Thursday, 18 July 2013

An Interview with the Author Anne Zouroudi

Anne Zouroudi was born in Lincolnshire, in the east of England, and grew up in the steel town of Sheffield. For some years, she pursued a successful career in IT, which included several years in the US, working on New York's Wall Street, and in Denver, Colorado. But with no real affection for corporate life, in the early 1990's she opted out of the commercial world to marry a Greek fisherman. She moved to a small island in southern Greece, and began to learn the language and the ways of that country.

Greece's people, culture and myths inspire much of Anne's fictional work, and she’s the creator of Hermes Diaktoros, an unconventional investigator whose origins are as much of a puzzle as the mysteries he solves. Her series of Greek Detective novels are based on the Seven Deadly Sins, and, though listed as crime novels and with crime at their heart, might more accurately be categorised as Morality Tales.

Anne's work has received wide critical acclaim, and has been nominated for two national prizes. In 2012, she won the East Midlands Book Award for The Whispers of Nemesis. She currently lives in Derbyshire's Peak District.

A very warm welcome to you Anne and can I thank you, for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us today.
My pleasure.

For the benefit of our International readers can you tell us a bit about the part of the world that you are currently resident in and why do you like living there?
I live in the heart of England, in Derbyshire’s Peak District. It’s a national park, and the village I live in is a conservation area, all quaint cottages and winding lanes with a traditional pub. It’s a ten-minute walk to an ancient stone circle, so the place is steeped in history. I love it because it’s beautiful, and it’s peaceful, with miles of open countryside where I can walk my dog.

Can I ask what sort of books did you like reading as a child?
The first books I fell in love with were Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series. Like everyone else, I wanted those children’s idyllic lives – holidays in Cornish villages, lashings of ginger beer and smugglers round every corner. They were the original, Scooby-Doo-type meddling kids, so maybe I was displaying an early interest in the mystery genre. But I moved on to fantasy, and the wonderful, magical books of Alan Garner – Elidor and The Moon of Gomrath.

Do you think the books that you read as a child have influenced your writing in any way?
Hah! Looking at my response to the question above, I would have to say a resounding ‘yes’, since my Hermes books are essentially a marriage of two genres, mystery/crime and myth/fantasy.

Do you have a set routine when you are working on a novel?
I would so like to claim to be an organised, sit-down-at-nine-on-the-dot kind of a writer, but I’m not. I usually start work very early – as early as 5am. But sometimes I’ll wake at 2am bursting with words, write for three or four hours and then sleep late. So the hours of my writing day are not cast in stone, but I do write every day, otherwise I can’t live with the feelings of guilt.

Where do you do your writing best?
In my office. I need complete quiet to work – no music, just silence. I find it hard to believe anyone can write decent prose in places like cafes and bars – there are far too many distractions.

What made you decide to actually write fiction novels?
I am by nature a story-teller. I think it’s that simple. I have lots of stories inside me, and it feels natural to write them down. It’s no mean feat to expand a story into a novel, of course – it takes huge stamina. But a story’s as long as it needs to be, so I just keep going until it’s finished. Sometimes it’s three pages, and sometimes it’s three hundred. That makes it sound so easy. If only...

When you are writing a novel, what inspires you in relation to the type of stories that you write?

I draw inspiration from many things. I wrote a short story recently after seeing a man dragging a suitcase through city streets, and wondering where he was going. One of my favourite places for plot inspiration is those snippets of news you see in newspapers, the ‘In Brief’ section, where there’s sometimes just a line or two about something intriguing, but enough to spark a good idea. It’s intrigue that drives my writing.

How do you go about imagining, developing and give real lives and personalities to the characters that we read about within in your books?

Mostly my characters do the work for me. If I’m lucky, when I need a character, they step fully formed into my imagination. I have very clear images of all my characters in my head, but I try not to over-describe them, simply because however many words I use, I’m never going to be able to put the same picture into a reader’s mind. It’s much better if the reader creates their own picture from a few details. As for bringing the characters alive, I spend a lot of time watching everyday people, observing how they act and talk, then transfer that to my characters as I write.

Did you encounter any difficulties in getting you books accepted and published?
The Messenger of Athens was my first published book, but I wrote three novels before that, and they never found publishers. I had my fair share of rejection slips, well over a hundred. I have some of the more awful ones tucked away in a drawer, to remind me of how far I’ve come.

Do you have to undertake any research for your novels?

Research is one of the best parts of writing the Greek Detective novels. Mostly it involves finding a suitable cafe on a suitable small Greek island, ordering coffee and watching the world go by. Bliss.

What is your favourite book and why?
I love Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. It’s a book I wish I’d written, an idea I wish I’d had. Its scope is huge and ambitious, and the structure is ground-breakingly daring. It makes me feel very staid in my prose, because I write in straight lines, starting at the beginning and working through to the end. 

Are you currently reading a book at the moment and if so what is it?
I’m reading American Gods by Neil Gaiman. I’ve only recently discovered his books (I’m very late to the party, I know), which is surprising, because he and I plainly share quite similar views of the world. He’s a great storyteller in the old tradition, which is what I aspire to be.

Do you have any other hobbies or interests that you enjoy in order to give you a break from your normal routine and your writing?

I walk a lot. I have a large black dog, a lurcher (a greyhound/border collie cross), and he demands a lot of exercise. So when I need a break, I put on my boots, and he and I go out and see what we can see.

Can you give us a hint about any other books that you may have in the making at the moment?

I’m working on a new novel. As to what it’s about, I prefer to remain mysterious... 

Anne, I have been absolutely delighted and very honoured that you agreed to be interviewed for my literary site. I would also like to thank-you again for taking the time to speak to us today.

Thank you for asking me. 

Just Released:-

Book Synopsis
The olive harvest is drawing to a close in the town of Dendra, and when Hermes Diaktoros arrives for the celebratory festival he expects an indulgent day of food and wine. But as young men leap a blazing bonfire in feats of daring, one of them is badly burned. Did he fall, or was he pushed? Then, as Hermes learns of a deep-running feud between two families, one of their patriarchs dies. Determined to find out why, Hermes follows a bitter trail through the olive groves to reveal a motive for murder, and uncovers a dark deed brought to light by the sin of gluttony.

If you would like to find out more about Anne and her writing, the link to her website is given below:

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