This weekend sees my birthday and as such I thought I’d do something a little different with blog to celebrate by spending some online time with one of my favourite bloggers, Ekaterina Botziou.
Ekaterina isn’t your typical blogger and author and you may have already seen her before on television or the cinema without even knowing it. Over the years we’ve become blogging friends and cheerleaders and so with all things considered, Ekaterina makes a great choice for my first Authors Q & A. So without much further ado as I push the left over Christmas cake to one side and get stuck into birthday cake instead, over to Ekaterina!
1. As it is Christmas time, can you give us a bit of insight over what Christmas is like in a Anglo-Greek family? Do you celebrate Christmas on both December 25th and January 6th?
Christmas for me has always been quite a British affair – to be honest I don’t remember my few visits to Greece during the winter months feeling particularly Christmassy – my Greek grandparents in Athens never put up any decorations so as a young child I was firmly of the belief that Christmas should be spent at home in England.
Foodwise, we have a traditional Christmas meal with all the trimmings (as well as the odd Greek side dish!), don our party hats, blow the dust off the old board games and watch The Snowman. When we were little my brother, sister and I used to plan and perform a Christmas show for all our relatives to enjoy (!) and would sing carols and read out stories. I confess we have carried on this little tradition into adulthood although it is now unplanned and usually consists of one of us trying to bash out a Christmas tune on the keyboard and begging everyone else to join in.
This year my Greek Yiayia (grandmother) is staying with my family so we will probably throw a few Greek Christmas songs into the mix.
On the few occasions that I spent Christmas in Greece when I was little, Saint Basil (Vasilli) visited us on New Year’s Eve because he was too busy on the 24th December and left it to the other Father Christmas to do all the work. So we got two lots of presents that year! Whey!
Greeks celebrate the Epiphany on the 6th January when Jesus was baptised. This is known as ‘The Blessing of the Waters’ where lots of young men dive into the sea to try and be the first to get a cross which a priest has blessed and thrown into the water. For health and safety reasons, we have never attempted this at home, although my father did threaten to throw a cross into our pond one year…
2. Tell us about one of your favourite British Christmas traditions and one of your favourite Greek ones too.
I love all the traditional Christmas carols and fighting over who gets to pull the last cracker. One of my favourite Greek traditions actually comes at New Year rather than Christmas when we bake a cake called Vasilopita. A coin is hidden within the layers of the cake and whoever finds the coin will receive good luck for the year…or choke on it.
3. You’ve recently released your second book entitled Theseus & The Mother-In-Law which takes a fresh look at the ancient Greeks. Which is your favourite Greek legend and why?
That’s a tough one. I was always a huge fan of Jason and his Argonauts (can’t think why…) but I think I was probably influenced by the film. Heracles (Hercules) is another favourite but his past is too troubled. I would probably go with the story of Perseus and Medusa. Perseus is arguably the most virtuous of all the Greek heroes, and my husband often likens me to Medusa – not sure if it’s the snake-like hair or the fact that my eyes apparently flash red when I’m angry. I haven’t quite managed to turn anyone into stone yet.
4. Did you find writing your second book to be easier or more difficult than your first?
Much easier. First of all the publishing process was much simpler as I had already gone through it all with the first book.
Secondly the concept of the book was less complicated than the first – I took all the well loved myths and legends and re-wrote them with my own twist. The first book had a completely different style, and being part memoir I had to be careful that I didn’t end up boring people to tears with my own personal stories.
5. As all your readers know, you have a big fat Greek life! Do you ever have to be careful with what you write about in your books or blog?
Of course I’m sure every author knows that when writing (especially with comedy) you do have to be mindful of the fact that some readers may not appreciate your humour or may take something the wrong way, but at the end of the day you can’t worry about offending people all the time as you would never get anything written! It’s important to take your target audience into consideration but not to restrict your creative ability.
6.What is it that you enjoy about blogging and do you think it helps your writing in general?
As a promotional tool, you can’t beat having your own blog – it’s a great way to network and meet like-minded people and share your work. I regularly re-blog, re-tweet and share stories on facebook from my fellow bloggers and they in turn do the same for me.
It also helps me hone my skills as a writer as I can test whether my readers enjoy my ideas and which styles of writing they prefer. Basically the blog fulfils my all consuming need to share my rants, raves, recipes, and general Greek philosophy about life with the world and hopefully gets a few laughs in too.
7. If there is one thing the British could learn from the Greeks what would it be? I’d say Moussaka, Ouzo and minty yoghurt myself but I’m sure you know better than me!
I would second that Stephen! The Greeks love their cooking but I also do love a traditional roast with Yorkshire pud! How to smash a plate properly is also a valuable lesson.
8. Even though Papa might not admit it, is there something you can admit on his behalf that the Greeks could learn from the British?
Manners and how to use a knife and fork! The Greeks are very direct whereas English people tend to be more reserved – of course that is a generalisation but in my family the stereotypes are everywhere!
9. You’ve actually done a bit of voice-over work and had small roles in TV shows such as Downton Abbey and one of my favourite sci-fi films, John Carter of Mars. To people like myself this seems really cool. Does it seem that way when you’re onset?
I’ve been lucky enough to work on various TV and film productions and yes I do look back on certain projects and think, “Wow, I can’t believe I discussed the health benefits of purple cabbage with Clint Eastwood.” But at the same time, there have of course been moments on set where I’ve been utterly exhausted, feverish and ready to poke the make-up artist in the eye when she’s screeching “I just can’t tame your bloody eyebrows!!!”
10. Who or what do your attribute your success so far to?
Sheer will power Stephen. Family support is very important but even that will only get you so far. Discipline and self‐motivation are the key. When you work for yourself, no one else will pick up the slack or take responsibility if you fall behind on a project. If you can’t meet deadlines on time you’ve potentially lost an opportunity to build a positive professional reputation.
11. Do you have any plans for future books? Do you see yourself become the Oracle of all things Greek or do your maybe fancy trying something new?
I definitely want to write a third book based on the general Greek theme to complete my trilogy but so far I haven’t been hit by Zeus’ lightning bolt of inspiration yet. I’m also planning to collaborate with a Greek-American friend on a cookery book in the future – she’ll be doing the cooking and I’ll be doing the eating.
In the meantime I am currently in the editing stages of my new book: a short story written in verse. I have always been a huge fan of the poetic form and have read some fantastic works recently that have really inspired me. I included a few rhyming couplets in my previous books but this will be something entirely new so I’m very excited and hope to publish in February.
12. What are you goals for 2015?
2015 is already shaping up to be quite a busy year with work and personal affairs but I am hoping to publish my short story at the beginning of the year and also branch out more with other media-related projects. And of course continue blogging!
Thanks for taking time to chat with me and my readers Ekaterina. I am sure the coming year will be even more plate smashingly successful for you than the one than the last one and I for one can’t wait to see what you come up with.
If you want to catch up with Ekaterina and her books, projects or general big fat Greek life then you can find out more at her fascinating and often hilarious blog at http://ekaterinabotziou.com