A LITERARY WORLD: GREECE. An Interview with Author Julie Ryan

Posted in on 18 June, 2016 in News

Author Interview with Julie Ryan
Julie 3
My guest today is the delightful Julie Ryan, an author whose roots are from a small mining village in South Yorkshire. After a degree in French Language and Literature, wanderlust kicked in and she lived and worked in France, Poland, Thailand and Greece. Her spirit enriched, her imagination fired, Julie started a series of mystery romances, thrillers set in the Greek Isles. Welcome to A Literary World: Greece, Julie. Its a pleasure to have you here.

Cat1. Where do you live?

After leaving University I worked my way around the world living in France, Greece, Thailand and Poland before finally settling in rural Gloucestershire. I share my home with a husband, young son and two cats – a stray who adopted us and a cat with half a tail. Oh, and hundreds of books – much to my husband’s dismay. We don’t share the same passion for reading as he’s dyslexic and he doesn’t understand why I need to keep all my books after I’ve read them. The thought of throwing books away is tantamount to sacrilege in my opinion! Soon though we will need a bigger house as they are taking over.

2. Can you tell us what your novels are about and what inspired you to write them?

I write the kind of books that I love reading and so therefore I hope others will do. They are a crossover between romance, mystery, suspense and crime set in Greece. I love to add a bit of history or some nugget of information that I’ve picked up too.

3. Where in Greece are your novels set?

People often ask me that! Over the years I’ve visited so many beautiful Greek islands that I couldn’t decide where to set the book. In the end I decided to use a combination of various islands. I didn’t give it a name though as one of my pet hates is reading a novel and then trying to find the island where it’s set on a map, only to discover it doesn’t exist. At least I hope my readers won’t be disappointed that the island is a figment of my imagination.

Jenna's Journey 2

 4. Why did you choose to set your novels in this particular place?

My first book ‘Jenna’s Journey’ is set in 1987 and I have a lot of photos and memories from around that time. I couldn’t get back to Greece to do more up-to-date research and the places I remember may well have changed so, rather than make a lot of mistakes, I decided the setting would be fictional but based on the time I lived in Greece. There is something magical about the country and I hope I’ve managed to capture that in my writing.

 5. What is it about Greece that inspires you?

I wish I knew but there is something that keeps drawing me back. At school I enjoyed the Greek myths and then years later when I caught my first glimpse of a Greek island it took my breath away. Add to that the fantastic climate, glorious scenery, hospitable people and magical light and how could you not be inspired? I’m not conventionally religious but going to Greece is quite a spiritual experience and I always seem to find a kind of solace there.

Sophia's SecretPandora's Prohecy6. How did you come up with the titles and the design of the covers?

I had various titles in mind for my first book and almost until the end the heroine was going to be called Jenny. Over the weeks this changed to Jemma and finally Jenna. I love the idea of alliteration and as it’s about her discovering herself then ‘Jenna’s Journey’ was born. I decided to continue the alliterative theme for the other books. In ‘Sophia’s Secret’ the characters decided to switch roles as Sophia was originally the granddaughter and morphed into the grandmother. Fortunately ‘Pandora’s Prophecy’ was easier to name as I knew I wanted there to be a slight link to the myth of Pandora’s Box.

As for the covers, I wanted the traditional blue and white of Greece so I sourced the photo from Shutterstock and Jennifer Givner at Acapella Bookcover Design turned it into the beautiful cover. When I first saw it in print I couldn’t stop hugging it.


7. How long did it take you to write your book?

I joke that although the book took 18 months to write, it probably had a gestation period of over twenty years as my brain mulled over all the sights and sounds of my many visits to Greece. It took that long before deciding the book baby was ready to be born.

8. It’s often said that when an author writes, he puts something of himself in his book. Is this true with you?

I think most writers draw on their own experiences to some extent, especially when writing their first book. Although the characters are fictional, I think there is a lot of me in Jenna. Of course, she’s a younger, slimmer version of me – that’s what’s wonderful about imagination.

9. Of all your characters, do you have a favourite?

I think when I was writing ‘Pandora’s Prophecy’ I fell just ever so slightly in love with Dimitri. He’s a writer with sultry Greek looks – think Aidan Turner in Poldark – and a bit of a dreamer. He’s gentle yet strong at the same time so he has to be my favourite book hero. He’s rich and successful but prefers to live in a cottage by the sea and did I forget to mention he has a fabulous dog?

10. The Greeks believed that ‘inspiration’ came from the muses, as well as the gods Apollo and Dionysus. Where do you believe inspiration comes from?

Inspiration often comes when we’re not looking but for that to happen, you need to have an open mind. I find inspiration from a snippet of conversation overheard on the bus, a radio interview, a photograph or song lyrics but most of all from reading. Quite often something I’ve read will inspire me to go off at a tangent and I love it when that happens.

11. 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 only comment as an observer but I would say that in my experience Greeks are generally traditional people, their lives shaped by the land and the Church. This may be less noticable today in the big cities yet whenever there is a religious festival, there is a big influx onto the islands as people make their way back to their hometown to partake in the celebrations. I don’t think you can separate religion from daily life. Many of the superstitions are linked to religion for example, warding off evil with the mati, spitting three times when you see a new baby to prevent jealousy – I think the line between religion and culture is impossible to separate and it’s what defines the Greeks and links them back to their ancestors.

12. What part of the research process did you enjoy the most?

If only my research could have involved several trips back to Greece, then that would definitely have been the highlight. As it is, I enjoyed looking through old photographs, maps and diaries and it was a lovely way to reminisce about a special time in my life. I also did a lot of online research into customs and learned quite a few new phrases along the way.

13. What are you working on now?

I’m planning a fourth book in the Greek Island mystery series as Dimitri in ‘Pandora’s Prophecy’ won’t leave me alone! I’m also working on something totally different, which was inspired oddly enough by losing my Dad. It’s very different from anything I’ve done before but is still in the early stages.

14. What are your typical working conditions? Do you have a special place to write and can you describe it for us?

About two years ago my lovely husband bought me a fabulous desk for when we finish renovating the building site. Currently it’s still in its packaging so my dreams of my very own study are still on hold. At the moment I write at the dining room table. You can just imagine the piles of papers, photos, notebooks, computer amid the salt and pepper pots! No, you can’t have a photo. You’ll have to wait until my desk is ready.

And a few quick questions:

15. Who are your favourite Greek authors  or foreign authors who have set their novels in Greece?

The first book set in Greece that I read years ago was ‘The Magus’ by John Fowles. It is truly inspirational and has had a huge impact on my writing. More recently I’m a huge fan of Victoria Hislop, Sara Alexi and Anne Zouroudi, who you interviewed quite recently. I love a good story and if the writer can recreate some of the magic of Greece then I’m a happy bunny.

16. Favourite Greek film?

It may be a bit corny but I adore the film ‘Shirley Valentine’. When it first came out at the cinema I went to see it five times. That had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that one of my Italian students at the language school where I worked kept giving me free tickets. I bought the video when it came out and somewhere I have the DVD. I also went to see the stage play and that was just as brilliant.

17. Favourite Greek food?

The Greeks cook meat really well and I love souvlaki (pork on skewers) and keftedes ( meat balls). My absolute favourite is kleftiko, cooked in a clay oven with a few potatoes the meat is to die for as it’s so tender. Just thinking about it takes me back and the aroma is so delicious I can still smell it.

lamb kleftiko

Lamb kleftiko

18. Favourite Greek drink?

I’m happy with a beer or a frappe – make mine ‘metrio me gala’ please – milk and sugar.

19. Favourite place in Greece to escape to?

I really don’t like beaches with hoards of tourists so for me having the beach to myself on Anti-Paros is my little piece of heaven. I haven’t been back for so long though I just hope it’s kept it’s undiscovered status.

Where can we buy the book?

Thank you for joining us today, Julie. It’s been a pleasure to have you with us and we wish you continued success.

For earlier interviews, please visit my blog at www.kathryngauci.com

The Embroiderer

The Embroiderer1822: During one of the bloodiest massacres of The Greek War of Independence, a child is born to a woman of legendary beauty in the Byzantine monastery of Nea Moni on the Greek island of Chios. The subsequent decades of bitter struggle between Greeks and Turks simmer to a head when the Greek army invades Turkey in 1919. During this time, Dimitra Lamartine arrives in Smyrna and gains fame and fortune as an embroiderer to the elite of Ottoman society. However it is her grand-daughter Sophia, who takes the business to great heights only to see their world come crashing down with the outbreak of The Balkan Wars, 1912-13. In 1922, Sophia begins a new life in Athens but the memory of a dire prophecy once told to her grandmother about a girl with flaming red hair begins to haunt her with devastating consequences.

1972: Eleni Stephenson is called to the bedside of her dying aunt in Athens. In a story that rips her world apart, Eleni discovers the chilling truth behind her family’s dark past plunging her into the shadowy world of political intrigue, secret societies and espionage where families and friends are torn apart and where a belief in superstition simmers just below the surface.

Set against the mosques and minarets of Asia Minor and the ruins of ancient Athens, The Embroiderer is a gripping saga of love and loss, hope and despair, and of the extraordinary courage of women in the face of adversity.