This was my very first interview, given to Samantha La Fantasie. It was published on her blog on January 31st, 2014

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I started my web-developing company, Istomedia (www.istomedia.com), in Edinburgh, Scotland, almost 20 years ago, and it still is my primary job.  I’ve moved to Athens, Greece since, where I’m also trying to raise funding for a few startups I’m working with.  However, as a self-described aspiring (and largely failed) Renaissance man, I also enjoy trying my hand at various things, including painting, music and writing.

My fascination with writing probably stems from my unusual childhood, as an only child in the middle of a forest outside Athens, with maybe two houses nearby (to this day, my parents feel crowded whenever there’s more than half a dozen people around them; a trait I share).  Having no friends nearby, I would borrow a dozen books each Friday afternoon from the school’s library, read them over the weekend and return them on Monday. 

I’ve always loved books, having learned to read at the age of two – mainly because my overworked parents could not read me all the fairy tales I wanted to hear.  An advantage of this fascination is that I’ve read most of the classics growing up, from Jules Verne and Asimov to Steinbeck and Jane Austen.  Another that I’m a fast reader, who will read anything.  A disadvantage is that even today, I often feel I’m on the outside looking inwards, studying people, instead of actually living with them.  Of course, this turned out to be a great asset for an aspiring author.

I love a good story, which is why I enjoy playing RPG video games.  I also enjoy cooking and am kind of a geek, I guess, staring at a screen most of the day.  I’m lucky enough to be married to a woman who’s even more of an introvert than me, so we both enjoy reading on the sofa, surrounded by our dog and two cats.  

I’m an Orthodox Christian and regular church-goer.  This seems to surprise many people, perhaps because I’m very European in my social attitudes, but also because most of my quotes are from Taoism and Zen Buddhism texts.  I perceive Tao Te Ching as one of mankind’s greatest works, and have even translated it into Greek (www.istomediahost.gr/taoteching ), which explains why Pearseus is peppered with quotes from it.

On that subject, I am currently reading Philip K. Dick’s Exegesis, Dick being a big influence on me.  I was surprised to see how much of his thought revolved around things like the Triadic nature of divinity – indeed, at times the book reads like a theology treatise, with words like Logos and Spirit appearing almost on every page.  What shocked me is how similar his obsessions are to mine; namely the constant need to look behind the curtain, to see what makes people – and the world – tick.  I guess I haven’t changed that much from the young boy, whose parents always complained that he broke his toys within a day or two.  “I didn’t break it,” I’d explain, “I found out how it works.”  Sadly, I never seemed to be able to put it back afterwards, with a couple of screws inevitably being left out, but I still had a big grin on my face from figuring it out. 

I believe my stories reflect that fascination with the limits of our perception, and an underlying faith that there’s so much more going on than we can see, and there’s a plan and a reason for everything.  As the  saying goes, “things will be fine in the end.  If not, it’s not the end.”

Tell us a little bit about your current project (can be current release).  

My sci-fi novel, Pearseus (http://www.amazon.com/Pearseus-Prince-Nicholas-C-Rossis-ebook/dp/B00FYRKLPI ), describes a dystopian society formed on a remote planet by the survivors of a destroyed starship.  It picks up 300 years after the accident, when humans have split up in three competing factions, all embroiled in endless intrigue and constant warfare.  The planet also has a native population, as well as ethereal entities, all caught up in their own wars, and it all ties nicely together to form “an excellent read, from a new writer, that leaves you expecting more,” as a reviewer put it.

When I started writing it, I happened across a little secret: authors don’t write books.  Books write themselves.

I know this sounds crazy, but in my case it’s remarkably accurate.  From what I’ve heard, other writers, too, have this feeling that the heroes follow their own path, and the author’s role is simply to jot it down, document it for the readers.

Most of my stories come to me in dreams.  I’ve kept dream journals since my late teens, and they sizzle with brilliant ideas.  In Pearseus’ case, probably half the book stems from various dreams I’ve had, from the Haunted Forest to David’s strange encounter in Malekshei (which is copied almost verbatim from the journal), to various characters’ dreams.  It got to the point where one of the heroes suddenly died on me, despite the fact that I had already sketched out their next moves!  I’m trying not to give anything away, so I’ll only say that I was writing this scene, and found my fingers typing the description of that character’s death, although on the notes before me the outline of the following chapters included their continued exploits.  I spent days changing my plotline to reflect the unexpected loss.  🙂

Having said that, the concept of Pearseus itself came to me after I had read Martin’s books, followed by Jim Lacey’s The First Clash and Herodotus’ Cyrus the Great and Rise of Persia, which describe the fatal battle on Marathon between Greece and Persia in the 5th century BC.  Marathon is a 20’ drive from my home, and I’d often visited the tomb where the ancient Athenians buried their dead, so I thought at the time, “wouldn’t it be great if someone did what Martin did for medieval England, only with the story of Greece vs. Persia?  And in space?  How cool would that be?”  Then it occurred to me: so, what’s stopping me from writing it?

It took me four months to finish the first draft, and four times as long to write it again and again, 17 times in total.  I had great characters, epic battles and a beautiful story, full of suspense.  But my writing was passive and lazy.  In the past, I had written hundreds of theses, dissertations, corporate presentations and business plans, but never had I written a fast-paced action scene.  What did I know about describing a sword fight, let alone an epic battle scene, except for some basic Tai-Chi training?

So, I took courses, bought books, watched videos and tried to dissect my favourite books, to see what made me love them.  Tahlia Newland (http://tahlianewland.com/ ), Browne and King (http://www.amazon.com/Self-Editing-Fiction-Writers-Second-Yourself-ebook/dp/B003JBI2YI/) and especially Rayne Hall’s Writing Crafts books (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=rayne+hall+writing+craft) helped greatly with that, but my greatest asset was my first beta-readers and my wife’s infinite patience.  Without these people I never would have made it this far.

During that time, I rewrote the book on a daily basis, until enough people told me it was good enough to publish.  Then, I worked on it for another six months, until I, too, was satisfied with it.  My writing still needs work, I know, but I believe it’s now at a very enjoyable level.  So, on October 17th I published it.  Then, ha!  I found out why people say books are 20% writing and 80% promotion, and I’m terribly grateful to Samantha for helping me with that.  Still, it’s all worth it for that magical moment when you see your book live on Amazon, or hold that first copy from Createspace in your hands.

As for my writing technique, I don’t believe in writing x amount of pages every day, as some suggest, because my life and workload are too messy for that.  I do, however, believe in working on my writing career on a daily basis.  Whether it’s spending a whole day writing or five minutes sending an email to ask for a review, it doesn’t matter, since they both bring me closer to my goal of becoming a full-time author.  It’s a marathon (pun intended), not a sprint.

Are there any projects that you are currently working on and wish to share?

I’m now working on book 2 of Pearseus (working title: Swelling Waves), and on my children’s books, the first of which, Runaway Smile, is currently being illustrated by extremely talented Dimitris Fousekis (www.dimitrisfousekis.com).  We wanted to have it ready for Christmas, but we preferred to have a great book rather that a hurried one.  It’s the story of a boy who wakes up in the morning to find that his smile has ran away, so he spends the whole day talking to people and trying to find it.

What, if anything, did you want readers to pull from this interview?

The thing that’s shocked me most in my life, is the realisation of just how free we really are.  If you think about it, there’s very few limitations on us, but the ones we place on ourselves.  Of course, one has to pay the consequences of their actions, but to me that’s only fair.

What stops us from doing all sorts of crazy things, is usually fear.  Now, fear can be a great thing and a useful tool.  However, it can also strangle us, stifle our creativity, steal away our life.  So, if someone decides, even for a second, to ignore the fear of failure, ridicule and loss, they may realise that life is far richer and filled with beauty and potential than they could possibly imagine.

It is my deepest dream and hope that, in some small way, my characters’ stories, reflections and philosophical musings offer readers a new perspective on life, and that they continue to reflect upon them long after they’ve put the book down.

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