The book that wasn't meant to be


In May last year, I began writing a non-fiction book about Sanna Marin, the former prime minister of Finland and a leftist and feminist icon around the world. The working title was "Sanna Marin – The Dancing Queen", and the project aimed at international markets. The buzz around the project was positive. I conducted interviews and delved into archives.

After six weeks, I put the project on hold. Here's why the book never materialized.

Firstly, about the context: Marin had just lost the elections. The international spotlight was intense, with "the dancing prime minister scandal" still fresh. Marin was preparing for a significant speech in the USA.

The goal was to produce the book rapidly, which would have required a partner or team. I discussed this with several journalist colleagues and planned different team configurations.

I interviewed eight people closely associated with Marin's career and prime ministership, and briefly spoke with many others.

So, why did I halt the project?


Sanna Marin refused to cooperate with the book, despite multiple attempts by various people. We guessed she might opt for a book with a foreign writer and publisher, which eventually happened. I'm not bitter about it – it was a smart move on her part, keeping control of her narrative.

Initially, I thought the book could still be great without Marin, akin to Mark Halperin and John Heilemann's "Game Change," one of my favorite books. However, many colleagues and industry professionals saw Marin's active involvement as critical.

I described the methodology in planning materials as follows:

METHODOLOGY: The book tells Sanna Marin's story in the third person but from a close perspective. It follows her actions, describes her behavior, and shares her quotes as if the reader were in the same room where events unfold. The narrative is mostly chronological, except for possible prologues and epilogues. Direct quotes are used when there's a clear account from someone present, and indirect quotes are used when memories aren't as precise or the source wasn't present. Occasionally, the narrator provides background on Marin's life, Finnish politics, and other contexts. Flashbacks aren't used; pre-leadership events are woven into the chronological narrative.


For international markets, the underlying tone needed to be heroic. The foreign audience would mainly consist of women and left-wing idealists who admire Marin. Yet, the book's approach would be journalistic. It was challenging to reconcile Marin's reputation and actions in Finnish politics with the blind admiration she received globally. Marin is an effective leader but can be brusque and irritable. Ignoring this aspect would have left an incomplete picture.

Marin is also seen internationally as an idealistic leader, though her domestic success was due to pragmatism.

Moreover, a good story typically sees the hero facing challenges, overcoming them, and flourishing in the end. However, Marin's prime ministerial tenure peaked early, showing decisiveness during the COVID crisis.

A pivotal moment in Marin's tenure seemed to be the "breakfast scandal" in May 2021, leading to a disdainful relationship with the Finnish media and eroding trust in the civil service. Marin relied on her immediate circle, especially the "yes-men" and "yes-women" who echoed her frustrations without dissent.

I described the story arc and scenes in planning materials as follows:

STORY ARC: Sanna Marin is a modern value-driven politician whose rise to prime minister offers global opportunities to combat climate change, advocate for sexual minorities, gender equality, and the underprivileged. However, her term is filled with crises: the pandemic and war. Marin becomes weary and bitter towards the media. In the end, she returns to fight for her values, leading a campaign centered on those values. She culminates her struggle on stage in New York, emphasizing the battle of opposing values and the need for everyone to choose a side.


  • Sudden return to Finland and election as prime minister by a narrow margin

  • The tumult of the first week and rise to international fame

  • Moving to Kesäranta and personal history

  • The onset of the pandemic and decisions on lockdown measures

  • Vogue photoshoot, glass ceilings, and ideological background

  • Father's death and Marin's childhood story

  • Wedding, relationship background, and motherhood

  • Pandemic crisis management

  • Breakfast scandal, fatigue, and start of running hobby

  • Russia's attack on Ukraine and the beginning of Finland's NATO process

  • Visit to Ukraine

  • Ruisrock weekend, media scandal, and tearful apology

  • Sealing Finland's NATO membership without Sweden and the Niinistö relationship

  • An electoral defeat and divorce

  • International media's astonishment at the electoral loss

  • Rising on stage in New York at Yankee Stadium


In recent years, I've been honing my skills as a thriller writer, not a non-fiction author. The Marin book would have been a detour, albeit an intriguing one. Ultimately, I didn't want to postpone my next thriller, "The Eagle," with its timely themes.

"The Eagle" will be released in Finland in April 2024. It might just be my best work so far.

So, I'm at peace with spending weeks on a project that didn't come to fruition.

Fortunately, we won't be without a journalistically written Sanna Marin book. My colleague Salla Vuorikoski is writing a book aimed at the domestic market, set to release next fall. We recently met to exchange thoughts on Marin and our book projects. Salla's book will surely be excellent, offering a new perspective on Marin's prime ministership, especially from the standpoint of Finnish politics.

PS. One more fun fact: When Marin was elected prime minister, I made the below image, which went viral globally, eventually reaching tens of millions. Writing the Marin book would have, in a way, come full circle for me, but it wasn't meant to be.