The touching interview of the famous writter Victoria Hislop on Infokids.gr
The writter we adore, Victοria Hislop, shares her thoughts with Infokids.gr. Without second thoughts, she impresses us with her beliefs, as far it conern growing up independent children, her feelings about Greece and her relationship with Mixalis Hatzigiannis. But the most important part of this interview, is the one where Victoria reveals tips of her new novel “The last dance and other stories”.
How did you decide to create/write one more book about Greece? How important is Greece to you"?
V.H: Greece is where I find inspiration. It’s really that simple. I don’t really feel that I “decide” in the normal way. If something inspired me in the UK, then I would write about it, but so far in my life that hasn't really happened. I wonder how to measure importance... Greece is very very important to me. I would say it is equally balanced with the UK. I don’t have family there, but many of my friends there are like my family now. My ideal would be to spend half my life in the UK and the other half in Greece.
Please, describe us your new book. What does “The last dance” mean?
V.H: This is a book with ten short stories, all of them set in Greece. The title story is actually the last one in the volume, but it is my favorite. It is a slightly ironic title, because it is about a couple having the “first dance” when they get married. But for both of them it is also the “last dance” - to tell any more would give the story away.
From the places and the Greek villages you visited, in order to write this book, which one is the most favorite to you?
V.H: Some of the places in the stories have fictional names as I did not want to upset the people who lived in these places. And even the places I love I have slightly disguised, to make them more generalized - and more universal.Perhaps my favorite place is the village where The Kafenion is set - this is a village in Crete. And two of the stories are set in Athens - which is one of my favorite cities.
Being a mother of 2 children, please share with us, how did you manage to combine work and motherhood? Most of Infokids.gr readers face this everyday need – problem.
V.H: At the beginning it was very tricky. When I had my first child, I was working full time in an advertising/PR agency. I had the statutory few months of maternity leave and then returned to work. On my very first day back in the office I realized I could not do it! My whole life had changed and yet my working life was pretending not to have done. I handed in my notice that day, without really thinking of the consequences. On my first day at home with a small baby, I realized that I would need something else to do! So I rang the advertising agency and told them that I was still available to do some writing, but from home. So every day after that I would work while Emily was sleeping - or a few hours in the morning when we had a part time “ Au pair”. Then I also began to write for magazines and newspapers (as well as doing more commercial writing) - and eventually fiction. I was very lucky to have a skill that I could continue to use at home. I think it is very very difficult for women - to have this urge to stay at home and look after their children and at the same time, an urge to keep their identity as a working person and indeed the need to keep earning money. It’s an almost impossible situation, but there is often some kind of compromise to be reached.
Did your children complain when they were younger, for you working a lot? What did you answer?
V.H: No my children didn't complain. I was lucky, my wonderful mother always lived close so she was there a lot - and we had really wonderful au pairs - so they learned a bit about the culture of different countries - Croatia, Sweden, France, Turkey for example. And because I was in the house working, it did not feel as if I was really “away” from them - apart from when I was travel writing and then I was sometimes a very long way away (South America, China, Australia). But during those times my husband was around in the house a bit more.
Have you been an overprotective mother, as most of Greek parents are?
V.H: My children tease me - they think that I fuss! But I really don’t! They are now 19 and 22 and away at university and I have been through some fairly intense pain barriers with them. Both of them had a “gap” year before university when they went travelling. Emily went on her own to Zambia and later on to Uganda. She is small, like me and I felt she would be vulnerable. But she was fine and learned how to look after herself and how to stand up for herself. And William went to South America for five months. Watching him disappear through passport control on a cold Monday morning, weighed down by a huge backpack was one of the worst moments of my life. He lost his phone on the first day in Buenos Ares, so we had very little contact sometimes for a week at a time. I feel sick even thinking about it now... But he came back, a bigger, stronger person and I am very proud of him. The moment when he appeared through security at the airport at the end of those months, was as a happy as the moment when he had left had been sad. British parents are not allowed to be overprotective by their children. And the children are right. We must set them free to grow up!
Which are the differences between Greek and British parents' attitude?
V.H: Some of the stories in "The Last Dance" are about precisely this subject. They are about over-protective Greek parents. On the whole, I observe that Greek parents keep their children close. There are advantages and disadvantages to this of course. On the one hand it means that grandparents are often close-by to help look after grandchildren. On the other, it means that people often have their “in-laws” breathing down their necks in a way that they might not like. If you get on with them, that would be a good thing... but I know this is not always the case. And having whole families living on top of each other can lead to all sorts of problems. We tend to behave like birds - we push our children out of the nest in order to make them fly. It might be agonizing to watch those first seconds as the appear to be plummeting to the ground - BUT when we see them spread their wings and become independent there is a surge of pride.
What would you advise our readers-parents as far as it concerns their children raising?
V.H: The crucial thing is to love them and to show them you love them - but not to smoother them with love. To love them and respect their individuality.In my view, the wisest words that have ever been written about the parent-child relationship are from the philosopher Khalid Gibran. I know I haven’t always kept them close enough to my heart, but nevertheless I think they are a superb basis for parenthood. I think everyone with children should read these words:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.
What do you enjoy most when visiting Greece?
V.H: That’s an impossible question! I can only say that when the plane is coming into land - whether this is Athens, Thessaloniki or Iraklion - my heart starts beating faster. So maybe that’s the answer. The sense of life!
Which is your favorite Greek food? And which one can you cook?
V.H: My favorite thing to eat in Greece (specially in Crete) are all the non-meat things - I am pretty much vegetarian and there is so much wonderful food without meat - anything with “fasolia” - I make wonderful things with tomatoes and fasolia and then throw in some feta and put it in the oven. With fresh bread and salad - it’s the perfect meal.
Since Greece is the “talk of the town” the last years, due to the economical situation, what do your compatriots commend about us?
V.H: People in the UK are very sympathetic to Greece now - our newspapers and television give very fair coverage to what is happening and how it is affecting ordinary people. I think the situation in Cyprus has made this even more the case - we can see how the decisions of politicians and bankers can have a disastrous effect on the individual. The man and woman in the street are feeling powerless in this current situation - which is frightening.
Let's complete this interview... with a song! Which greek song you like listening to or even you sing yourself!
V.H. Great question!! I love hundreds of Greek songs - but I have a clear favorite. And it is at the top of my mind this morning! Last night (24th March) Mixalis Hatzigiannis came to London to give a single concert at Koko. I went of course because I am a huge fan and a friend of his. To my total astonishment, he dedicated a song to me. I was hugely touched. It is the most beautiful song and I have played it a million times, and used the lyrics to learn Greek....“Pio Poly” - has the most romantic words you could ever dream of. “I love you more than I love myself” So, I think that’s enough for me! I am sitting here singing, and counting the days until my next visit to Greece (which is in three days’ time).
Thanks for inviting me to do this interview. Victoria