A fervent lover of Crete island, she writes through the ink of compassion combining her zeal of anything Greek with the strong awareness of sensitive social topics. In her first book of children, she narrates a different tale for the age of innocence.
(Interview by Vivian Vourtsa, Elounda)
What kind of skills you mastered while writing “Maria’s Island”?
You have to be straightforward with children. They are curious, ask questions and demand answers, the truth. So, you should never write “down” to children. They deserve your best writing too.
What characteristics a book about stigma should have?
In the case of “The Island”, which I adapted for children, the stigma of course is leprosy itself, which has caused people to be shunned for many millennia. But children relate that to themselves and their own situation – they know what it is to be left out in the playground, and how children are often quite cruel to each other (no less than adults) and aware if someone is different in some way. I think teachers – and education – in the 21st century show us more clearly how to incorporate social issues into classroom. But I hope books such as “Maria’s Island” can contribute to this.
Recreating “The Island” for children after 16 years did it feel like living it all again?
The Island has been with me almost every day in some way, since it first came out in 2006! So, I think I live it almost every day: I am currently working on the development of an international version for television.
Recently, it came out as a graphic novel in French and I am discussing it with a theatre producer for a possible stage production, while it continues to be published in several dozen languages. And my involvement with Lepra – the philanthropic organization that helps people who have leprosy (still a few million mostly in India and Bangladesh) is ongoing.
Gill Smith’s rich illustrations offered shape and colors to our imagination. Did they meet your own imagination about Maria and her environment?
Yes! Very much. I think her illustrations perfectly capture the passion −“pathos”− of their situation and the beauty of Crete too. They are beautifully coloured and have real emotion. I chose Gill from a large number of other illustrators – and I am really happy with that choice. She was wonderful to work with and very talented.
If you could describe your favorite window with a view, what that would be?
I once stayed at The Domes of Elounda when we were filming the Greek TV version of “The Island” back in 2011. And that was an amazing view! Straight on to Spinalonga. A perfect window with a view!
Do you have a special route that adore to follow when you visit the island?
Yes, I do really adore Crete. It is my spiritual, physical and emotional refuge. I think Crete has an extraordinary energy. From the minute I land there, I always feel very healthy and happy. The landscape, the sea and the people give me huge happiness.
If you could take something in your suitcase to remind you of Agios Nikolaos and Lasithi, what would that be?
Oregano – I always buy big packets of it for myself and my friends. It is the true scent of Crete for me. I pack some oil, as well, if I have space.
Do you have a new plot in my mind for your next book?
Yes. I am finishing the first draft soon and it will be out in the autumn in English. It has a Greek theme of course! •