Interview with Anna Arsenis of Alfa Magazine: Giorgi's Greek Tragedy

Childhood ambition: To become a writer.
Fondest memory: Birth of my first child.
Retreat: River cruises.
Wildest dream: Meaningful and lasting peace between Greece and Turkey.
Proudest moment: Graduation Day from college, the first in my family.
Indulgence: Ice-cream
Favorite movie: "Out of Africa", one of many.
Life philosophy: Only worry when you can do something about it.

AA: What inspired you to write "Giorgi's Greek Tragedy"?

PH: I was browsing on the internet when I came across a series of articles about a Kapetan Zaharias Barbitsiotis of the Mani (Peloponnese) region of Greece, who was murdered just prior to The Greek War of Independence. I was so taken by what I read regarding this legendary and colorful man who organized the captains and klephtes scattered throughout the region that I decided to write this historical novel. Although people of Greek descent throughout the world celebrate Independence Day every March 25th, I don't believe the average person has much knowledge about the circumstances that lead to this war. I admit, I learned a lot through my research.

AA: Tell me a little about this book. The main character and where the story is taking place.

PH: The main characters are two brothers Giorgi and Yianni Papakalos, whose parents are murdered by secret agents of the Turkish Ottoman Sultan's Janissary Corps. When the young boys become teenagers, they leave their widowed Aunt Tasia's home and hope to join forces with Giorgi's childhood hero and guerrilla leader, Kapetan Zaharias and his outlawed Greek mountain fighters (klephtes). Ensconced in deep caves in the craggy Taygetos Mountains of the Peloponnese, they live and train to battle the Turks. Tragic events continue to shadow Giorgi in his endeavors to fight side by side with Kapetan Zaharias. His revenge to kill the Turks consumes him and he continues to fight, whereas Yianni's hatred of killing anyone compels him to become a priest/monk. Although the brothers have many differences and often argue, they remain loyal to each other to the end.

AA: What "triggered" your interest in Greek culture?

PH: My father was born in Longanikos, Greece and my mother in Kastania, both villages in the Peloponnese region, so it was natural that I would be interested in the culture.

AA: Have you been to Greece?

PH: Yes. My husband, my son, and I visited Greece for two weeks several years ago. We rented a car and drove up the mountains above Sparta to visit my father's village. Unfortunately the road entering the village was just paved the day before and it rained heavily during the night, making it unsafe to drive on. The workmen advised us not to drive on that road. There was no other way. It was about five miles from where we were and our time was running out, so we never got there. I hope to return someday and also to visit my mother's village.

AA: How would you describe Greece?

PH: Truthfully, other than the historic sights and museums that are extremely interesting, I did not find much beauty in the cities or villages on the mainland, other than the coastal areas. The beauty is in her islands. There was much poverty in the country, and as much as I dislike saying this, there is still a lot of corruption today, which I think is a throwback to the conditions of Greece during the Ottoman rule. One example is that the Turkish pashas ruled with a combination of laxity and extortion, i.e. you pay the right person in charge and you are left alone, which is still rampant today.

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AA: Has the book been translated in Greek?

PH: No, but I would consider it.

AA: What has been the best review so far?

PH: The book has only been out since July 2010 and I have received several good ones, but the review I consider honest is from a gentleman from Fresno, California, who wrote: "The author must be a philhellene to write such a beautiful novel." What more can I say? I was humbled.

AA: What are the major challenges that you have faced in your career?

PH: Writing a book is easy, finding a publisher or agent is the hard part and very frustrating. Time is spent writing letters and waiting for a reply. Unless you have a famous name, they won't consider you and take a chance on an unknown. I had my manuscript professionally edited and submitted my completed transcript to a Print-on-Demand publisher, and have never regretted it. Since I own the copyright, I have all rights and control of my book, from beginning to end, including writing the title and picking the cover, and do what I want with the book. I can even sell it to a movie producer.

AA: Will you be writing another book?

PH: Yes, I hope to. Unfortunately I spend so much of my time, at the moment, marketing my book that it doesn't leave me with a lot of time to write creatively. I have many ideas for a story buzzing in my head and hopefully one will come to fruition eventually. That's how it works for me.

The following is a short paragraphs from my book:

You probably will find this hard to believe, Yianni, but I am tired of war. I'm sick and tired of it all, and I no longer enjoy killing a Turk. I just want this long bad dream to end. After our last battle, I was returning to my unit, walking over bodies, when I heard someone groaning. It was almost nightfall and the air was full of smoke, making it difficult to see. I looked around until I traced the moaning to a small figure. I thought he was one of us. He was lying on the ground, his clothes covered with blood and mostly in shreds. His face was on the ground and his right arm was twisted around his back. It was clear he was in terrible pain. I gently turned him over on his left side and saw his face. He was just a boy, Yianni, not much older than fifteen or sixteen. The same age we were when we left home. I tried talking to him, when I realized he was a Turk.

Greek Tragedy