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25 Jun

Starting with Donald Duck into fiction novels, meet Chris Angelis…

 

 

JR: Tell us about yourself, and how would you describe yourself?

CA: It’s hard for writers to describe themselves through means other than their work – I’m sure there is some paradox hidden somewhere there. In any case, I was born in Athens, Greece. I’ve lived in Rome, Italy for a few years, before eventually moving to Finland, where I live for the past fifteen or so years.

 

JR: When did you first realise you want to be a writer? Who spotted that talent and what was the first thing you do knowing that?

CA: I can give you a catchy story. I learned to read and write from a very young age (before I went to school), for practical reasons: my mother and my grandma got bored of reading Donald Duck comics to me, so I had to find a way to do it myself. Then one day – I must’ve been seven or eight, not older – I read a Donald Duck mystery which was divided into two parts. The first part ended in a gripping cliffhanger, and I had no access to the second part. I was devastated. And so I did… well, perhaps not what every seven-year-old would do: I took pen and paper and wrote the conclusion of the story the way I imagined it to be. Those three paragraphs were my first work of fiction. But as to when I first realized I wanted to be a writer, that’s a difficult question to answer, because it’s hard to pinpoint a “before” and an “after”. It’s a continuous, evolving process.

 

JR: Do you have any formal education in creative writing? Do you think formal education in writing is necessary?

CA: I have an MA in English Literature, currently completing a PhD. As for whether formal education in writing is necessary, that’s a great question. I can’t pretend my studies haven’t improved my writing, because they have enormously. From things as mundane and basic (yet essential) as language usage, to more arcane elements such as narrative dynamics, I think formal education is an important asset. But on its own it means nothing if a writer doesn’t have something to say – I know too many people with formal education and zero personality.

 

JR: Are you a full-time author? Do you have other activities as main source of income? How do you organise your schedule and time in writing a book?

CA: It’s hard to draw the line between when an author is functioning as an author and when s/he is not. When I’m not writing, I’m experiencing; it all eventually ends up in a narrative, one way or another. Interestingly enough, as societies we seem to be moving in a direction where borders related to matters of income are also difficult to establish. The time of nine-to-five jobs that last for your entire life is gone. To some it might feel like a curse, but perhaps it’s also a blessing in disguise. When you don’t have a workday to blame, it means you also have no excuse for your mental and creative stagnation. Have you noticed how totalitarian societies promote hard work (“Arbeit macht frei” should serve as an apt example), while free-thinking societies, such as ancient Athens, promoted free time? I think it was Aristotle who underlined the importance of free time in creating able citizens.

 

JR: What made you decide to start writing something? What or who influences you?

CA: As I mentioned earlier, I began writing because I was unhappy with the way things were; I wanted to create my own reality. I have continued to write for the very same reason. It’s a tangled hierarchy: life experiences force your writing hand, which attempts to formulate a different perspective regarding the way things are around you.

 

JR: What is the greatest lesson you have learned and/or greatest achievement you have reached as a writer?

CA: Let’s start with the latter, because I don’t believe in achievements – in the sense of them being something graspable, objective, or immutable. Long time ago, a novel of mine was published by Empiria Publishing, one of the major publishing houses in Greece. There was a book presentation with celebrities, artists, academics, and what not. Back then, I would’ve told you that that occasion was surely my greatest achievement as a writer. Nowadays, I think the Donald Duck story is much more profound. And there lies the greatest lesson I have learned (in writing but also perhaps more generally): there is so much meaning in the most minute, everyday details.

 

JR: Do you have habits in writing? Any specific time and/or place to write?

CA: I mostly write in the morning, though sometimes it can also happen in the afternoon or evening. A cup of coffee (or several) and background music are the two main habits. Occasionally, I entertain myself wondering what would readers think if they knew what kind of music I listened writing a particular scene. Sometimes, indeed I help them figure it out, as I often lace my books with hints, innuendos, and other Easter eggs. Most of them probably pass unnoticed, but I’d like to think some of them are discovered by careful readers, and that’s a rewarding thought.

 

JR: How long do you normally finish writing a book? What is the hardest part in the process?

CA: It can vary. The writing itself doesn’t take too long, from three weeks to a couple of months, though the subsequent editing takes at least as much. There are exceptions, however: I finished To Cross an Ocean: Apognosis in two weeks. The hardest part is reading, re-reading, and then re-reading some more the manuscript, trying to eradicate errors, to improve sentences, and to come up with an even better word for a certain occasion.

 

JR: Do you have professional editors to furnish your books? If you do, any recommendation you would like to share to fellow authors?

CA: I have worked with professional editors, though I prefer to do my own editing, with additional input and advice from someone I can trust. In any case, someone reading your manuscript and offering corrections isn’t the author; you are. Authors should carefully listen to the advice given, but they should also be confident in drawing a line.

 

JR: How do you think you have evolved creatively?

CA: Twenty years ago, I used to have larger-than-life ideas that were all over the place; explosions of imagination that, like fresh paint, would stick on things they weren’t supposed to. In later years, I began to discover the enchanting power of restraint and patient journeying. I suspect it’s a common trait in evolving authors and, sadly, I see too many examples of writers out there that never make the passage from one form to the next. There can be many good ideas, but without the patience to develop them into a proper narrative, you have nothing.

 

JR: Do you ever face Writer’s Block? If you do, how did you overcome the situation?

CA: I don’t face writer’s block in the sense most people would understand the term. I usually have a very clear idea in my head of how a narrative should progress, at least to a certain point, and I rarely begin to write at all if I don’t have it figured out in my mind. There might be a pause at some point (usually a bit after the middle), where I might try to decide whether my chosen conclusion is solid or a different one would be better, but I’ve never experienced staring at a page not knowing what to say.

 

JR: Do you have professional designer to design the cover and/or interior of your books? If you do, any recommendation you would like to share to fellow authors?

CA: In fact, I’ve also worked as a professional photographer and although photography and design are not synonymous, I’m visually savvy to the point I design my own covers.

 

JR: How do you involve in promoting your books? Any marketing technique you can share?

CA: I’m very bad at promoting my books, as it feels alien to my character to tell someone “buy my book”, even if it’s just friends. My books are like a message in a bottle: I throw them into an ocean of noise, hoping someone might find them.

 

JR: Give your thoughts about traditional publishing Vs. self-publishing?

CA: This is an interesting continuation of the previous question, regarding promotion. Having had experience of traditional publishing, the only tangible benefit I can think of is indeed in these aspects outside writing: with traditional publishing, it’s others who need to worry about promoting your book, creating advertisements, booking events, and all that. On the other hand, I also like the idea of having total control of all aspects of my books, which is something only self-publishing can give you. It all depends on many things, including the genre (for instance, I can’t ever imagine self-publishing a non-fiction book).

 

JR: How many books have you written (published and non-published)?

CA: I think it must be somewhere around 15 or 20 novels, and a lot more fragments. I’ve published 7 or 8 of them, some under a pen name. The rest I consider “lost”; things I wrote long time ago, which I wouldn’t publish, even with a pen name.

 

JR: What genre that you normally write, and what draws you to this genre? Do you always write in the same genre?

CA: I’m basically a literary fiction author, though I have also published works in other genres (using a pen name). I like literary fiction because I think the human mind is by far the most bizarre topic an author can experiment with. Our thoughts, our emotions, our desires, can be much scarier than a horror story, more liberating than a romance, more complex than a science fiction novel.

 

To Cross an Ocean: ApognosisJR: Of all the books that you have written down, which book that you think the best one? And what do you think readers will find most appealing about this book? What’s the “real story” behind this book?

CA: It’s difficult to make qualitative comparisons, especially between recent novels. I think To Cross an Ocean: Apognosis is my favorite on an emotional level, because it came from a very personal place (though, don’t they all?) There is a lot of personal experiencing in it – experiencing, not experiences – in the sense of it being a novel that reflects the way I remember (or would like to remember) spaces and places different from my current condition. Hopefully this honesty infused in its core is also what makes it appealing to readers.

 

JR: Any other works in progress?

CA: All the time, at various stages and of different kinds. I’m currently working on a novel set in New York, revolving around concepts such as bereavement, loyalty, and truth.

 

JR: What advice would you want to give to an aspiring writer?

CA: Write only for yourself. Write not because you want to be read, but because you can’t refrain from writing.

 

JR: How can readers discover more about you and your works?

CA: They can visit my Goodreads page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16148769.Chris_Angelis

 

Chris ANgelis