Journalist – Editor
This is not America (or … is it? )… A thought-provoking title.
Have you ever lived in America? And do you think we have become America?
For this very reason I chose, or rather, the characters of the stories chose the title about a few months before the completion of the book which took me about seven years to write. Last year when the translation from English to Greek was completed, and with the help of my translator and editor, we added the subtitle (or...is it?) and at the same time the stories got stronger by adding cultural elements that have a direct and indirect relation to the title and the short stories.
While living abroad for nearly three decades, I have yet to make it to America. In the spring of 2019, I was planning a multi-month trip, to do research for a novel I want to write, but I ran into the infamous covid-19, headlong. But I have traveled spiritually, mentally, and emotionally all over the charismatic, diverse, and multifaceted New World. And I did this by reading American literature, watching movies, documentaries, interviews, and hanging out with American friends.
My conclusion is that, no, we haven’t become America, but in some passages of several short stories in the book, our country looks like it. Greece, like many other countries, has been influenced by American culture in many and various important levels of everyday life: clothing, technology, gadgets, literature, cinema, manners, language, etc.
We were impressed that your book was translated. From which language? Don’t you write in Greek?
From 1991 to 2016 I lived, worked, and studied abroad. I am a Norwegian citizen, and I speak Norwegian, but the language I have always liked is American English, a language that Scandinavians love to speak. Almost all the books I’ve read and still read are in English. In the last year, and due to the translation and editing of my books, I started reading and writing in Greek again.
Many people consider American English to be a minor language, comparing it to British English. The Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw once said that England and America are two nations separated by a common language. I believe this is primarily owing to the diversity of the culture of the two countries and the way they handle their language. British English is considered more elegant and sophisticated than American English. But I like to speak and write the latter as I find it more direct, honest, expressive, and free of the wrappers and ribbons of the British language. I worked hard to become fluent, both verbally and in writing and what helped me the most was that I hung out with Englishmen, Australians, Americans, and other people from all over the world.
Writers such as Ezra Pound, Henry James, T.S. Eliot, and Sylvia Plath were born and raised in America but then lived, worked, and died in Great Britain. These eminent writers introduced into the British language new, bold, lively, and essential American ways of writing and world-viewing. The great and stern teacher, Henry James corrected English literature because he thought it was baggy. T.S. Eliot introduced modernism to English poetry, and Sylvia Plath, with her controlled emotional violence, literally shattered the principle of decency.
What motivated you to write these short stories?
When I was studying for my MA in creative writing in Bath, England, in 2013, where I lived for nine years, my main professor -award-winning poet, and novelist- Gerard Woodward, while I had submitted another proposal for a collection of short stories, he suggested that I write about the current economic and social situation in Greece instead. If I had known then that it would be such a difficult mission, I would never have started it. There were several times I wanted to throw in the towel, but I’ve learned in my life that when you make promises, you had better keep them. After a two-month research in Greece, I wrote five stories, submitted them, and got a good grade in the following years and after thorough research out on the streets talking to different people, and reading as much as I could about the difficulties my fellow citizens were facing in their daily life, I managed to write another fifteen stories. And I dare say that looking through different prisms at the harsh reality of those years and with my antennae stretched for the slightest whisper, along the way I unfolded aspects of my character that I did not know existed and learned a lot of important things about life and death, things I want to believe make me glad I’m still breathing.
Are the short stories based on real people or are they all fiction?
Those who have read the stories ask me the same question. And when I tell them that all my characters are fictional, they half-close their eyes in disbelief, as if to say, are you sure? And when I wink at them with a smile, they smile too as if they caught me telling a lie or as if they made me reveal a secret.
Who is your intended reader? I mean, do you have an audience that you think would be more interested in your short stories?
Due to the nature and subject matter of the stories - realism with a dose of metaphysics - where the institution of family, the concept of friendship, but also the shaky sexual relationships are explored, always against the backdrop of the economic crisis in Greece, I believe that the collection could comfortably be read by all ages of both sexes and people of all walks of life.
How is the publishing experience for a new author? Is it easy to find a publisher?
I would say that nowadays it is quite difficult for authors to find a reliable and creative publishing house that will take the risk to publish and promote their books in the best possible way. There are many authors and even more books out there. Due to the scourge of postmodernism in the way of thinking and perceiving reality, there is generally an apparent confusion as to what criteria are those that make a book be evaluated as good or bad. I could write an essay on this subject matter.
In Greece, authors usually do not need to have a popular agent who will read, advise, and then try to find the right publishing house for their books. In Greece, authors can do this process by themselves, thus saving a significant percentage of their net profit. All publishers in Greece have online platforms where authors can submit their work. They will then have to wait patiently for three to five months to get an answer.
Things are very different abroad. Most publishing houses accept books after they have passed through the eyes of an experienced agent, who, when successful in signing a contract, will claim from fifteen to twenty percent of the author’s net earnings. I know this well because I have published a book in several countries in Europe and North America and have been to the biggest book fairs in the world.
And since the largest piece of the pie is reaped by the Anglo-Saxon publishing houses, it would be much easier for authors to find a publisher if they have their books translated into English. In this way, publishers save translation costs and at the same time read a manuscript in their language.
You’ve already won a literary award...Tell us a little about this award-winning book.
It won the World’s Best Cocktail Book award in 2007 at the London Book Fair out of thirty titles. What made the book stand out was the literary value of the manuscript, its structure, and content along with the design and photographs. It was then published in six countries and despite the financial crisis, it sold 55,000 copies.
I started writing this book in 2000. The first attempt to publish it in Scandinavia failed because the editors found the text academic. After a creative writing seminar in 2005, I edited it and managed to sign a contract with Bacardi Global in 2007. The sponsorship money I received not only helped me cover all the expenses of the book’s production but also 1helped me to present it at my booth at the largest book fair in the world in Frankfurt. In the week I was there, I realized how the complex mechanism of the book works on a global level.
Are you already working on your next book?
I am soon finishing my first novel, Dark Paths. It is a multifaceted and dynamic project that takes place in Thessaloniki, a village up in the mountains of Macedonia, as well as in Athens. I started writing it in 2016. I was influenced by Hemingway’s short story, The Killer. At first, I decided to write a short story, but the story became a novella and then it started to take the form of a novel. In this emotional, dramatic, and detective novel, I try to explore whether love is stronger than hate, whether violence is the answer to our problems, and whether memories are stronger than reality. And finally…is there life after death?