-In your works, the element of otherness is quite pronounced: The characters are different from the majority of people. Is there something you want to point out and why?
Without thinking much about it, I’d say that I don’t decide in advance to make my characters different. It’s just that I was always fond of special people. Whether silent or loud. A little gone with the fairies and not all that conventional. The people who interrogate daily the self-evident, disguise it, transform it. Who dare on a daily basis to dust off their treasures and pin themselves against them. Thus, a friendship becomes a precious gift and an excursion, a journey full of possibilities. I like watching the everyday through a magnifying glass. I don’t know if that’s my way of trying to familiarize my young readers with the acceptance of the “other” but I certainly believe that miracles take a different form for each one of us and that life would be dreary without colors.
-The characters in your book struggle with superstitions, popular beliefs, fears, things closely linked with the Greek tradition. Which of these amuse you and which do you consider potentially dangerous?
I think the dividing line is pretty clear. In the Lonesome Tree, my main heroine loves life very much, she laughs easily. Her sister takes her to an icon in the church and points to an angry saint. “See how he’s looking at you? The saint doesn’t like it one bit that you’re laughing.” On the other hand, there are the legends and folk traditions which I find utterly poetic. Magic realism. In many villages people still live side by side with sprites and ghosts, talk with those who have passed to the other side and have stories to tell about every single stone.
-Do you think that our times lend themselves to dreams and to the imagination? Can the drive for survive b combined with those elements and how?
Dreams and the imagination are not a medicine and can’t be dispensed with a doctor’s prescription. You live like that, or you don’t. They exist in our life. They are a part of who we are. It’s just that some people have closed the door, in their effort to survive this unbearable everyday. As far as kids are concerned, this is their way of growing up and explaining the world. They need to slip away from reality into the world of the imagination. Nobody would claim that the solution is to take up residence in the world of the imagination. Still, a pebble keeping the door open for some fresh air to come in now and then, is always needed.
-We often hear that young people don’t read, don’t write, and so on and so forth. You, who are in touch with these issues, how do you see things? Does society and our educational system play a role in this?
The only thing they play a role in, is the accumulation of knowledge so that the children move on to tertiary education. Kids in adolescence have next to no time for extracurricular activities. This morning I heard myself calling out to my daughter to quit piano practice and get to her homework in Religious studies. I heard myself and I was appalled! Kids are so overloaded that they haven’t time not just to read but get together with their friends. Naturally, I think that those children who got some “training” when they were young, on growing up, will again seek the pleasure of reading.
-Fiction for adolescents has the peculiarity that neither will adolescents buy it of their own accord, nor do grownups quite know (or dare!) to buy something for adolescents. How can it be made more accessible? You in particular, what is the audience you address and how do you approach them?
To tell the truth, I don’t have a specific age group of readers in mind when I’m writing. I don’t tailor my stories to anyone. I wouldn’t want to write a novel partial to adolescents that would only speak their slang and have as its sole subject the violence, conflicts and mad pace of that age. In the music I listen to, the conversations I have, sometimes I like to turn the volume up and at others to turn it down. When I am invited to schools, I meet such different kids, with such wide ranging interests. Some will discover my book and, if they like it, recommend it to friends. That seems to me a more normal way. Isn’t that what we did in high school as well? We swapped books, music and poetry. Kids at that age are suspicious of their parents. They can discover a book by themselves which, if imposed by adults, they will reject out of hand.
-Do you remember your favorite books as a kid- an adolescent – a grownup?
I remember well the bookshelf in my room in Larisa. Next to the tales of the Grim brothers and Andersen, were added Doctor Mars’ daughters and then the Silver Skates, A tree grows in Brooklyn. At some point, A child counts the stars was joined by the Tiger in the shop window, the Wooden Swords, When the sun... There was a reason that books came into the house during the first ten years, on holidays and during vacations. Nowadays, books are piled into bookshelves, the unread ones are crammed on the bedside table, and it is harder to remember them and bond with them. At university, I discovered Marquez with great excitement, I was amongst the first to buy Maro Douka’s latest and recently, I fell in love with Zyranna Zateli. And then, I wiped the slate clean and went back to the beginning: the Odyssey and A thousand and one nights.