At the age of 56, Victoria Hislop has maintained a loyal eleven year readership since her debut in 2005 with five books now published alongside a short story collection. With her love of Greece returning with her most recently released title, I decided to catch up and find out what else Victoria’s got in store for us over the next coming months.
You’re currently touring the UK to promote your new book ‘Cartes Postales from Greece’. Where can your fans meet you?
All the dates are on my website www.victoriahislop.com but I can tell you I will be attending various festivals around the country and I will be in London at the Kingsway Hall Hotel on Thursday 24th November.
Your new book is once again based in Greece! I think the Greek Government should award you for being the best advertisement for the country abroad. I know you have been asked many times but why so much love for Greece?
That’s a great idea – about the government! I would love to get Greek citizenship – especially now that I am going to lose my European identity.
I first went to Greece when I was 17-years-old and it was love at first sight. I had not travelled very much then, but the heat and dust and blue sky captivated me. I loved it, even though in Athens I was lost much of the time and couldn’t read any street signs. But since that first day, I have probably been there hundreds of times, maybe thousands. And landing there is exciting every time.
I know that I don’t have any Greek connections through family, at least not in the past few generations, but I still fantasise that somewhere, maybe a little further back there might be some long-lost ancestry.
Greece is not hard to love though – beautiful climate, wonderful landscapes, blue sea, fantastic food, warm people – what’s not to love? My problem is understanding why people go on holiday anywhere else!
Is the story of your new book based on any true events?
There are several aspects of Greek culture and some historical references within Cartes Postales – but no specific events. The book was inspired by places that I visited, and occasionally by something that I heard – but these things were the raw materials. Most importantly, the characters are all completely fictional.
Are there any messages you want to send through ‘Cartes Postales from Greece’?
I don’t think there are messages as such. I don’t think writers should aim to deliver messages in fiction but I hope readers will take away something that’s personal to them. Maybe a new thought about some of their own traditions, maybe just some light-hearted moments (there are a few comic parts), or just some escapism.
Do you discuss the story with your loved ones when you’re writing or do you keep it to yourself until it’s completed?
I never let people read the whole thing until it is absolutely finished. I think this would “de-rail” the process. For me it’s very important to have a clear path ahead when I am writing, and if someone says something to put you off course, you can lose your vision. I know writers who send in a chapter as they write it – but that’s alien to me.
What does “a good book” mean for you and what are the basic characteristics that a good author must have?
It must have a good story – our need for a strong narrative, a reason to turn the page, fulfils a very primitive need in us. So for me this is very important – and good writing, and characters I believe in – those are crucial too.
I think an author must believe in the story herself/himself – even if nobody was to read their book, would the writer themselves still “believe” – would they still have written it?
You once said in an interview: “For me, each day has to hold something that will lift my spirits, and it can’t always be a party. I don’t believe that happiness should be a rare treat, but something that we can have a taste of as often as we need it.” What things make Victoria Hislop feel happy?
A really good cup of coffee, meeting a friend, sunshine, a blue sky, a great song on the radio. These can be enough.
Do you have any ‘life quotes’ that you always try to follow?
“Never say never”. I think we should all be open to surprises and prepared to react to them to change what we do or how we think. I would not like to have a predictable life.
Last but not least can you tell us your favorite authors?
Ian McEwan – an incredible writer. Emily Bronte – she only wrote one novel – but it’s my favourite of all time. Cavafy – he is a poet (obviously) – but some of his poems have the dimension of a novel – so much is crammed into the lines.
By Yiota Dimitriou