Tag Archives: Greece

The Girl and the City

11 May

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On the one hand: there are as many beautiful places in the world as grains of sand on a beach. One could spend a thousand lifetimes exploring, and never see enough.

On the other: to return to a place over time, to learn its quirks and foibles, to become its intimate – this is more than a pleasure. You grow in your knowledge of the city; you grow in yourself.

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The first time I came to Athens, I was sixteen years old, just recovering from several months of illness that had changed my body and mind quite profoundly. I had also lost pretty much all of my friends for various reasons. The trip was something of a watershed.

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Summer Reading List

4 Aug

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Hello all! I’ve just spent a lovely week in beautiful Crete. As a massive Hellenophile, a holiday in Greece is just my idea of perfection: sun, sea and souvlaki. I also got loads of reading done, which is good because I’ve been a bit behind this year and definitely won’t beat last year’s total score. I got through a book per day, and without planning it, ended up reading exclusively female authors.

 

Some thoughts (in reading order):

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Top Ten…Mihalis Hatzigiannis Songs

28 Mar

Ah, Mihali! My favourite Greek singer and perfect for writing to – listening to music with English lyrics can interfere with my thought patterns, so something in a foreign language is great. Today I’d like to celebrate and share my top ten Mihalis songs, which is an extremely difficult list to whittle down (was aiming for five but I can’t do it).

Although I lived in Greece for almost a year in 2009-10, I actually didn’t know much about Mihalis back then. One of my private students told me he was her favourite popstar, but for a long time I was confused between him and Kostas Martakis (who is ridiculously good looking but musically nothing special).

It was back in England about six months later that I discovered the Hatzigiannis magic via Spotify. I’d been browsing lists of Greek artists and songs when I came across the theme tune to I Polikatoikia, ‘The Apartment Block’, a comedy I’d watched almost every day. Its catchy title song was sung by Mihalis and included on his album ‘7’, which I went on to fall in love with after many repeat listens! I bought the album, took it to Greece on holiday, listened to it several times a day and subsequently became a bit of a Mihalis addict. Watching his videos on Youtube just cemented my love. He’s ridiculously adorable, especially when he tries to dance, but the main attraction is his amazing voice. He has a whole range of song types and most of them have gorgeous melodies and lyrics that just get better the more you listen to them. The fact that he started as a Eurovision singer shouldn’t count against him…

A slight annoyance in searching for his songs is that his name can be transliterated several ways – Mihalis Hatzigiannis, Michalis Hatzigiannis or even Mixalis Xatzigiannis. Perseverance is worth it, though.

So, without further ado, here are my top ten must-listen Mihalis songs:

Kati Dinato (Something Strong) – 2013

I love the video for this. It’s very Athenian.

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Why I write YA

28 Dec

I’m a YA writer. That means I write for teenagers, approximately 13-19 years old, who come under the umbrella term ‘young adult’.

To be honest with you, I’m not sure how it happened.

When I finally stopped dreaming about writing, got my bum in the chair and just did it, I wasn’t thinking about markets, genres or publication. All I wanted to do was get this damned idea out of my head and on the page. It was just one of the hundreds of stories I’ve dreamed up over the years, but it was more insistent than the rest – like a little bee buzzing away at the back of my brain. Plus, I was alone in a drafty bungalow in a tiny Greek village where I couldn’t go out for fear of being mauled by wild dogs (I exaggerate…just). I had time to spare.

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Afidnes, which is actually a lovely place, as you can see

It was only later that I realised I’d written something that might fit into this category ‘YA’. I had a teenage protagonist, a fast-moving plot and, somehow, I’d managed to tag onto the underworld/Hades/grim reaper mini-trend that was happening in 2009-10. When I thought about all my other ideas too, they were also a good fit. YA seemed perfect for the adventurous and action-packed (yet romantic) stories I was coming up with.

By another stroke of good fortune, I’d come to YA at a brilliant time for the genre. We may slag off Stephenie Meyer till the cows come home, but she (and, to some extent, J.K. before her) made teen fiction a booming business – and not just for Twilight rip-offs. I realised that, in this genre, there was a really good chance of getting my books published – and reaching an eager audience, both of teenagers and, increasingly, adults.

As I did more research, I found there were so many great books that had been published in the eight or so years since I’d moved on from teen-lit myself. My choice was a little limited while I was in Greece (restricted to the Eleftherodakis English section), but I would pick up a few and sit in the top floor of the bookshop reading for the afternoon. I soon realised that I not only loved writing YA, I also loved reading it! Well-written YA books are absorbing, heart-stopping and brilliant escapism. With teenage protagonists, emotional conflicts become magnified and every decision feels like it has universal significance (and indeed it might, given YA’s proclivity towards the fantastical and speculative). What’s more, your story has to grab attention from the very first page to even stand a chance of wresting young readers away from their phones or PSPs.

That first novel is now snoozing soundly in the trunk, but I’m still writing for teens. YA lit is going strong, and I can’t wait to add my own books to the shelf!