|The latest in my occasional series of interviews with Greek-themed authors. I'm proud to present my chat with Anne Zouroudi.|
|Anne on Symi, her spiritual home and the setting for many of her Greek Detective novels.|
Author Anne Zouroudi fell in love not only with Greece, especially the island of Symi, but also with a Greek who lived there, hence her surname. She's famous now for her excellent series of novels all about the exploits of The Greek Detective, also known as the "fat man", Hermes Diaktoros, who always wears plimsolls.
I can lay claim to having read a couple of them so far and I was very impressed. She writes very evocatively and the stories are very believable. If you love Greek fiction and haven't read on or more of Anne's books, where have you been?
As a person who shares Anne's love for Symi, I read her work with relish. I wholeheartedly agree with this review of one of the Greek Detective series by British newspaper the Guardian:
“Diaktoros is a delight… There is also a cracking plot, colourful local characters and descriptions of the hot, dry countryside so strong that you can almost see the heat haze and hear the cicadas – the perfect read to curl up with as the nights draw in.”
So, how great is this? I have subjected Anne to my 15 questions and she's only gone and answered them for me, hasn't she. Thus, I'm happy to share her words here on the blog. Here goes then...
1. Where do you live?
The past couple of years I’ve spent more time in the UK than anywhere else, mainly because my partner and I are trying our hands at self-sufficiency, and the livestock keep us tied to home. But we have kind relatives who can occasionally be persuaded to house-sit and take on the day-to-day responsibilities while we travel. Obviously we head in only one direction – Greece. Our next trip is already booked – we’re off to Parga.
2. What do you write about?
I’ve written a series (eight books up to this point) called the Mysteries of the Greek Detective. Essentially crime novels, they feature an enigmatic investigator called Hermes Diaktoros who brings his own brand of natural justice to wherever it’s needed. There’s a touch of myth and magic in my novels, and I always include plenty of food – Hermes is a bit of a gourmet, and he gives me an excuse to sing the praises of Greece’s wonderful diversity of dishes.
Many years ago, I gave up a glittering business career that was becoming somewhat tarnished to marry a Greek fisherman I met on holiday. In short, I was, like many others, a Shirley Valentine. The marriage didn’t last (though my ex and I are still good friends), but my love affair with Greece has more than endured. I feel Greek in my soul, and I find Greece inspires my writing like nowhere else. I should say, though, that I don’t sugar-coat it. My books are full of sunshine, but they have dark underbellies too.
4. How long does it take you to write a book?
A first draft, about six months. To polish it to my own exacting standards, another six months. I rewrite and rewrite and rewrite. Every word must earn its place. So all in all, about a year.
5. What do you enjoy most about writing?
Sometimes I don’t enjoy it at all! But when the words flow and the ideas are sparking, I love to see where the story’s going without any apparent help from me. When it’s going well, it’s like being led by fairies into the woods.
The island of Alonissos, which became Liteos in The Gifts of Poseidon.
6. What, in your view, is/has been the greatest gift from Greece to the world?
I think Greece’s greatest gift is available to anyone who travels there – she offers the gift of peace with oneself, and quiet reflection. You take a seat at a harbour cafe or in a beachside taverna, and somehow with the first sip of coffee or cold beer, the yoke of the 21st century slips from your shoulders. You enter that timelessness which suffuses Greek life, and it gives you a sense of perspective, an understanding that everything can indeed wait until tomorrow. Avrio is plenty soon enough. [what an ace description of what makes this country so unique! - JM]
7. How do you come up with an idea for a book?
That’s one of life’s great mysteries! I get inspiration from all kinds of places but most often when I’m out walking the dog. For me silence breeds ideas.
8. How do you go about writing, that is to say, are you organised, do your research, disciplined, are are you a messy sort who gets it done one way or another?
I’m certainly not organised and I’m not particularly disciplined either, except that I do start very early in the morning, around 5am. If the words really refuse to flow I don’t waste my time, I come back to it the next day. I try not to be rigid in my plans because I think it stifles creativity. If I’m stuck I might do a little drawing or write something different for a while, and usually I find inspiration will strike. I’m not a believer in writer’s block. I have far more ideas than I could ever write down. [Great! That means a lot more books to come then! - JM]
9. Which other authors do you read?
I read very widely, all kinds of very varied books, both fiction and non-fiction. My favourite fiction authors are Neil Gaiman and David Mitchell, and I read a fair bit of contemporary crime too. My guilty pleasure is Marianne Keyes. At the moment I’m taking a big interest in the world situation and I’m reading about the Greek crisis and how the UK got itself into such a parlous mess. I’ve been very interested in Sacred Economics by Charles Eisenstein, a whole new way of looking at the role of money in the world – it’s a great read for anyone who’s interested in tackling inequality at its roots.
10. What's your preferred kind of music?
That’s not a good question for me – musically I’m stuck in the past. No further comment. [Bit like me then! - JM]
11. Do you like Greek music and if so, which kind?
I love Greek music, especially the music of the islands – it’s so soulful it breaks my heart. [See * below]
12. Favourite Greek dish?
Tough one. Hermes’s favourite is bougatsa but I’d choose kolokithokeftedes – courgette fritters with feta and plenty of dill. Served with a sprinkle of salt, a squeeze of lemon and a glass of retsina – fantastic! [I think Anne may be my long-lost sister! - JM]
13. Favourite place in Greece and the reason(s)?
My first love will always be the Dodecanese island of Symi. I know it best and it’s been good to me. It’s still as beautiful as it always was.
|The Police Station on Symi waterfront. serves as the model for the police station in Thiminos in Anne's first book The Messenger of Athens where Hermes Diaktoros makes his first fictional appearance.|
14. What links would you like the readers to explore in connection with your work, including, of course, sites where your work may be purchased?
15. And finally, reading device or real book?
I find my Kindle useful for downloading samples and a better option for travelling. But there’s nothing quite like curling up with a proper book, is there?
|The Gifts of Poseidon front cover. The latest in the series.|
* Regarding Anne's mention of island music.
I can't recommend highly enough 2 CDs by Giannis Parios (sometimes spelt Yiannis or Yannis in the Roman alphabet). In 1981 he brought out an album called "Τα Νησιωτικα" which is superb collection of traditional island songs. Ten years later he released "Τα Νησιώτικα 2" which was every bit as good. You may have trouble tracking them down in English, although if you're coming to Greece this year you'll be able to find them in any good CD store. Here are the sleeves:
To listen to both albums in their entirety, click HERE.