This week, I’m introducing, Effrosyni Mouschoudi. Welcome, Fros, how you doing today?
EM: Really well, thanks. It’s great to see you at last.
KJD: Thanks. Settle down, have a drink and tell me about Greece. I’ve never been but have always wanted to visit. Tell me, what’s the best thing about the place?
EM: Easy. I live in a serene, seaside town an hour’s travelling distance from Athens. I get the best of both worlds, and I’ve been reaping the benefits since 2005 when I moved here. However, I find that the longer I spend in this place the more I seek the serenity of my surroundings, preferring it to the mad bustle of the city. Especially in the summertime, my favourite season, I can’t stop counting my blessings for the fact that it takes me a mere 5-minute drive to be in the water without the horrid commute to the beach and back that the city folk have to suffer.
The beauty of living in Greece is the sea, the weather, the food, and the open-heartedness of its people. (Sounds fantastic – Ed.) They are the things that make living here a paradise. Of course, in the recent years of the crisis, and while the Greeks continue to suffer much humiliation and austerity, the things I just mentioned have become our only consolation.
KJD: Ah yes, the dreaded recession and austerity. We’ve had serious problems in France and the UK, but it’s nothing like the severity you’ve suffered in Greece. I know this is probably a little political, but I keen to know how the current financial meltdown in Greece has affected you personally and as a writer.
EM: I don’t mind this question at all. I lost my job at Athens airport back in early 2010 after a 20-year professional career. This hit me quite hard. We have been living solely on my husband’s salary ever since. Naturally, we had to cut back on all the extras so as to pay the bills, but it’s not too bad. I am used to it by now and dream to be able to return to a more self-indulgent lifestyle again someday.
Travelling is what I miss the most. Other than that, there is heavy taxation which feels hugely unfair but we count ourselves lucky. We have our own house and my husband’s job is secure. Other Greeks are not so lucky. So many have lost their jobs, their homes, many have been living without electricity for years, children are fainting in school, young minds have moved abroad to find a decent job, and thousands have committed suicide out of despair.
Living in crisis-stricken Greece for the past 6 years and witnessing all of this has been getting increasingly difficult. At the same time, the world has been portraying the Greeks as audacious and demanding, lazy, corrupt, and cunning, rather than seeing us for what we are: a nation striving for survival and for the redemption of its lost sense of pride. It’s humiliating to watch the news and that’s why every single Greek is even angrier than they are upset these days.
This is how the crisis has affected me personally. As for how it has affected my writing, it is the crisis that’s made me an author. Staying home with nothing to do all day was depressing at first, but once I snapped out of it, giving vent to my creativity became the only option.
KJD: Excellent news, art from adversity, salvation in the written word. I admire your tenacity.
And about your writing, I’m guessing your natural language is Greek, so how difficult is it to write in a foreign language. Can you explain you process?
EM: I don’t have a process. I don’t do something complex like write it in Greek and then translate it. I write my books the way any given native speaker of English writes theirs. I started studying English from the age of 10, then at 16, I received a Certificate of English from Cambridge University. In the years in between, I studied English grammar and syntax meticulously in every lesson. I know many native English speakers who can’t spell or jot down a single paragraph with grammatical correctness.
KJD: As do I!
EM: Quite. As a result, I don’t believe it matters what your native language is, just what type of education you have received and how much you loved what you’ve been fed as a child in school.
KJD: Bravo, girl. I wish I had the ability to write in French. Many locals have asked for translation of my books, but the cost is prohibitive and I wouldn’t know whether the translation is any good anyway.
Where do you sell most of your books? I mean, how buoyant is the market in Greece for English-language novels?
EM: Because of the crisis, the market is quite dead here, even for books written in Greek. We are not a book-reading nation as it is. If you sit in a train or a waiting room reading a book here, people will stare at you as if you had antennae sticking out of your head. (Tee hee – Ed.) This is why I don’t bother marketing my books at all here. It’s a lost cause, especially during the crisis. Instead, I concentrate fully on the American Amazon store.
KJD: Good for you and I know you’ve had some real success too. So, on to nicer subjects, what can you see out of your office window (the office where you write)?
EM: My study is a tiny, windowless room that only has a small glass-brick window to allow some natural light to stream through. It’s perfect for me as I don’t like distractions when I write. Any view, even the most stunning one, would stop me from concentrating. This is why I can’t write outdoors either.
KJD: Me neither. I tried taking the laptop outside once and fell asleep in the sun.
Describe a typical day in the life of Effrosyni Moschoudi.
EM: I get up at 7:00, have a break around 12, have lunch, and work till 18:30 when my husband returns. It’s all very mundane really. On most days it doesn’t feel like I’ve accomplished anything big, but I am one of those people who have no problem with moving a mountain one shovelful of dirt at a time so I don’t let pending work overwhelm me. I take things easy, and on the weekends I love to relax with a walk or a swim (in the summer) and lots of movies, which has to be my favourite thing of all.
KJD: Sounds perfect, but I’m a driven sort of guy, have to complete the tasks I’ve set, or I’ll lose sleep.
What genres do you read and do they differ from the ones you write? If so, why?
EM: I enjoy historical fiction and thrillers/mysteries most of all, as well as some chick-lit. I have written historical fiction and intend to try my hand at the other genres I just mentioned, too. I guess it’s because I prefer to write the kind of books I’d love to read myself.
KJD: That’s a good place to start. I’m writing an action book at the moment and having a ball. There are no rules other than those governing the laws of physics. Writing it is therapeutic.
Do you belong to any writer organisations/groups that help you in your endeavours?
EM: I am a member of eNovel Authors at Work. This writer’s group has opened my eyes to the possibilities of networking and promotion. I am very grateful to be a part of this wonderful community of authors. I am also a member of the Fantasy/SciFi network, and have made a couple of good friends there and enjoy supporting them like they do for me as well.
KJD: What’s the first thing you do when starting a new novel? Do you research and write a detailed plot outline?
EM: Basically, I create a chapter summary to work with as I go, even if it’s for only a couple of chapters ahead at a time. In general, at the start, I always have the beginning and a slight idea about the end of the book, and very few things about what happen in between. The chapter summary allows me to develop the plot piece by piece over time. Mostly, it helps me to know in advance what the next chapter is EXACTLY about. This ensures that I don’t sit in front of a blank screen, clueless, when it’s time to write. This little change in my writing routine means I never experience writer’s block any more.
KJD: What excites you about writing and the writing process?
EM: I feel the excitement of my characters in my heart and they pass it on to me. That’s the best way I can describe it. If someone’s in love, I feel in love to. If they are in pain for a loss, I cry with them. If they are mad with rage, I feel it and it overwhelms me. This is what thrills me while I write.
KJD: Excellent. You are a nutcase, like every author I’ve ever met. 🙂
Please tell me a little about your latest work.
EM: The second book in the Lady of the Pier trilogy (The Flow) is the next instalment in the stories of Laura and Sofia – two girls from two different worlds who have a mysterious connection. Sofia is a lot like me, and book 1 (The Ebb) is biographical in a way. I always enjoyed my long summers spent on Corfu with my grandparents as a young girl. I wanted to write a book where I can share my fond memories from that period in my life. Recently I finished writing the first draft of The Storm, the last book in the trilogy, and it feels like a personal accomplishment, because I wanted for so long to tell this story. It is very close to my heart. The Flow was released on June 16, and I plan to publish The Storm this December.
KJD: Fantastic. Congratulations and the very best of luck with sales. I’ll be keeping my eye on the best-seller charts for you.
Back to the personal stuff. If there were a single thing you’d like to change about yourself, what would it be?
EM: I wish I were more outgoing. As a teenager, I was overprotected. My parents didn’t allow me to go out without their supervision. I could only leave the house for my school activities or to visit other friends in their houses. This, combined with my natural inclination to enjoy my solidarity, resulted in me becoming a bit of a loner as an adult. Even now, that I have the freedom to go out whenever I like, I find I often prefer not to.
KJD: I find that almost sad, but very sweet too.
Finally, Do you have any quirks or weaknesses that may interest your readers?
EM: Quirks? Sure! Other than liking things neat like I said earlier, I also delay gratification in ways that are probably not too normal. For example, even when I am ill, I’ll refuse to go to bed unless I’ve done the dishes first. If I am back from a trip, even if it’s late at night, I won’t rest or sleep until I’ve unpacked first. The weirdest thing is that I’ve married a man who has the exact same quirks as me! For one, it means we don’t fight over these things (*laughs*).
As for weaknesses, or rather soft spots, I have two: the first is hazelnuts. After battling in vain for a long time to stop myself from eating so many when they’re put in front of me, I had to stop stocking them in the end. Otherwise I’d have to build new, wider doors in the house! My other, major soft spot is the actor Robert Pattinson. He makes my heart sing. He is all heart, all soul, all vulnerability, human all through and I adore him. (Yuck – Ed.) Plastic, rock-hard, sure-of-themselves, perfect men put me off. Robert inspires me when I write and I devour his movies, watching them over and over. Recently, two fansites of Rob re-blogged one of my interviews where I expressed my admiration for him. This resulted in a few book sales and lots of messages from fans of Rob on Twitter. It was a rare treat to connect with them!
KJD: I take it back then. Mr. Pattinson is a hunk of the highest order. 🙂
Blimey, now that’s going too far. Okay, so that’s it Fros, except to say that I loved chatting with you today, thanks for stopping by and best of luck with The Flow.
EM: You are very welcome, Kerry. I’ve had fun. Thank you for having me.