We’re delighted to host Anne Zouroudi for our first interview of 2104. Anne’s latest novel, The Feast of Artemis, sees Hermes Diaktoros return in the seventh gripping, sun-drenched installment of The Mysteries of the Greek Detective.
GIB: When did you first fall in love with Greece?
AZ: My first visit to Greece was with my sister in the late 1980s. We were looking for somewhere quiet to recharge our batteries so we chose tiny Symi, a couple of hours by ferry from Rhodes. Within 24 hours I was in love, both with the country and with the man I was to marry. When I came home from that first holiday, it was to resign from my stressful corporate job. Within six months, I’d moved to Symi, and started a new life as a fisherman’s wife..
GIB: How did you start writing?
AZ: I’ve always written. I won my first prize for writing when I was ten, in a national essay competition run by Platignum pens. I finished my first novel at age 18 (the best thing I can say about it is, it isn’t as bad as it might have been; it’s tucked safely away in an attic drawer and will never see the light of day). Since then, I’ve written any number of short stories, and I wrote four more novels before I found a publisher.
GIB: Have you written any other books?
AZ: The Feast of Artemis is the seventh in my Greek Detective series, with each book being based on one of the Seven Deadly Sins. The seven sins are a very old concept, surprisingly still relevant today; our ideas of morality have not changed much in hundreds of years. In these modern times, we are all still susceptible to these ‘vices’, and all the seven sins are still regarded as bad behaviour. And bad behaviour is much more interesting to readers – and writers – than good behaviour!
I’m not Greek by birth, but my heart belongs to Greece, more so than it belongs to England. Writing this series connects me very deeply to a place I love. Also the mythological aspects are important in these books, and Greece is of course the natural place for that. I’ve written many stories with a British background, but I feel less passionate about them, probably because I feel less passionate about Britain! No really good story can be written without passion for the subject. I have a passion for Greece which inspires me; up to this point, I don’t feel that way about any other place.
GIB: How do you feel about Greece’s current plight? What do you think the outcome will be?
AZ: I think Greece has been made a scapegoat. The EU and the single currency was an economic gamble, an experiment, and Greece is taking the fall for that experiment’s failure. But I’m not worried for Greece long-term, because her people are hugely resilient, and determined to survive what may well be one of the country’s greatest-ever challenges. In my opinion, the best thing that could happen would be for Greece to withdraw from the euro and get back to the drachma. Prices would go right down, and the tourists would flood back, regenerating the economy. But I’m no economist. Maybe I’m being too simplistic.
GIB: What’s the funniest experience you ever had in Greece?
AZ: I have note-books full of amusing little tales, so it’s hard to pick just one. I remember when I was pregnant with my son (who’s recently completed his national service in the Greek marines), I went fishing with my husband and my brother-in-law (against my brother-in-law’s wishes, as it is of course unlucky to take a woman fishing). My husband spotted an object floating on the waves, which we between us identified as a turtle – a dead turtle. It was big, and the shell was beautiful, and just the right size, thought my husband, to make a cradle for our baby. So my husband and brother-in-law set to trying to land what turned out to be a very heavy and unwieldy object. Boathooks and buckets and landing nets were all brought to bear, and my husband was dangled over the side by his legs, until eventually the turtle-shell was landed, dripping wet, on our deck. And very beautiful it was too – but boy, did it stink! The turtle was plainly days dead, and the smell was absolutely horrific. They got it back in the sea a lot faster than they got it out! Then we spent hours swabbing the deck with sea-water and bleach to try and get rid of the stench…
GIB: What are the best and worst meals you’ve ever had there?
AZ: My best meal? That’s a tough question, I’ve had so many wonderful meals in Greece. I’d have to say a beach barbecue, early evening and a driftwood fire, grilling fish caught minutes ago, served with a salad of garden tomatoes dressed with green olive oil and mountain oregano, and fresh bread from an old-fashioned bakery. A bottle of cold retsina, the stars coming out and the sound of the sea: simple, and simply fantastic.
My worst meal? I’m not keen on snails, but my sister-in-law used to bring us a bag of snails regularly, as a gift. I used to cook them for my husband and eat something else, but on one occasion she stayed to help me prepare them, so I was forced out of politeness to eat a plateful. Not my thing at all.
GIB: What’s your single most cherished memory of Greece?
AZ: That’s another very tough question. I love to be on the sea, so I’d have to say being on our boat going pretty much anywhere, sitting on the prow, bare feet almost touching the water, looking down into those beautiful blue depths. Heaven.