A LITERARY WORLD: GREECE. An interview with Ekaterina Botziou
In 2014, she was named February’s Young Hellenic Professional of the Month by New York based mentoring company Philo4Thought. Alongside her book publications, Ekaterina has established herself as a successful freelance writer for British and European magazines covering topics from fashion to lifestyle to travel. Her work has been featured in The Huffington Post and The Greek Reporter and she has worked extensively on the leading edition in Cyprus’ Prestige Publications, high-end lifestyle magazine Status.
Welcome to A Literary World: Greece, Ekaterina,
1. Where do you live?
In the land of the Wombles – Wimbledon, UK
2. Can you tell us what your novels are about and what inspired you to write them?
I started writing my first book ‘Greek Expectations: The Last Moussaka Standing’ shortly before I got married. I had already set up my blog and was sharing stories about the horrors of preparing for a Big Fat Greek Wedding when I decided to do some research into self-help books that dealt with how to make a successful marriage. I couldn’t find any information on the topic of traditional Mediterranean relationships, so I decided to pick up my pen and write my own. I have since realised that when you are married to a Greek man, you need more than just a self-help book!
The book is essentially a memoir based on my own experiences growing up in a semi-Greek household, and later marrying into a Greek-Cypriot family. It provides a tongue-in-cheek insight into the trials and tribulations of being a modern woman faced with the demands of age-old Greek traditions and shows readers how to survive each stage of life with a Greek man and his family.
The idea for my second book ‘Theseus & the Mother-in-Law’ came about when I was still writing my first. As a child I devoured all the Greek mythological stories and was fascinated by the historical aspect to many of the legends. My grandmother in particular had a deep interest in the mythicism of ancient Greece and I think many people find the combination of history and fictional narrative highly appealing.
After reaching the final shortlist for Australian literary journal Vines Leaves Press with a vignette entitled Stripped Bare, I wrote my third completely UNGREEK book ‘Seraphina’ as an experimental short story in verse.
3. What is it about Greece that inspires you?
Greece is in my blood and despite not living there and being only ‘half’ Greek – I do feel that it is a strong part of who I am. That alone inspires me.
4. How did you come up with the titles?
My first book ‘Greek Expectations: The Last Moussaka Standing’ was meant to be a fun variation of ‘The Last Man Standing’ – the ‘Greek Expectations’ part was a reflection of my blog and all that being Greek entails, but I later found another novel with the Greek Expectations title which was a bit of a shame!
‘Theseus & the Mother-in-Law and Other Myths and Legends’ – (often shortened to just ‘Theseus & the Mother-in-Law’) features all the ancient Greek myths and legends and these include the famous tale of Theseus and the Minotaur. However in my story, the minotaur isn’t the only monster Theseus has to deal with… We all know how difficult Greek mother-in-laws can be!
5. How long did it take you to write each book(s)?
My first book took me the longest as I wrote it in stages and initially wasn’t sure whether it should be a story or more of a guide. I also had to wait for feedback from various friends and other authors before I was happy with the final draft. I remember starting it in January 2013 and sending a first draft and notes to the author Eve Makis who I then met in Cyprus that May. She gave me such positive feedback that when I got back to the UK I steamed ahead and within a month or so the book was finished. So all in all it took about 7 months.
I started my second book in May 2014 and it was finished within 3 months. My short story in verse took me about a month.
6. The Greeks believed that ‘inspiration’ came from the muses, as well as the gods Apollo and Dionysus. Where do you believe inspiration comes from?
The gods obviously! I think you can find inspiration everywhere. My first book was inspired by real life events, my second from tales of old and my third from reading other short stories in verse that gave me the confidence to write my own.
7. The ancient Greeks created masterpieces in literature of such brilliance – poetry, tragedy, comedy and history – that have inspired, influenced and challenged writers and readers to the present day. Do you agree with this and if so, why do you think they remain an inspiration for later writers?
You can never beat the original source. The ancient Greeks were the founding fathers of poetry and great tales filled with love, passion and sorrow. These basic human emotions continue to inspire us because we can relate to them and identify with them so we try our best to emulate our forefathers and replicate their great masterpieces. Not that we have been able to succeed!
8. The author, Simon Worrall, states that historian, Adam Nicholson suggests in his book, “Why Homer matter’s” that ‘a whole culture- not a single ‘Homer’ created the Iliad and the Odyssey and that it is a mistake to think of Homer as a person”. He describes these great works as a metaphor for all our lives – struggles with storms. Do you agree with this theory?
I neither agree nor disagree. I think Mr Nicholson thinks too much!
9. Visitors to Greece and Greeks themselves make mention of its physical beauty – the light, the wine-dark sea of Homer and a diverse landscape. Would you agree with this?
Greece is without a doubt one of the most physically beautifully places on Earth. My father always says that no where compares to Greece – you may be able to find dreamy white-sand beaches and glorious mountains elsewhere but nowhere will feel as real or as natural and have so much historical depth.
10. Apart from the world of the gods, the Christian Orthodox religion played a significant role in shaping Greece’s culture. Do you believe that religion still plays an important role in Greek life?
I can’t necessarily speak for Greeks who live in Greece as I live in the UK, but in my experience of politics seems to have overridden religion in the modern generation, especially in London. My grandparents’ generation are still firmly religious as are my husband’s parents – which has caused major problems in our fast-moving times. I for one don’t agree with a lot of the old rules of the Greek Orthodox Church and much of my generation are now getting married outside the church (but often still with a Greek blessing) because of some of the archaic traditions. However I have many Greek friends in Australia who still firmly abide by their religion so perhaps this is just a reflection of the UK.
11. Greece’s history has been a turbulent one and it is often said that “a man is his ancestry”. To what extent do you think this history has shaped the Greeks?
Greek people are very passionate about their history and unlike much of the younger British generation, young Greeks are all familiar with their ancestral past and how they overcame occupation after occupation and still stand strong today. Despite all the political strife, the Greeks are an extremely united nation and this has definitely been shaped by their past resilience.
12. What would you say are the elements of the Greek spirit?
Endless food and dance and plenty of plate-smashing!
13. Which part of the research process do you like the most?
For my first book much of my research consisted of sitting down with family members and asking them about their childhood and upbringing, which was highly enjoyable. The process for my second book largely involved me reading different variations of ancient Greek myths, which often distracted me from getting on with my own story!
14. What are you working on now?
I am currently working on a series of children’s’ books again focusing on the ancient Greek myths and legends. Since having my son last year I have found a whole new appreciation for pictures books!
15. What are your typical working conditions? Do you have a special place to write and can you describe it for us?
As I work full time, I don’t actually have a dedicated office for writing – it’s usually just at my desk in my room which doubles as a dressing table. One day I plan to have my own study which will also double as the library room with one of those big old-fashioned desks. For now, I write wherever, whenever I can. This was one of my more memorable working places in Cyprus.
And a few quick questions:
16. What are your favourite books set in Greece by Greek or foreign authors?
I have had the great pleasure of getting to know many of my favourite authors who write about Greece. I was a huge fan of Eve Makis‘ work even before I met her and I am very excited that one of her novels ‘Land of the Golden Apple’ is now being made into a film. Sofka Zinovieff is another highly talented writer and I found her debut novel ‘The House on Paradise Street’ deeply moving. I also enjoyed all of Victoria Hislop’s books in particular ‘The Island’ which left me wanting to visit Spinalonga, which I did last year!
17. Favourite type of Greek music?
Greek music has been a huge part of my life since I was in the womb (!). My father is very into his bouzouki music but I prefer more contemporary artists such as Anna Vissi, Elli Kokkinou and Thanos Petrelis. Demis Roussos was a favourite in our household – he will be greatly missed.
18. Favourite Greek film?
MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING!
19. Favourite Greek monument, sculpture or painting?
The Acropolis of course!
20. Favourite Greek food?
Pork gyro. Nothing beats it.
21. Favourite Greek drink?
As a child I used to beg for ‘βανίλια υποβρύχιο’, which literally translates as ‘vanilla submarine’ – the treat is basically just a vanilla fondant served as a spoon sweet in a glass of water. You dip your spoon in the fondant, scoop a little, dunk it in a glass of cold water and lick.
22. Favourite holiday destination?
My husband is Greek-Cypriot and we holiday more in Cyprus now than in Greece, but Greece will always be in my heart.
Where can we buy the book?
Ekaterina’s Blog and Author Website
The Greek Wives Club
Thank you for being a guest on A Literary World: Greece, Ekatarina. It was a pleasure to have you with us and we wish you continued success.
“Creativity takes courage”
For earlier interviews please visit to my webpage www.kathryngauci.com
Blog page https://www.kathryngauci.com/blog/