What has inspired your writing?
My writing has been inspired by the study of ancient history and travelling through Italy and Greece. Seeing the ancient sites has always been a dream of mine. It was magical and the creative juices started bubbling. Then I read Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey which sparked a thirst to learn and read more about ancient civilisations.
Tell us about your writing process
An idea sometimes comes out of something I’ve read or seen and write it down in my ‘ideas notepad’ before I forget.
After a few days, I’ll go back and brainstorm, see if I have enough detail to put a story together. Once that’s done, I develop it into scenes. I try not to be too prescriptive; I feel it doesn’t allow me to go with the flow of the story and characters. Then the research begins.
What are your books about?
My books are Historical Fiction/Fantasy based on Greek Mythology, although I do have ideas for stories not premised on Ancient Greece.
How important is the choosing of character names to you? Have you ever decided on a name and then changed it because it wasn’t right for the character?
Choosing characters names is perhaps like selecting a name for your child, you got to live with it as they do. Names give a character a persona and like us all we grow into it and establish who we are.
I went to a writers’ workshop where the names of the characters I had given were critiqued. They found the names confusing as they were too famous and would confuse readers. I don’t personally believe that as readers are discerning and smart but as the workshop was led a famous fantasy author, I changed the names. It was hard as I got know the characters very well, lived and breathed their world. The new names work well and now the story has changed, it fits even better.
Can you tell us about your road to publication?
I did try the traditional route for a few years though the submissions were ad hoc until a few years back where I decided to be more persistent. That led nowhere and friends suggested self-publishing and eBooks. I wasn’t entirely convinced this was the best path for me, I mentioned earlier about the stigma attached to indie authors, and did resist the idea. Thought I dip my toes with short stories and well, I haven’t looked back since. I am so happy with my decision to follow the indie path and join the other great indie writers on this amazing journey into publishing and literature.
When you write about famous characters, such as Helen of Troy, you are of course somewhat restricted by historical and literary precedent. There is an established story in place for such a character. How do you therefore walk the line of staying true to the classical literature and yet, simultaneously, inject a fresh, new, and perhaps unexpected or even controversial point of view?
Reading various sources and watching documentaries, helped create a profile of Helen and of the other characters in the short stories series. I wanted to tell their version of events but still keep some of the characteristics of their personalities as well as keeping true to the myth or story. The most challenging aspect about the stories I have written is how well known they are and how readers will react to my translation of them. I do hope I have, to use your words ‘injected a fresh’ perspective of mythology with my stories.
The stories you write clearly entail a lot of research and study into the subject matter. Do you enjoy that part of the process? Or is it something you like to get done and out of the way?
I love the research and learning new intriguing information, it’s what drives me to write the stories. I read Euripides’ play on Phaedra and followed it up with research. There is not a lot of information about her but there is plenty on her father King Minos, her sister Ariadne, Theseus and of course the Minotaur. She was a little known character amidst these huge players and yet she had a story to tell. Most of the nonfiction books I read tend to generate ideas for me and then I go and explore.
What are the unique challenges for a writer in blending history, mythology and fiction? How do you balance fact and fiction in your stories; and what type of research do you conduct to aid the development of your characters and the worlds they inhabit? Are there any particular works or references you would say have aided or inspired your own writings?
The hardest part is putting it all together and making it sound plausible. It’s like testing a new recipe you’re not sure how it’s going to turn out. I have files of information about places, people, what buildings looked like and people’s names which I refer to constantly. Depending on the scene I am writing, I always have a number of websites open and non-fiction books on hand. You can’t see the top of my desk some days. The places and culture are based on fact, with a little creative license and the story is purely fictional. My characters are taken from various myths but with my trilogy they are new characters with traits taken from legendary heroes like Akhilles, Hektor, Theseus, Herakles and others. I do refer to Homer’s Iliad, just to get the tone of the gods, and to Pausanias’ Guide to Greece books. I’m always reading and checking sources. I find morsels of information all the time and store it away. I find a use for it later on. If I can’t use in my current works in progress, then it will be considered for my next writing piece. I have a pad where I keep my ideas for stories. I think I need another life-time to write all the stories I have in my head.
What can we learn from our ancient past, and from the myths? How can studying the past be relevant to our present?
From the past we can learn ways to improve our present and our future. Unfortunately, it is our human nature to keep repeating the deeds of the past. People kept records and told stories for a reason, to teach. Though I have to say the people from the ancient world were smarter. They developed, invented, built and created incredible works without the aid of computerisation and with precision that still baffles experts today. Myths teach us about who we are, our truths, experiences in life and how to overcome the many challenges. They have morals and ethics; take the story of Herakles and what he had to do to atone for killing his family. How are they not relevant?