, shopping, empathy, homemade decorations, wrapping presents, unexpected turns of events, breaks, and even re-gifting, but no chocolate, not even a little bit.

I think I made a huge mistake.

Oh well, I’ll just call this one “lots of chocolate”.

Merry Christmas.


Door 13: Flashbacks

When people ask me why my English sounds so American – and sometimes they do – my answer is always the same: “Too many episodes of Happy Days and rock’n’roll.” That’s what I told the English gentleman in Oxford who was the first one to ask me that, and that’s the answer I’ve stuck to ever since.

Now, we both know that there’s no such thing as “too many episodes of Happy Days” or even rock’n’roll but it is true that I was raised on TV.

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Oxford on my mind

When Wife and I decided to take the family circus on the road again, to the UK, we knew there were two cities we absolutely had to visit: Cardiff and Oxford. (London was a given so it was never even discussed, and we began our trip with a week-long stay there).

Cardiff, because Wife spent a semester there during her university days, and Oxford because that’s where I spent a few weeks in my teens, on a memorable language course. It was the first time I had traveled abroad on my own, and I’ve carried fond memories of the trip with me ever since.

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Luukku 8: Back In Time

Lauantai, 21.12.2021
En ollut kokenut samanlaista valaistumista vuosiin. Yhtäkkiä näin tehtäväni tarkasti, tiesin täsmälleen, mitä tehdä. Pete ja Sofia olivat kuin Jennifer ja minä 1980-luvulla ja jos mikään ei työntänyt heitä pois heidän (meidän) nykyiseltä kurssiltaan, he päätyisivät ystäviksi, jotka sitten etääntyisivät toisistaan ja miettisivät loppuelämänsä, miten asiat olisivat voineet mennä. 

En voinut sallia sitä. Minun piti mennä ajassa taaksepäin. Ja laittaa Cyranon hattu päähäni.

Tällä kertaa minun piti olla erityisen tarkkana, että en sotkisi alkuperäistä 1980-lukua ja vääristäisi aika-avaruusjatkumoa. 

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The Ristory

Risto Pakarinen is a writer, editor, author, and a one-time wanna-be hockey agent.

His debut novel, Someday Jennifer (HarperCollins Canada) was published in 2019.

In 2020, he co-authored Finland men’s national team football manager Markku Kanerva’s book and followed it up with an audiobook on the same topic the following year. Risto has also written two books with Finland’s Supernanny, and in 2022, he co-authored first Finnish male homosexual hockey player Janne Puhakka’s Ulos kopista (Johnny Kniga).

In 2021 and 2022, he also wrote two books with Finland’s Supernanny Pia Penttala.

He’s currently working on the biography of Alpo Suhonen, the first European NHL head coach, to be published in the fall of 2024.

His first book, Joukkue vailla vertaa (A Team Like No Other), about the 1995 Team Finland that won the country’s first hockey world championship, came out in April 2005. His second book, Off The Post: hockey stories from across the world, a collection of his blog entries on nhl.com, came out in November 2007, and the third, Bernd Brückler’s KHL memoir “This is Russia: Life in the KHL” in December 2013. In 2015, he co-.authored “Pelaa omalla mailallasi” with Alpo Suhonen, the first European head coach in the National Hockey League.

Since 1995, Risto has written thousands of articles, the topics ranging from Pippi Longstocking to Wayne Gretzky and from industrial cranes to cinnamon buns to what it’s like to be a circus clown, a magician or Arianna Huffington.

He was also a freelancing editor at SAS’s Scandinavian Traveler between214 and 2019.

In 2011, a column he wrote about fear for Aalto university’s magazine Profile won third prize at the Pearl awards, in the “Best column” category. (Some dude named Martin Scorsese won first prize).

Between 2006 and 2009, he was Web & Tech department editor and writer at SAS’s in-flight magazine Scanorama and between 2008 and 2009, the editor of the Champions Hockey League’s official website.

His articles have been published in ESPN The Magazine, The Sporting News, and Fast Company as well as on ESPN.com and several Finnish and Swedish magazines. He is also a regular contributor of The Hockey News, NHL.com, and IIHF.com, and a former columnist of Jääkiekkolehti, a leading hockey magazine in Finland. He has previously been a featured blogger/columnist on the Finnish hockey league’s website at www.sm-liiga.fi.

He has also translated and edited several books about sports, such as NHL Hockey, Formula One, Soccer Stars and a series of youth books. Between 2003 and 2005, Finnjewel Oy, a company he founded, published Hockey, a Finnish hockey quarterly.

In his previous 9-to-5 life, Risto was managing editor at Kynämies Oy, Helsinki, Finland, in charge of a seven-person editorial team producing seven customer magazines. In 2002, he drafted a new concept for the Finnish Business Graduates’ Union’s magazine Ekonomi. In 2003, the magazine was voted Best Customer Magazine in an annual competition arranged by Finland’s Post.

Between 1998 and 2002, Risto Pakarinen was managing editor at Sweden’s leading custom publishing house, Appelberg, and was responsible for, for example, Ericsson Mobile Phones’ international internal magazine, Ericsson’s international customer magazine On and M-real’s international customer magazine Embrace for which he also created the initial concept. Embrace won jury’s Special Prize in the 2002 competition.

In the mid-1990s, Pakarinen was Business Development Officer at the Canadian Embassy in Helsinki, Finland, helping Canadian companies with finding partners and new markets in Finland. His areas of responsibility included agricultural goods, forestry, environmental technology, and sporting goods.

Risto Pakarinen has a Master’s degree in marketing, from the Helsinki School of Economics and Business Administration. He’s based in Stockholm, Sweden, and he’s fluent in Finnish (native), Swedish (married), and English – and also claims to speak Spanish and French.

For story samples, click “Articles” in the top menu.

For CV, click here.