Greek Island Books interviews Paul Dillon, author of THE MAGIC IN THE RECEIVER, a novel set on the island of Kefalonia.
GIB: When did you first fall in love with Greece?
PD: My first trip to Greece was in the early eighties and happened quite by chance—it was love at first sight. If I remember correctly, I’d agreed to join some friends on a trip to Corfu. It was a spur of the moment decision, taken after a night partying. I managed to get a last-minute flight—without accommodation—and landed a few hours before my friends. I never did find a place to stay and ended up crashing in their apartment for the whole two weeks. Corfu is such a magical place. I was quite surprised by the island’s green and lush vegetation. The sound of the cicadas fascinated me. At night, bats dive-bombed insects under a streetlight outside my room—very cool.
GIB: How did you start writing?
PD: I’m late to the world of fiction. I’ve been writing business and marketing plans most of my career but I’m cured of that now.
GIB: Have you written any other books?
PD: Are you kidding? The speed I write—it’s one book per lifetime. No, I’m working on a second novel and, years ago, I co-authored a non-fiction book about the history of Bank Hall—a manor house in the north of England.
GIB: How do you feel about Greece’s current plight? What do you think the outcome will be?
PD: Politics isn’t something I follow closely but I do try to keep up with business and economic news. Unfortunately, the stories coming out of Greece are mostly negative. I feel sorry for ordinary Greeks—matters seem beyond their control. I don’t think tourism will be affected though. I try to promote Greece on twitter and I’m a guest blogger on the official Greek Tourism website. Greece is still good value and you’ll have a great time. Come on … what are you waiting for?
GIB: What’s the funniest experience you ever had in Greece?
PD: Well, my attempts at water skiing are usually a good laugh but let’s see … one morning, we walked from our hotel in Santorini down into Fira for breakfast. My kids had been asking about Greek words and I taught them please and thank you and good morning. My youngest son decided to try out his Greek “Good morning” on the waiter. I guess Jack had food on his mind because kalimera became calamari. Perhaps the waiter thought he was desperate to place an order for breakfast squid.
GIB: What are the best and worst meals you’ve ever had there?
PD: I don’t recall an especially bad meal in Greece but I remember an amusing one. We’d been exploring Corfu and found a deserted cove—almost a lagoon. Getting into the water was like stepping into a warm bath. After a lazy afternoon, we stopped at a nearby taverna for dinner. One of my friends ordered “scampi” from the English menu—I guess he expected small fried prawns. The waiter served a huge plate of large delicious-looking shrimp—whole—with their shells and heads. Apparently, the friend wasn’t used to this and freaked out over the shrimp’s eyes. The owner’s English was little better than our Greek, so explaining the issue was fun—to say the least. I think in the end, we split the shrimp between us and bought our friend another dish. All ended well and we had a good laugh.
Great meals happen all the time in Greece. Since they are too numerous to mention, I’ll pick a couple:
Kefalonia, Fiskardo: lunch by the quayside with my three children (grown up by this time) It was such a happy moment and the inspiration (or starting point) for my novel.
Corfu, in the hills between Perama and Benitses (I think): Back in the eighties, the Achilleion Palace was a casino—blackjack and roulette tables extended out into the garden which overlooked the bay—an incredibly atmospheric place for dinner. The casino scene from the James Bond movie (For Your Eyes Only) was filmed at Achilleion Palace. I believe it’s a museum now.
GIB: What’s your single most cherished memory of Greece?
PD: Greece holds a special place in my heart. My children mostly grew up on another continent; sometimes they’d come to the US for vacation, sometimes I took them to Europe. Greece was always their first choice. Every day spent with them would have been memorable anyway but Greece added something extra.