Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Why I write about Greece


I’ve been asked a few times about the setting for my Greek Island Trilogy. Is it a real island? Which one? What was it like living there? Well, first of all I was compelled to write about Greece after living there during my twenties. I’ve always wanted to write but funnily enough until I started writing the Greek mysteries, I never got beyond penning a few short stories.
My fascination with Greece began as a child when I was given a book about ancient Greece. I absorbed the myths and legends and couldn’t believe that such an idyllic, magical place really existed. Blue became my favourite colour and I dreamed of visiting these mysterious islands where Odysseus, Athina, Zeus and Hector once lived.
It remained just a dream until I finished University when I got a job as a language teacher in Alexandroupolis in the North-East of Greece. I hadn’t heard of it either but it sounded nice, a small town by the sea. My first experience of Greece, however, wasn’t the lovely blue and white houses of the Cyclades. I arrived in Thessaloniki in the middle of the night after a three- day rail journey. It was nearly 3am by the time I got to a hotel and just a few hours later when I was woken up by car horns blaring. Thinking there must have been some national catastrophe, I gingerly looked out of the window to see the beginning of the normal rush-hour traffic.
It was the coach journey to Alexandroupolis passing through Kavala where I got my first glimpse of the ‘real’ Greece. The sky was the bluest I’ve ever seen, the spring flowers were starting to bloom and there were goats grazing on rocky outcrops and scrubland. The scents wafted in on the breeze and it was as if time just slowed down. We passed women in black, donkeys and men passing the time of day in the kafeneion. I have no idea why but it started to feel like home even though it was all so different from anything I’d experienced before.
I found the Greek people to be extremely hospitable even if they had very little themselves. The ritual of jam on a spoon reflected this hospitality and strangers would often send over a drink when we were in a taverna or the waiter would offer a digestif on the house.
It was the opportunity to visit the islands that made me think I’d found my little piece of Heaven. There can be few countries with such a diverse range of islands and dramatic scenery yet which remain so sparsely populated. Of course, the main islands are very touristy yet there are far more where it’s easy to find a little cove or ‘undiscovered’ beach. After spending a year in Athens, just as amazing but a totally different experience, I vowed to keep returning. Among my favourites are Aegina, Rhodes, Corfu, Kalymnos and Crete.
How could I choose just one island on which to set my books? The answer is that I couldn’t. My island is in my head and a combination of all the different places I’ve visited. So much so that until now I haven’t even given it a name. Some readers have said they would have preferred a real place, others say it’s nice to be transported to an imaginary place. What do you think? If you can come up with a great name for a Greek Island, I might just use it and credit you in the next book. I only ever planned to write one book and now book three is about to be published. I’m toying with the idea of a fourth book just so long as my readers continue to want to read more of my mysteries.

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