Wednesday is All Write: 7 Questions with Rebecca Hall, author of Girl Gone Greek




About the book:

Rachel, a free-spirited and single forty-something English teacher, has discovered there’s more to life than marriage, children and living up to family expectations. Girl Gone Greek is a novel about an Englishwoman’s experiences in rural Greece early in the millennium. Set against the breathtaking background of the Greek countryside and Athens, Rachel meets a colourful cast of eccentric characters, plants her feet deeply into the local soil and ultimately finds her true love – Greece.

My thoughts:

In June of 2015, I was lucky enough to read an early copy of Girl Gone Greek. Here’s what I said about it: “A wonderful tale of self-discovery, Hall’s debut novel, ‘Girl Gone Greek,’ is the sweet – and oftentimes laugh out loud funny –story about Rachel, a thirty-something English woman who suffers from dromomania (severe wanderlust) and how, after taking a TEFL course, she moves to a remote Greek village to teach English --against the advise of her unsupportive sister. But as Rachel immerses herself into the Greek lifestyle and culture, making friends with a cast of colorful characters on her adventure (I think we all need a friend like Kaliopi), she falls in love, not only with Greece, but also with herself.”

Today, the author (and friend) has agreed to answer seven questions. So let’s get to it!


1) In the beginning of Girl Gone Greek, you write that the book is based on your own personal experiences of becoming an expat and teaching in Greece. What are the most important parts of the book that were inspired from events in your life? 

For me, the whole book was important.  Greece really helped shape my character for the better…some people find it’s another person who helps them to become a better person, for me it was a whole country of people, a whole nation.  The events where I discuss discord with my sibling (I actually have two, so I amalgamated them into one character) were and are very much true...if not offered a little poetic license somewhat, after all, that’s the joy of writing fiction! Through writing about these events in a self-deprecating and humorous way, and also discovering Greece has more family drama than all the soap operas on television put together and they don’t walk around feeling sorry for themselves,  this was very therapeutic to me and helped put things in my life into perspective.  Through the Greek people I stopped being a victim, I learnt to laugh at life.  After all, Greece has been (and continues to go) through hell, and the resolve of these people never ceases to amaze me and hold them in extremely high regard.


2) You write about the manifestations in Greece. How has the political climate changed in Greece since you’ve lived there? Better? Worse? 

Oh now there’s a complicated question!  I won’t dwell on it otherwise it’ll take up the whole interview!  Greece (and I know the Greeks won’t mind me saying this) is a country of chaos (at the risk of sounding like the father from “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” – did you know chaos and drama are Greek words?) but ironically, that’s how we (I say ‘we’ as I’ve been told I’m an honoree Greek now)manage to get through our daily lives…by just accepting the chaos and going with it.  Don’t fight it, it’ll exhaust you. Maybe some countries are supposed to be chaotic?





And actually—take a look around you these days…does ANY government operate in the interests of its people?  And look at what’s going on worldwide – let’s not single Greece out.  I mean, the ‘greatest nation on earth’ is currently in the midst of potentially becoming a political laughing stock (check out the film ‘Idiocracy’ – it’s come true!)…at least Greece never pretended to be anything other than chaotic, which in an ironic way (another Greek word, irony), makes them more honest than any other government!  (See? Told you we’d be here forever…I better get off my soap box).



3) Rachel suffers from what her father calls dromomania (severe wanderlust). She’s an adventuress who dares to leap into the unknown. Is this how we can describe you? Tell us about one of your favorite adventures...

Well, Rachel is very much based on me.  I used to wander from country to country, looking for the next adventure, until I realized that you know what?  You can travel the world but you’ll always be with yourself. Until you’re content in yourself, you won’t enjoy any of the adventures you’re having. And it took me to come to Greece to finally feel as if I was accepted as a person—warts and all.  And so now, when I divide my time and go on adventures, I am able to gain  more enjoyment from them.




My most enjoyable one—and to others’ minds my most daring and adventurous—was when I travelled for thirty seven days by container ship from Athens to Hong Kong, the only passenger on board, traversing the Gulf of Aden (pirate waters) and getting to know the crew.  To me, it wasn’t so daring.  I wasn’t afraid; my father is an ex-merchant navy man and he would always tell me of his tales of the high seas at bedtime…so I grew up admiring these people and learning that although they work hard and are tough, being around so much nature makes them gentle too.  And that’s what I found on my trip: true gentle men, in every sense of the word. Their stories fascinated me, their different cultural backgrounds (Filipino and European) inspired me…I would do another trip like that in the blink of an eye.



4) As an expat living in a foreign land, I’ve made many, many faux pas– either with language or cultural expectations. What is Rachel’s most embarrassing and/or stressful moment? And, more importantly, what was yours?

Ha!  Again a great question!  OK, I mention these in the book but here are a few:
1) Being spat on by an elderly woman in the supermarket after helping her pack her bag and not understanding spitting is a compliment; it’s done when someone considers you’re a kind person with a good heart and therefore jealousy and evil will surely visit you, so therefore spit on you to ward off said evil (I know, but think about it, it kinda makes sense in a twisted Greek logic way!)
2) Not understanding that shouting is an every day way of communicating.  You have no idea how different the British are from Greeks (and Mediterranean countries actually).  And just because they’re ‘shouting’ at you does not mean they’re going to slap you…it could either be their normal pitch, or they could just be very enthusiastic at seeing you.
3) Men hugging enthusiastically and kissing on the cheek does not mean they are gay (come ON Brits! We need to do more of this and get rid of our awful stiff upper lip reserve).
4) Drinking a cup of hot chocolate at 11pm at night when out with friends will not evoke teasing by friends of “Go on!  Have an alcoholic drink!”   In fact, the Greeks watch the Northern European tourists (not to single out any one nation) when they come on holiday to the islands and they cannot understand why anyone wants to PLAN to get so drunk they vomit in the streets and can’t remember the next day.  The Greeks do drink, but leisurely so and wine and beer is served with crisps and nuts, even meze sometimes.  
5) One of my students calling himself “Malaka” when I first meet my class (the class clown as it turned out) and me seriously thinking that was his name, so I referred to him as this name for at least the first half of the class, until the class eventually erupted and told me it’s a very derogatory Greek word!  Oh well, we live and learn.

5) What, to you, does it mean to be Greek?

To possess stoicism and Philotiom – a Greek expression meaning ‘love and honour’, it’s impossible to literally translate because it encompasses a number of virtues such as welcoming strangers, kindness and the ability to overcome adversity. 



The Greeks are having an incredibly hard time at the moment; incorrectly labeled as lazy by Northern European press and mis-represented internationally.  It was this anger I felt (this is not the Greece and Greeks I know) that galvanized me into writing Girl Gone Greek. I wanted to show my experience of Greece, but I’m no political writer for a newspaper and actually, I felt by writing a novel I could reach a wider audience –subtly sew the seeds for people to see the real Greece. 


6) What are you working on now? Any new books in your future? Any adventures on the horizon?

Oh I so wish I could get a follow on formulated.  I did have a title and everything, and was so enthusiastic, but now I seem to have hit a brick wall, for a long time now. I think the problem is because I felt exceedingly passionate about Girl Gone Greek – I had a message I wanted to put out.  And so this galvanized me to write.  I do continue to have a lot of anger at the way Greece is being treated and viewed, so maybe I need to channel that anger in a positive direction again and write a follow up novel, but I just don’t know where to start!
I need to give myself a break by patting myself on the back for at least having got Girl Gone Greek out there, and also all the marketing I’ve been doing for it (I attended a Literary Festival in my hometown in the UK in the summer of 2016 and also presented at my old high school, and also presented Girl Gone Greek on a themed Mediterranean Cruise!)  So I’ve been busy with the marketing of her (‘her’ because she’s like a child to me).
I also maintain my travel blog: www.lifebeyondbordersblog.com and have been receiving more assignments for that, and travelling in order to bring the best of the country through my site.  So I have been busy, just not necessarily on my next book.  I am sure it’ll come to me—I hope so!  Any tips?

I do have a tip! You can't force a book out of you; wait for the idea to come.  Passion, baby. Passion! 

7) For fun: 

a) Feta or a French Fromage  
Oh I’m a huge cheese lover…I have to say I miss ‘proper’ English mature chedder – and I love brie!
b) Island hopping in Greece or Traveling around Europe  
Can I pick both?  Although I never tire of the Greek islands: there’re so many of them and even on repeat visits, you can find something different to explore every time!
c) Baclava or Baba Rhum
Both. For sure.
d) Café or Tea  
Frappe my dear!  Frappe is cold coffee with evaporated milk, whipped and served with ice cubes as sweet or strong as you want it.  It’s delicious! 
e) Greek Wine or French Wine  
Taking the route of diplomacy, they both have their differences, therefore their merits too 
f) Kostas Martakis or Theo Theodoris  (You might want to Google them. Just sayin')
Oh dear – looking at the pictures I’d have to say the latter.  He’s a bit of a bad boy…but just look at him! Ahem, er, ‘Rachel’ is not really into clean shaven and Kostas seems a bit too ‘clean’ for ‘her’. 
g) My Big Fat Greek Wedding or Mamma Mia  
Both were excellent films in their own right – I have to say My Big Fat Greek Wedding 1 and 2—although with the potential to be cheesy—were really well scripted and directed, with a great cast and many laugh aloud moments.  I like going to the movies and coming away feeling good about myself, both movies managed to make me feel this way.



And Nia Vardalos did very well to write that and star in it originally as a play off-Broadway!  Hey!  Maybe we can get a copy of Girl Gone Greek to her and see if she takes to Rachel and we can bring it to the big screen?  Sam, you on board with this project?! (hell, yeah!) 

Thank you, Rebecca for this stellar interview. It's been fun!

I want to thank you, Sam, for taking the time to interview me. It’s been fun, these have been great though-provoking questions and I love knowing that I have an author out there who feels a similar pain re: writing, yet also the joys and highs too.  Thanks, Sam.




Connect with Rebecca (she's awesome!)...







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That's it for now. 

Feel free to share this post with anybody you feel might 
like to dip their feet into a little Greek culture and fun.

 Bisous from Toulouse!

xox

Samantha





 

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