Can you tell us what prompted you to first start writing? What was the first thing you wrote?
I began writing in 2012. The first thing I wrote was the novel ‘The Illegal Gardener’. I
had not written anything before at all. I was an undiagnosed dyslexic as school and English lesson made no sense to me so from an early age I avoid the written word.
But in 2013 the crisis hit Greece, the riots were televised across Europe and my holiday
homes rental business came to a standstill overnight. With little money and no back up in Greece I look out of my bedroom window feeling nothing but pity for myself at my imminent return to the safety of the UK, until I saw, crouching on his haunches the Pakistani
immigrant I had employed that day to rid my drive of weeds. My self-pity dried up in an instant. What sort of uncertain world did he live in? I went out to talk to him. He was a proud man and seemed to resent his position being employed by me to scrabble about
pulling weeds from my drive but he also clearly needed the work, his clothes were ragged, his soles coming away from his shoes. He resentfully ingratiated himself to me and I felt myself recoiled at being treated as the ‘rich’ western woman. I
spoke on the phone later that day to my friend back in the England about the awkwardness of that conversation, but after replacing the phone it occurred to me that even that conversation was a luxury, where did the illegal Pakistani draw his comfort from.
It was in that moment that I wanted to give him a voice and with the month I had written and published ‘Th Illegal Gardener’ and it soared into the top ten list on Amazon literary fiction section. My finical crisis was averted. The illegal gardener,
on the other hand, I heard had long since stolen away to Italy where he was apparently arrested for being illegal and was jailed for two years. The grapevine has since lost track of him.
Can you summarise your latest work in just
a few words?
The last book I published, number 7 in The Greek Village Collection, is called In The Shadow of The Monkey Puzzle Tree. This book also explores the unfairness of our birthright as we follow the path of a Greek middle
age man, who lives in the same village in which The Illegal Gardener’ was set. This book steps back in time for the core of the story to the 1970’s coming up to date at the end. It follows Mop haired Theo who wants to escape his village destiny.
All day he brews Greek coffee all day under his father’s watchful, and critical eye in their kafenio but Theo knows there must be more to life than this. Unable to grow up in the shadow of his father Theo is, never the less, a modern man, his flared
trousers and open neck shirts prove this and the world is exploding with liberal ideas and independent young people and he desperately wants to be one of them. His life is fast passing him by. After an altercation with his father Theo spontaneously takes the
bus to the big city of Athens where he expects life to be exciting and more satisfying, if challenging. But the excitement quickly becomes despair as he finds his village ways and lack of education outcasts him and he feels as displaced as the illegal Albanians
and the roaming Gypsies. He sinks into a grim world of immoral characters and dodgy dealings. He has to make a choice. Does he loose his moral convictions to become the successful city dweller he had aimed to prove to himself, and his father, that he
could be or does he step of the world that asking too much of him and return home with his tail between his legs.
What was the inspiration for this book?
The first time I moved to Greece I took jobs
in bars and was a witness to the world I described. Many of the incidents are true, as are some of the characters. The character of ‘Theo’ you can see all over Greece. The Greeks love their children and many a man does not leave home until he is
in his forties when he thinks that maybe he is finally ready for marriage. Before they leave home there is often this fight for independence that in the west is more common in teenage years.
Did you do any research for the book?
The research of all my books is the life I have lead. The majority of the incidents in the books I have lived or witness. I think I have
a poor imagination so I write what I have experience, incorporating the people I have meet alone the way.
What does a typical writing day involve for you?
I wake early
but I do not jump out of bed I lay thinking about the character I am writing about and let the place between sleep and wakefulness make him or her become real and I let my subconscious unveil the way the plot will take itself. I then get up and write, usually
between 2,500 and 3,500 words a day. But I am strict and fulfil whatever I have assigned myself.
After writing I deal with emails. I get hundreds a day from people who enjoy The Greek Village as much as me. Some are just comments on my designated Facebook
page (INSERT) other are personal messages saying how much they have enjoy the series or a particular book. Many say the second book in the collection, ‘Black Butterflies’, is the favourite but, interestingly, often people say that it is not until
they have read the third book in the collection, ‘The Explosive Nature of Friendship’ that they realised they are hooked and consider themselves Greek Village fans!
The final part of my day is spent on marketing. There is no set way to do
this and very little feedback to know if what you are doing is making any difference. It is time consuming and feels futile. So this usually ends up with me chatting to readers on Facebook. These friends inspire me to keep writing.
do you decide on the names for your characters?
I try and keep the names simple and easy to remember. Because I am dyslexic complicated names will stop me reading a book no matter how good it is as they jumble in my head, especially
if there are too many vowels in the name. I go for Greek names that are short and common. I do the same with English names but in either nationality I often choose names of people I know who have similar characteristics to the character in the books.
Which writers have influenced your own writing?
I love the classics. Hardy, Antony Trollop, John Fowles. Writers interested in characters and social interaction. Before I moved to Greece I had a Psychotherapist practice.
People fascinates me and anyone who writes about people and how they process and function is a riveting read for me.
What are you working on next? Do you have a WIP?
I always have
a WIP. I have at least three books in my head desperate to be written. The WIP at the moment is about a man who has lived the thirty-three years of his life high in the hills of a Greek Island. His circumstance have made him a socially shy man but he is deeply
content, content all except for pre-adolescent friendship with a girl who leaves the island before their relationship is clearly defined. After contently grazing his goats each early morning he wonders into town where he hires out his donkeys to carry produce,
building material and people inland as the island has no cars or any other automated vehicles. (This is a real island and Greece and definitely worth a visit) The sudden and unexpected death of one of his donkeys forces him to the mainland and to The Greek
Village to buy a new donkey. The village is a world away from his goats on the hill tops. He tries to maintain his inner peace and the peace of those around him only to find himself in the very centre of farcical, and possibly dangerous disagreement between
his cousin and his cousin’s adversary where there is no room for peace. He is surprised to find who he becomes.
What has been the best part of the writing process…and the worst?
The best part of the writing process is when I am writing a very emotional scene and I am so wrap up in the action that I have tears running down my face. This is eclipsed when I write the final chapter and all the characters upsets find a kind of resolution
and I feel relief for the protagonist.
The worst part of writing is when I have a character and half a plot and the ending but ‘third-quarter’ section won’t come. Very often I just need to write and it the character shows me what happens
but it is a frustrating phase of the planning.
Tell us about your travels.
I love traveling. Until I met Alex, my partner I was a wanderer. I have not travel nearly wide enough yet
so when my daughter finishes school I will pack my bags again. I have roamed over Europe but Greece will always be a home to me as will England. I have travel over Israel, Jordan, Sinai, Egypt, Morocco and India. I would like to return one day to Nepal
as I have a book in my head about a Gurkhas wife. But South America calls next I think
Tell us about your childhood.
Childhood was confusing. The dyslexia made school an unintelligible place and at
home children ‘did as they were told’ and it took me a long time to realise I could make considered rather than rebellious choices about my life. There was also an unspoken rule of ‘not showing emotion in front to the children’
which lay the foundation for my enquiry into understanding people, which I missed out on through natural observation. This, ultimately, lead to my training in psychotherapy.
Do you plot your novels or allow them to develop as you write?
I try to plot them as much as I can but often a good deal of the book needs to be written to allow parts of plot to revile itself through
the characteristics of the protagonist.
Have you taken any creative writing courses and would you recommend them?
I have taken no courses, but I am thinking about leading some. I think I would have
a lot to offer the “nervous" writer and those interested in character development.
What book(s) are you reading at the moment?
I am reading The French Lieutenant’s Woman by
John Fowles and Transactional Analysis by Eric Berne (again).
If you were stranded on a desert island and could only take three books with you, what would they be and why?
Tough call! The two best
books at any time are always the one I am reading and the one I am writing so that would leave me with one book. I think that one would have to be a blank book so I could write about living on a desert island :) I know that is a flippant answer but honestly
I could not choose just three books.
Do you have any advice for new writers?
If you want to succeed and make a living from writing then I think it is important that you treat it like
a job, and expect that you will have to work hard at it. I consider it to be my full time work, and I work at least an eight-hour day when I am writing a novel and thats just the writing after that I spend an hour or more answering writing related emails and
a couple of hours marketing. It adds up to long days of doing very little else. Certainly more hours than a regular job. Many writers never finish their first draft, let alone get to the point of revising it and I can understand why, it’s not all easy
but if hard work doesn’t worry you go for it.