Symi dream interviews. Interviews with people who love Symi
Anne Zouroudi (August 18th 2012)
“Anne is the creator of Hermes Diaktoros, the Greek Detective who’s one of new fiction’s most enigmatic characters.
Anne’s highly-acclaimed series of novels is set amongst the beautiful landscapes of Greece – between the olive groves and sparkling blue seas – where time has little meaning, and the pressures of modern life are easily forgotten.” www.annezouroudi.com
Anne lived on Symi for several years. Her first book in the Greek Detective series was set on Symi, though the island of the story goes by a different name. Here, Anne gives an exclusive interview to Symi Dream based on our ‘Symi Dream interviews’ technique of limiting ourselves to five questions. (Click a book cover to go to its Amazon page.)
1. Did your interest in writing crime/detective/mystery novels come from your experience of living on Symi? If not, from where did you draw your interest in writing crime novels?
Anne: I was already writing before I ever set foot on Symi – I won a creative writing prize at age 10, and began my first (unpublishable!) novel at 18. But Symi and my Greek island life inspired me to write fiction which really caught people’s attention. I’m madly in love in with Greece, and I hope I tell stories which convey the unique and wonderful character of the country and the people. As to why those stories are crime novels (actually I think of them more as morality tales), I write what I’d like to read, namely mysteries set in Greece. And I’ve always been a big fan of crime fiction. I started with Agatha Christie and went on from there.
2. It seems that in fiction, authors create detectives who are eccentric and unusual in some way. Hermes Diaktoros is no exception being strangely omnipresent and mystical. Did the inspiration for him come from anyone on Symi?
Anne: My Hermes is certainly a unique character. Some readers ‘get’ who he is straight away, yet I’ve spoken to others who’ve read five or six of my books and are still mystified. So here’s a hint – think mythology, and remember the books are fiction! But though Hermes’s origins are Pan-Hellenic, I can confirm that his physical description originated on Symi, in the form of a very mortal man who managed one of the banks for a while. This bank manager was a very snappy dresser, and Hermes owes his sharp clothes to him.
3. Some of the moments in your books are dark and unsettling. How much of your personal experience of living on a Greek island and being married into a Greek family lies behind these moments?
Anne: I agree my books are quite dark, but I think those dark interludes accurately reflect life in the islands. Being married into a Greek family gave me an insight into matters which aren’t seen by casual visitors, and being an outsider let me pick out details of day-to-day life which are of interest to non-Greeks. The slaughter of animals, for example, was an everyday matter in our Symi household, but it’s hardly that in the suburbs of Manchester. Greek mores and morality are unique to the culture, and sometimes hard – in foreigners’ eyes – to justify or comprehend. My books aren’t all sunshine and light; they’re what I see and hear.
4. The books are peppered with a numerous ‘day players’ and characterful extras (old man being led by donkey for example). How do you avoid the pitfall of ‘stock’ Greek characters? How do you manage to make them all so different?
Anne: My ‘supporting cast’ of characters are a joy to write. They spring from observations of real people in Greece, and real situations I’ve watched. I’ve always found the Rainbow cafe in Chorio an absolute goldmine in that regard. I’ve sat there many an hour with a glass of retsina and seen many diverse activities, the most memorable of which was two men delivering a ready-assembled stone wall. It’s easy to avoid ‘stock’ characters if you observe real people for any length of time. Everyone is unique, though some are more intriguingly unique than others.
5. I noticed recently that the Guardian newspaper was running courses on Self Publishing. Here on Symi there are several writers who have self-published their own Symi based books. What is your view on POD (Print On Demand) publishing?
Anne: No-one can deny that the publishing landscape is changing. Maybe I could put it more strongly than that, and say it’s undergoing a revolution. More and more people are writing books, yet mainstream publishers are taking on fewer and fewer first-time authors, and letting go mid-list authors who aren’t showing growth in their sales. The days of six-figure advances are long gone, with the average author’s advance now a measly £2,000, which is poor reward for a year or more’s work. Small wonder so many writers are going it alone, and the best of luck to them. However, I do think medium- to long-term there’ll be a shake-down in the market. With e-books especially, there’s a lot of drivel out there, much of it being given away for free or sold for 99p. Readers are starting to complain of poor or non-existent editing, and that some ‘authors’ simply can’t write. So I think the ‘badge’ of a ‘proper’ publisher will remain as a quality mark for a while yet. But if your self-published book is well-written and you’ve gone to the trouble of taking out the spelling mistakes, and if you’re prepared to spend time on your marketing, I don’t think there’s any reason your book shouldn’t sell. And internet buzz – if you can create it – is a powerful selling tool.
To find more Q&As with Anne, visit her website here.
We’d like to extend a big ‘thank you’ Anne for taking the time out of her busy schedule to answer our questions.
Anne has been nominated for an ITV 3 Crime Thriller Award, and ‘The Whisper of Nemisis’ won the East Midlands Book Award 2011.
Ross Godfrey; Morcheeba (July 2012)
I have photos of this. Picture it: Rhodes airport, two in the morning, early September, 2000, delayed. There were about six of us sat around on the floor chatting and passing the time. Ross was one of our group and had just spent a holiday on Symi where we’d met and chatted at what was then the Jean and Tonic Bar. That little story is mentioned in Carry on up the Kali Strata where, I noticed, I’d also written “Friends made on Symi are friends in any place.”
And so I knew Ross wouldn’t mind being one of my early interviewees for this on-going but non-regular interview spot on the Symi Dream blog. For those who may not know, Morcheeba have had great success with seven albums since 1998. Ross is the trio’s guitarist and all round instrumentalist. Their website can be found here and the image by Stephen Mahrer is one in a gallery of images at the site, click here.
And so, to the interview. The idea here is that I limit myself to five questions and there is a Symi connection.
When was your first visit to Symi, and what was your first impression of the island?
1980. I arrived at the age of 4 on a night boat. It was very mysterious and pretty and smelt vaguely of burnt meat.
How has Symi inspired you in a creative way?
I always used to take a guitar with me to jam with. The first time I played in front of people was at the age of 11 at a Bouzouki night on the road to Pedi. I played Blue Suede Shoes with Dimitri from Nos on vocals.
What is your most lasting memory of the island?
I always think of how beautiful it is to swim there. Once when my brother and I were very young we swam across the harbour thinking it would be easier that walking round it. There were big boats and hydrofoils coming in and out. It was a stupid thing to do. Our Mum saw us from her balcony and nearly had a heart attack.
What would you say to people who have not been to Symi before?
I think you have to be a certain kind of person to enjoy Symi. All the friends I have recommended it to absolutely loved it. I tell lots of people about the place. It is difficult to convey the beauty of the place. Most people are put off by the amount of travel which is nice in a way, keeps the riff raft away.
What is it about Symi that brings you back time after time?
There is nowhere nicer to swim and I like swimming a lot, you can probably tell by now. I also find it is the best place to sit and listen to music. I love hanging out on a deserted beach digging late 1960′s psychedelic rock. Live Cream and Hendrix are my favourite choices. Somehow the landscape and searing out of tune fuzz guitar are made for each other.
Thank you Ross, for taking time to tell everyone your thoughts on Symi.
You can find out more about the band and its members, its performances, discs and travels, at the official Morcheeba website.
‘It’s all Greek to me’
In Britain, Wendy and Bob Beever work in the specialist food trade serving ‘char grilled’, fresh Greek food including delicious homemade Baklava. Their company is called ‘It’s all Greek to me.’ We met them on their last visit to Symi. I asked them if they would be interested in answering some questions about their view of Symi, for our blog, and below are their replies. There will be more of these ‘Symi friends interviews’ over time, and I’d like to thank Bob and Wendy for being the first.
Although there is not a drop of Greek blood in either of them they are out and out Grecophiles and have been visiting Greece for 30 years. They also do hospitality catering for the Historic Grand Prix Cars Association which takes them to many motor racing circuits both in the UK and on the Continent, not with a Greek theme but Wendy has a habit of slipping a few dishes in to keep members’ taste buds alive. They also held many Greek theme nights in their restaurant when they had it, and Wendy is a member of the Elinismos dance troupe based in Nottingham. They danced quite a bit during their last visit to Symi.
1. When was your first visit to Symi, and what was your first impression of the island?
We first came to Symi almost 30 years ago on honeymoon staying in Chorio with Laskarina. So it’s all down to Laskarina for getting us hooked. We used the company many times because they went to proper places in Greece but we came back to Symi many times,
2. How has Symi inspired you in a creative way?
Wendy always comes away with some food ideas or variations of things she already does. We try and get around as many restaurants as we can on each visit, our favourites being Merikles, The Windmill, Zoe’s, and Paco’s for drinks of course. Every time we are at Paco’s we usually see someone from a previous visit or establish new friends that are similarly nuts about Symi.
3. What is your most lasting memory of the island?
A couple of years ago 32 family members joined us on Symi to celebrate our Silver Wedding. We chartered George Kalodoukas’ boat for a round the island trip with beach BBQ etc. and it turned out to be a fantastic day. Everyone else but ourselves had never been to Symi before so there were many converts to the Island. You may remember I had a chat with you about Neil doing a group pic, but getting them all together at once was impossible, they were too busy soaking up Symi as they only had a week.
4. What would you say to people who have not been to Symi before?
Just simply go and let the Symi vistas get through to you. When new visitors are going we always tell them to be on the left hand side of ferry so that the harbour comes into view in the most spectacular fashion. When our family were arriving a chorus of OMG’s was heard and we knew we had ‘em!
5. What is it about Symi that brings you back time after time?
It’s a bit like coming home, a lot has changed but essentially nothing really has. The Symiots are still themselves and we enjoy their company, and there is nothing like feeling totally smug when we see the day boats from Rhodes leave, knowing that we are here to stay, for a while anyway. Years ago we were having coffee and ice cream in Yialos when the boat horns started blaring out calling the day trippers back, and our host tapped us on the shoulder to remind us to pay up and get the boat. We explained we were residents so he ran, yes ran, back to the till, gave us some money back because he had charged us boat prices not resident ones! What can be better than swimming at Marathunda in the late evening when only us are there, then take a slow drive over the top to see the Pedi valley and Yialos come into view.
In our opinion Adriana’s Blog is one of the best promotion avenues Symi has got along with yourselves of course. We always advise people to check out both blogs to get a real feel for what Symi is all about. Our own little business gives us a lot of pleasure especially when customers make a point coming back to say how much they have enjoyed our food, and sometimes give us the third degree to find the inspiration behind our venture. Its true to say though that by the season’s end if anyone wants me to char grill another souvlaki I tend to invite them to go forth and multiply, in the nicest possible way of course. Wendy makes all the various component parts of our menu including stuffed vine leaves, baklava, youvetsi, souvlaki etc. We have noticed an increase in requests for private party bookings, the latest one was for an eminent lawyer celebrating his 40th birthday, all enquiries by word of mouth.
Keep up the very interesting notes and stories on your blog, it is something we read each morning over our first coffee.
Bob & Wendy Beever
The pics were taken at Southwell Folk Festival, where Jules Holland opened proceedings. We have attended this festival for 5 yrs. now and regard it as one of the best around. When you get a mo have a look at their website.