Debut Novel Rebecca Hall Portrays Greece in Unusual Light
An Exclusive Interview with Rebecca Hall
Columnist Anna Roins
Girl Gone Greek
by Rebecca Hall
Buy this Book
“Rachel finds herself at a crossroads at an age where most people would stop globetrotting and settle. Perhaps she could find the time for one last adventure… So with sunshine in mind, Rachel takes a TEFL course and heads to Greece after securing a job teaching English in a remote village. She wasn’t looking for love, but she found it in the lifestyle and history of the country, its culture and the enduring volatility of its people.” – Amazon
Girl Gone Greek is a novel of contemporary women’s fiction written by emerging novelist, Rebecca Hall.
|“OI think writing picked me to be honest. I’ve always had a vivid imagination, much to the chagrin of my parents and teachers . . .”
AUTHORLINK: Ms Hall, thank you for sharing your time with us to discuss your new book, Girl Gone Greek.
HALL: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to showcase my debut novel on your site.
AUTHORLINK: When did you decide to become a writer? Is this the first novel you have ever written? How long did it take to write Girl Gone Greek?
HALL: I think writing picked me to be honest. I’ve always had a vivid imagination, much to the chagrin of my parents and teachers at times when I was a child! I loved English literature at school and relished the opportunity to write stories. Alas, as adults our education system seems to knock that out of kids as they get older and discourages imaginative thinking.
I digress: Girl Gone Greek is my debut fiction novel, based on my first year living in Greece as an English Language teacher in a small Greek village. Although my first novel, it’s not my first experience of writing as I maintain a website www.lifebeyondbordersblog.com about my travels and Greek/worldwide adventures.
Girl Gone Greek took me five years from conception to birth. Because I was teaching part time, I would write in the evenings and/or weekends.
AUTHORLINK: How much did you borrow from your life and how much is taken from your imagination? It’s been said over the years that writers should ‘write what they know,’ but the latest school of thought is to write what you don’t know and research, research, research. Certainly a bit of both is the answer. What do you think?
HALL: Hmm, there’s certainly a lot to be said for writing what you don’t know and to research. I enjoyed taking elements from my experiences because my main aim for this book was to showcase Greece in a different light – rather than the negative economic and political images that frequent our screens so often these days. I wanted to show my Greece; the humane side of it. And as it’s fiction, it was fun to embellish too…but the essence is there.
AUTHORLINK: It was great to read another side to Greece – the true side. Rachel, the main character, decides to try her luck teaching English as a foreign language in Greece. Her sister, Kirsty, derides Rachel’s plans. In fact, she’s rude and downright mean. How did you develop Kirsty’s character? She came across as authentic – in fact, most of your characters did. What do you think is the key to authenticate characterisation?
HALL: Ohh that’s quite easy I think. After all, isn’t it always more fun to develop a nasty character than a likeable one in fiction or film? ‘Kirsty’ is based on a variety of people I know, but yes, in reality my siblings and I are not particularly close. I think – and have received feedback to this extent from others too – that it’s good to develop a realistic relationship with its ups and downs. It makes it relatable, and other people reading it can feel as if they’re not so alone with whatever family issues they’re going through. I think novels in general offer not only and escapism, but also a feeling that someone else out there understands what we’re going through and can articulate it for us.
|“. . . a majority of Girl Gone Greek was taken from first hand experience, and developed from that, it meant I could write from the heart. “
AUTHORLINK: You captured the nuances of life in a small Greek village – it was almost as if the reader was there in person. What in your opinion is a story well-told? Why do you think there are some well-written books that don’t sell and others that sell like hot-cakes?
HALL: Because a majority of Girl Gone Greek was taken from first hand experience, and developed from that, it meant I could write from the heart. I really admire authors that have the ability to write really convincing novels and take you to a place and loose you in it, without the author ever having experience of the place or experience. That, to me, is talent. Maybe one day I’ll get there too!
With regards to well-written books, I think that’s a very relative term. Peoples tastes vary so much – just look at Amazon reviews. I love a variety of genres, but shy away from reading a book just because it’s written by a famous author. I’ve had real trouble getting to grips with some novels by famous people, but love relatively unheard of authors, and visa-versa. It’s a very subjective experience, reading.
AUTHORLINK: Kalliope, Rachel’s friend, is a well-portrayed and a lively character. Her query to Rachel about whether it was necessary to change the bed sheets “between men” is hilarious. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. Was she based on a person you know or many people? How do you navigate away from offending people whom you base your characters upon?
HALL: Ahh ‘Kalliope’. Yes, she is a real friend of mine (not her real name) and I checked with her if it was OK to use her in my book. She encouraged it, in fact she would remember things that had happened to her and often, when we would be having one of our infamous coffees, she would turn up (late) and plonk herself down and the first thing out of her mouth would be “I just had (this this and this) happen to me this week, and I think it would go perfectly in your book.” A lot of the time she was right! Her experiences, as shared in Girl Gone Greek, fitted very well. ‘Kalliope’ is a breath of fresh air. I can go a very long time without seeing her and when I do, it is like I met her just yesterday. And you’re right: there are some things in life that happen or are said that are so surreal, it cannot be anything other than truth.
|“I jumped up and opened my laptop and started typing – anything that came to mind. The structure and format came later.”
AUTHORLINK: What made you decide to sit down and start to write something? Do you have a special time to write; how is your day structured? Do you write every day, five days a week or is it whenever the inspiration hits?
HALL: Girl Gone Greek was started in 2010. I was in the UK on a break before returning to Athens for the new school year, and there had been yet another ‘bad’ headline about Greece (I cannot remember exactly what), but I remember thinking ‘Enough, enough now. I want to showcase a different Greece, the human side of Greece, but in a way that may make people laugh – not in a lecturing way.’ So I jumped up and opened my laptop and started typing – anything that came to mind. The structure and format came later.
As for how do I write, I have never been one of those people that copes will with a timetable, and writing is no exception. I tend to work very well in bursts…so I would write a lot of Girl Gone Greek, then leave it for a while (I’m talking weeks) as I became more involved in my website…then get another hit of inspiration and come back and write a lot more. As you’ll have seen from the book, like the character I am not good with a 9-5 lifestyle and believe people are all individual and have their own way of working. Maybe more companies should recognise that as I am sure people will be more productive if they weren’t forced into a regime of hours of work.
AUTHORLINK: What was the hardest thing about writing Girl Gone Greek? What was the easiest?
HALL: The hardest was finishing the book. I loved writing it so much, I think that’s why it took me 5 years from start to finish…I didn’t want it to end! Oddly, another hard thing was sitting back down to work on the book again. When I would think about it, I would groan inwardly…but as soon as I started it, I loved it.
And another oxymoron: the easiest was writing the book, the creative process. So from feeling like it was a pain to sit down and write, when I did I loved it. So the hardest and easiest weirdly become one of the same thing.
AUTHORLINK: Do you let the book stew – leave it for a month and then come back to it to edit? Who edited your book and how did you select him/her?
HALL: Yes, as stated above, I tend to write in bursts. Also, I could never write the whole book in one short go, then come back to a second, third draft, etc. I would try to make it perfect every time I came back to it. I would come back to it after a length of time and would look over what I’d already written and either be impressed, but because I am a perfectionist and ultimately very hard on myself, invariable I would think ‘Eh? I wrote that? That’s got to go.’ Another reason why it took so long to finish, probably.
An Australian friend of mine who is an indie author here in Athens paid as a Christmas present for me to have an editor. She soured one on an Indie Author website and looked at their C.Vs and their specialist areas, etc and then she selected what she thought would be the best fit and we went from there. My editor and I worked well together. He’s based in the UK and has edited numerous works of fiction, amongst other works.
AUTHORLINK: Australian people make lovely friends (a-hem). Who are your favourite authors? What book/s are you reading at present?
HALL: I never used to be into sci-fi, but on a flight to the States this summer I watched The Hunger Games and became hooked at how frighteningly prophetic it was! So Suzanne Collins is my new heroine! I am also a real fan of Jonathan Coe, a British author whose genre is stated as being satire, but there are so many undercurrents in his work, and he has a brilliant ability to point the finger at ‘the establishment.’ And if I am in a very ‘heavy’ mood, Ian McEwan’s novels are fantastic and very dark.
Currently I am reading another author who concentrates on Greece: Sara Alexi. She’s an indie author and has written a series of books under The Greek Village series. She’s relatable and brings her characters to life with her first hand knowledge of Greece.
|“I can’t really comment on the publishing aspect by a publishing house as I self-published from the beginning.”
AUTHORLINK: What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing against being published, or the other way around?
HALL: I can’t really comment on the publishing aspect by a publishing house as I self-published from the beginning. I suppose an agent and publishing house take the pressure off self-marketing and promotion. It’s hard to get accepted by an agent though…your book has to be able to fit into a genre, be ‘boxed’ and because it’s all about the money, naturally agents and publishing houses will be very selective.
With self-publishing, I find you don’t have to fit into any particular box, and maybe that way you have more control over your work—you can dictate what you want to be published and how much you alter your book. I also find with self-publishing such as on Amazon and Kindle, the royalty structures are very good. I never set out to write to become hugely rich, but it’s nice to see the royalties coming in. There are a lot of choices of self-published work these days. Many traditional publishers turn their noses up saying it takes away from the quality of literature, but as I eluded to above; it’s very subjective, what people do and don’t like.
Having said that, I won’t rule out the possibility of approaching agents again in the future. It can just be such a time consuming and quite soul-destroying process.
AUTHORLINK: What are your ambitions for your writing career? Is there a Girl Gone Greek 2? What are you working on at the moment?
HALL: I started work on the second instalment of my book…and will continue to work on it. Whether it’ll take me another five years to get this one out, who knows? I still teach but have cut down on my hours to enable me to have more time to write articles for my site and help promote Greece, also to occasionally co-author and research destinations for travel guidebook series Rough Guides.
AUTHORLINK: Ms Hall, thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed today. We wish you every success in your emerging writing career.
HALL: Thank you for taking the time to read Girl Gone Greek—I hope you enjoyed it!—and for asking such thought provoking questions. I enjoyed being interviewed.
|About the Author:||
After extensive global travels, Rebecca left the UK to return to the country she fell in love with, Greece, where she teaches English, writes and wryly observes that the chaotic nature of her adopted country actually suits her personality very well.
She is a Rough Guide co-author and has contributed to numerous publications including Apollo Business Class Magazine for Cyprus Airways and Let’s Go for RyanAir, the Daily Telegraph Travel Section and her container ship voyage from Athens to Hong Kong caught the eye of NPR National Radio in the United States, where she was interviewed twice.
When not writing, you’ll usually find her drinking coffee with her friends, or sourcing a new place to eat baklava.
|About Anna Roins:||
Anna Roins was a Senior Lawyer with the Australian Government Solicitor in Sydney before she embarked on a career in writing eight years ago. As a freelance journalist, she has contributed to articles on social and community issues and edited a number of books, websites, and dissertations. She has continued her studies in creative literature with The University of Oxford (Continuing Education) and the Faber Academy, London. Anna is currently writing her first novel and is a regular contributor to AUTHORLINK assigned to conduct interviews with best-selling authors.
You can find out more about Anna Roins on https://www.facebook.com/anna.roins and https://twitter.com/Sophiabluestar