Greek American author and poet, Patty Apostolides has published a poetry book and four romance novels: HELENA'S CHOICE, THE GREEK MAIDEN AND THE ENGLISH LORD, THE LION AND THE NURSE, and LIPSI'S DAUGHTER. She is also converting her novella IT'S A DATE, into a novel. She holds a MFA in Creative Writing from National Univ. and directs the Hellenic Writers' Group of Washington DC. Visit her at: www.pattyapostolides.com
The ancient Greek Philosopher Socrates has stated: “Know thyself”, γνῶθι σεαυτόν
Who are we? How are we defined? These are questions that not only philosophers and psychologists have explored throughout the centuries, but also fiction writers as they try and define characters in their stories.
When we write about different characters in fiction, we need to define their physical characteristics, families, beliefs and education, otherwise, our identity will be imprinted in their character, and they will end up with the same motivations, beliefs, and drives as ours.
So, writers have a responsibility to themselves and their readers, to become pseudo psychologists - in understanding human nature in order to write about humans with all their strengths and weaknesses.
As a fiction writer, and a life-long learner. I recently took courses in positive psychology from the University of Pennsylvania and discovered that we have 24 character strengths. These character strengths are derived from the six virtues:
1)Wisdom -creativity, curiosity, judgement, love of learning, and perspective.
2)Courage - bravery, persistence, honesty and zest.
3)Humanity -love, kindness and social intelligence.
4)Justice has fairness, leadership, teamwork
5)Temperance has forgiveness, modesty, prudence, self-control
6)Transcendence - appreciation of beauty, gratitude, hope and spirituality]
All these different pieces of the human character define who we are.
One of the mistakes that new writers tend to do is write about perfect characters. , but no human is perfect, and writing realistic characters requires inserting character flaws or weaknesses to our characters, like greed, impulsiveness, pessimism, selfishness, and so on. This is a task, by the way, that fiction writers are constantly battling with, trying to identify the characters in our stories. We can’t make them too perfect.
As I explored my own character strengths, I found out that leadership was one of them. I was puzzled. Me, a leader? All my life I thought I was a follower. So I read some more about these character strengths and began to piece together this puzzle of who I am, by going back in my life and studying it a bit more; I realized that I am not alone. We all are searching, in one form or another, for our identity.
Do you know who you are?
I mean, yes, my Greek name defines me. By the way, growing up in East Cleveland with a name like IPATIA KOUMOUNDOUROS was like asking for a reason to quit school. The children quickly adopted me and gave me names like Patty Duke, and my last name, morphed into Cowmoundouros and Koukoumoundouros, but I survived that period.
And my family defines me. (Photo) Both my parents came from Lipsi Island, a tiny Dodecanese island in southern Greece. Yet they had big hearts and even when we struggled to make ends meet after my father became disabled, they were always there for us five daughters.
My friends, beliefs, and education define me. (Photo) I graduated from Case Western Reserve University with a Biology degree.
My jobs defined me. (Photo) I worked the MRI machine while conducting experiments at the Cleveland Clinic.
All these experiences helped define my character.
As I tried to determine if I ever was a leader I realized that yes, it all began in my first day in kindergarten class! Newly arrived from Greece, I didn’t know a word of English. My mother knew a few more words than I did, like “Yes” and “No” and “SONABABEECH.” Somehow she found out where the elementary school was and we walked there together. I stood in a line of children my age, waiting for them to take us to our class. This was the first time that I saw black children and Chinese children in addition to white children. I spoke to them but no one seemed to understand me. Seeing that I was busy, my mother took the opportunity to leave. When I saw her leaving, I began to cry loudly and then the little black boy next to me began crying and then all the children started crying. I couldn’t speak English, but I was able to lead.
After that, I quickly learned the English language and read a lot of books, so that in fourth grade, I stood up on stage for the spelling bee. My knees were quaking and my voice trembling as I spelled the words out loud, competing with other fourth, fifth and sixth graders. My fourth grade teacher was ecstatic when I won and she made me "queen of the day." I was asked to teach spelling to the other fourth graders that year.
More leadership roles formed. I cofounded the Hellenic Student Association during my college years at Case Western Reserve University, and was elected its president, and I also engineered the weekly Greek radio program. After I received my Biology degree, I worked at the Cleveland Clinic in several capacities, including lab manager and data manager. There, I formed the Ultrasounds chamber ensemble.
After I married Dr. Anthony Apostolides, his job brought us to the Washington DC area. At first, I worked as a supervisor for a medical study at Georgetown University, but then Andoni entered our lives,
and I became busy converting myself from a no-nonsense career woman to a babbling stay-at-home mother entertaining an adorable babbling baby son.
Within the span of a few months, I was demoted from a leader- to a follower - by a tiny baby boy with large lungs.
I slowly regained my sanity and my leadership role. During the day when my husband went off to work, I organized nap times, meal times, and errand times. I was so good, that I could whip up a bottle of warm milk for the baby while the casserole was baking and the washed clothes were drying. I told my son stories every night before he went to sleep and then I began making up stories to my son during our drives or strolls. These stories were well received by my husband, and he encouraged me to write.
So I began writing novels, where I led my characters down different paths and solved their problems for them. When I would finish writing a chapter, I’d read it to my family at dinner time. My greatest supporters were my husband and son. During this time I began perfecting my craft, reading books about writing, taking workshops, and slowly embracing a new career, that of a middle-aged stay-at-home Mom writer. Mind you, I had been writing poetry during my teen years, but writing a novel was a totally different task. It required perseverance and discipline.
My first book, Lipsi’s Daughter was published in 2004 and was well received. I also published a poetry book shortly after that.
In 2007, came another novel,The Lion and the Nurse, which takes place on Kos Island.
That year, as I was attending a March 25th Greek Independence day event at our church, I watched the children dressed in Greek costumes singing patriotic songs. I asked myself questions about the history of this important day in Greece and I realized I couldn’t answer my questions. What exactly happened on that day? How did it happen? How was it resolved? And so on.
I researched the topic and noticed a pattern in the books I read. Everyone wrote about the politics and details of the war in Greece, like who killed whom, and which countries were involved, and on what dates these atrocities happened, but not much was written on what exactly happened to the humans on a human level.
For example, I read a section in a book that mentioned that the Greek women and children were taken slaves by the Ottomans. I asked myself, what happened to them? What happened to the families that were broken up because of this?
So I decided to write The Greek Maiden and the English Lord, the story of a little Greek girl who was captured by gypsies during the 1821 revolution, and years later, when she learns the truth about her identity, she begins her search for her real parents.
Writing was now entrenched in my daily schedule. By the way, all these novels are available as ebooks on Amazon.
In the spring of 2013, a publicist contacted me. His client was Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, the Greek lawyer who helped organize the 2004 Olympics. The Publicist asked me if I could write a review of her book My Greek Drama and I agreed. When I received a copy, I couldn’t stop reading it. Her perseverance, stamina, and leadership all came together to help Greece succeed in reclaiming its Olympic dignity. She personally emailed me to thank me for my heartfelt review of her book. The surprising part was that while I was visiting family in Tarpon Springs, Florida, Mrs. Angelopoulos happened to be giving a talk and booksigning there, so I had a chance to meet her.
I waited excitedly in the booksigning line with my book. When I handed her the paper with my name on it, she jumped up, shouted “PATTY!” and hugged me. I frantically motioned to my son from behind her back to take a photo of us, since he was standing there with the camera, as planned, but he looked at me with his mouth wide open as if I were sprouting mushrooms from my ears. I think he was stage struck. Finally, because we were holding up the line, Mrs. Angelopoulos told one of her people to take a photo of us together. Such a warm reception from a woman who organized the Olympics and led 45,000 volunteers was quite astonishing to witness.
But life made a turn for the worse. In June of 2013, my beloved husband, Anthony, died suddenly, turning my world upside down.
I wrote the poem FLOWING RIVER and put it to music in memory of him:
During this grieving period, I moved full steam ahead like a tornado, not on the path to destruction but on the path to redemption. I immersed myself in church activities, visited an Orthodox monastery several times for spiritual healing. I wrote poetry and music, and also played the violin with the Frederick Symphony, formed the Hellenic Writers’ Group in February of 2014, and went back to school and earned my Master’s. And during all this time, I homeschooled my son and worked on my second historical novel, HELENA’S CHOICE.
This was the second time I wrote a historical novel that takes place in Greece.
Helena’s Choice is in the same time period as The Greek Maiden and the English Lord. It stems from an article I read about a 1976 looting of 18 ancient tombs in Aidonia, in Nemea, Greece. Several bronze age items which were sold outside of Greece illegally, ultimately made their way back to Greece and ended up in the museum in Nemea.
So I asked the question, what if there were more undiscovered archaeological digs in Nemea, besides Aidonia, and that question led me to do more research. I read about several situations that occurred in Greece, where people were digging their foundations and found artifacts. I contacted Dr. Kim Shelton, Associate Professor in Classics and Director of the Nemea Center in Berkely. She answered several of my questions and I was able to pinpoint a village in Nemea called Petri to base my story on.
Historical facts are the foundation of historical novels, but because novels are fiction, authors have a license to merge these facts with imaginative characters and events to go along with thestory. This allows endless possibilities for authors because they can choose: a niche in time where a particular event takes place, or describe the life of a certain famous person, or embellish the story around a war. Whatever they decide to do, this adventure into historical novel writing becomes a unique experience for each individual author.
For me, the greatest part of writing a historical novel is rewriting history and bringing it to life in this modern world, and in the process learning that everyone is searching for their identity and trying to find themselves.
Recently, Dr. Polyvia Parara, of the University of Maryland, Modern Greek Studies Program, read the Greek translation of my book THE GREEK MAIDEN AND THE ENGLISH LORD. She has written a book review in Greek, and I have translated it into English. I am including both the Greek version and the English version of her reviews below: GREEK VERSION:
Βιβλιοκρισία της Πολυβία Παραρά για το μυθιστόρημα της συγγραφέως Πάττι Αποστολίδες «Η Ελληνίδα Κόρη και ο Εγγλέζος Λόρδος».
Το ιστορικό μυθιστόρημα της Πάττι Αποστολίδες «Η Ελληνίδα Κόρη και ο Εγγλέζος Λόρδος»
επιτυγχάνει να μεταφέρει τον αναγνώστη στα ήθη και τον τρόπο ζωής των βρετανών αριστοκρατών του δέκατου ένατου αιώνα, σκιαγραφώντας κυρίως την αγγλική επαρχία. Συγχρόνως αναφέρεται και στην περίοδο της επανάστασης του Εικοσιένα, αναφέροντας περιορισμένες πτυχές της ιστορικής ελληνικής πραγματικότητας, όπως για παράδειγμα την ανάμειξη και παρουσία ξένων δυνάμεων μεταξύ των Ελλήνων στη διάρκεια του Αγώνα, την πώληση των αιχμαλώτων ως σκλάβων από τους Οθωμανούς, τις νομάδες των τσιγγάνων στο περιθώριο των ιστορικών γεγονότων. Η συγγραφέας εστιάζει περισσότερο σε αφηγήσεις που σχετίζονται άμεσα με την πλοκή του έργου της, σκιαγραφώντας το ιστορικό πλαίσιο, χωρίς να έχει ως στόχευση την εκτενέστερη ανασύνθεση ή σκιαγράφηση των ιστορικών γεγονότων και περιβαλλόντων αυτών καθεαυτών.
Ο χρόνος της Ιστορίας είναι τα έτη 1831- 1837. Για το νεοσύστατο ελληνικό κράτος είναι τα δύο τελευταία χρόνια της διπλωματικής ρύθμισης του Ελληνικού Ζητήματος και τα πρώτα χρόνια της Βαυβαροκρατίας του Όθωνα, ενώ για την Βρετανική Αυτοκρατορία είναι οι παραμονές των σημαντικών συνταγματικών μεταρρυθμίσεων στο πλαίσιο των ευρύτερων ευρωπαϊκών μεταρρυθμίσεων των δεκαετιών 1830-1840. Συνακόλουθα στο επίκεντρο της αφήγησης βρίσκονται οι εξελίξεις στην αγγλική κοινωνία που σφραγίζονται από γάμους πλουσίων αστών με ευγενείς.
Το κύριο σκηνικό της ιστορίας τοποθετείται στην αγγλική ύπαιθρο λίγες ώρες απόσταση από το Λονδίνο: στο Παρθεναγωγείο/οικοτροφείο Γκρεϋστόουν Μάνορ, στον πύργο του λόρδου Πιτέρμπορο και στην έπαυλη των Μοντγκόμερυ. Στα οικήματα αυτά κυρίως περιγράφονται οι δευτερεύοντες χαρακτήρες της αφήγησης με τις αρετές και τις αδυναμίες τους καλύπτοντας ένα μεγάλο φάσμα των χαρακτήρων στην κοινωνία. Ο πίνακας της Παττι Αποστολίδες είναι πλήρης συμπεριλαμβάνοντας καλοπροαίρετους χαρακτήρες, ηθικούς , ενάρετους , καλοσυνάτους, αληθινούς, αλληλλέγγυους αλλά και αδίστακτους, σκληρούς, ανήθικους, συμφεροντολόγους, ιδιοτελείς, απαντεώνες, ρηχούς, συμβατικούς. Αυτός ο καμβάς χαρακτήρων με τις πράξεις τους και τις επιλογές τους αναδεικνύει τις ιδιαίτερες χάρες και ιδιότητες του κεντρικού χαρακτήρα, της Λίλης Μοντγκόμερυ, που σκιαγραφείται στην αφήγηση ως σχεδόν ένας τέλειος χαρακτήρας πρότυπο.
Η νεαρή Λίλη συνδυάζει την ελευθερία, τον αυθορμητισμό και την ευθύτητα των τσιγγάνων που την ανέθρεψαν χωρίς συμβάσεις και υποκρισία μαζί με την ευγένεια της καταγωγής της και την ευγενή φύση του χαρακτήρα της που ενισχύθηκε από την εκπαίδευσή της στο παρθεναγωγείο. Η Ελληνίδα κόρη είναι ενάρετη, αθώα, γεμάτη καλοσύνη, αξιοπρέπεια και κατανόηση, με πίστη στην φιλία, με μια εξαιρετική αντοχή που πηγάζει από τον εσωτερικό της κόσμο και με μια γοητευτική ενσυναισθητική δύναμη που ελκύει τους ενάρετους ανθρώπους κοντά της.
Μέσα από τον χαρακτήρα της Λίλης η συγγραφέας παρουσιάζει την κοσμοθεωρία της για την ζωή, χαρίζοντας αισιοδοξία στους αναγνώστες της και ενισχύοντας την πεποίθηση της συγγραφέως για την δύναμη της Αρετής και το Καλού. Πιο συγκεκριμένα, πίσω από τα γεγονότα της αφήγησης λανθάνει η βαθύτερη πεποίθηση ότι ο ενάρετος χαρακτήρας θα δικαιωθεί από την ζωή αντεπεξερχόμενος τις φοβερές δοκιμασίες, αδικίες και απογοητεύσεις. Ο άνθρωπος που αντλεί δύναμη από την ηθική του συγκρότηση και την υψηλή συγκίνηση του πνεύματός του παραμένει αταλάντευτος στα χτυπήματα της ζωής ως προς την ακεραιότητα του χαρακτήρα του, ώστε να προάγει με αυτή την στάση του την ζωή του και την κοινωνία του.
Ο αφηγηματικός τρόπος που επιλέγει η συγγραφέας για να υπηρετήσει αυτό το περιεχόμενο είναι η τεχνοτροπία της μηδενικής εστίασης, δηλαδή η παρουσίαση της αφήγησης σε τρίτο πρόσωπο από έναν παντογνώστη αφηγητή, που δεν αποτελεί ήρωα της ιστορίας. Η Πάττι Αποστολίδες συνδυάζει αυτή την επιλογή της μηδενικής εστίασης με την ένταξη εκτενών διαλογικών μερών όπου οι ήρωες διαλεγόμενοι μεταξύ τους προσδίδουν ζωντάνια και αμεσότητα στην αφήγηση τον ακροατή /αναγνώστη. «Ακούγοντας» ο αναγνώστης του ήρωες της ιστορίας, μπαίνει μέσα στην ιστορία και γίνεται συμμέτοχος της αφήγησης.
Καταλήγοντας, το μυθιστόρημα της συγγραφέως Πάττι Αποστολίδες είναι έργο φροντισμένο στην έρευνα , το περιεχόμενο και την γραφή και κυρίως πετυχαίνει στις δύο πιο σημαντικές αρετές της μυθιστορηματογραφίας, δηλαδή να πετύχει την συναρπαστικότητα στην ανάγνωση και να εξυψώσει τον αναγνώστη εμπνέοντάς τον για μια ζωή αληθινή με νόημα και σκοπό.
Patty Apostolides' historical novel The Greek Maiden and the English Lord succeeds in conveying to the reader the nineteenth-century nobility and lifestyle of the British aristocrats, outlining mainly the English province. At the same time it refers to the period of the Revolution of 1821, mentioning limited aspects of historical Greek reality, such as the involvement and presence of foreign forces among the Greeks during the struggle, the sale of the captives as slaves by the Ottomans, the nomads of the gypsies in the margin of historical events. The author focuses more on narratives directly related to the plot of her work, outlining the historical context, without aiming at the more extensive reconstruction or outline of historical events and environments themselves. The history is in the years 1831-1837; for the newly established Greek state, this includes the last two years of the diplomatic settlement of the Greek question and the first years of King Otto’s rule; for the British Empire, it covers the eve of the important constitutional reforms within the wider European reforms of the 1830-1840 decade. Consequently, the story is about the developments in English society that are sealed by weddings of wealthy bourgeois with nobles. The main backdrop of history is placed in the English countryside a few hours away from London: the Greyston Manor Girls' Boarding School, the Peterborough and the Montgomery Mansions. These houses mainly describe the secondary characters of storytelling with their virtues and weaknesses, covering a wide range of characters in society. Patty Apostolides' painting is complete, including good-natured characters, moral, virtuous, true, interdependent, and also unscrupulous, harsh, immoral, interest-oriented, selfish, responsible, shallow, and conventional. This character canvas with their actions and choices highlights the particular charms and qualities of the central character, Lily Montgomery, outlined in narration as almost a perfect character pattern.
Young Lily combines the freedom, spontaneity and righteousness of the gypsies who nurtured her without contracts and hypocrisy along with the kindness of her origin and the noble nature of her character who was strengthened by her education at the girls' school. The Greek daughter is virtuous, innocent, full of goodness, dignity and understanding, with faith in friendship. She has an exceptional endurance that stems from her inner world, and holds a charming, empowering power that attracts the virtuous people close to her.
Through Lily’s character, the author presents her worldview for life, giving optimism to her readers and reinforcing the writer's conviction for the power of Virtue and Good. More specifically, behind the narrative events, the deeper belief that the virtuous character will be justified by life is overwhelming with the terrible trials, injustices and frustrations. The man who draws strength from his moral composition and the high emotion of his spirit remains unwavering in the blows of life as to the integrity of his character, in order to promote his life and his society with this attitude.
The narrative way the author chooses to serve this content is the zero-focus technique, that is, the narrative presentation of a third person by an omniscient narrator who is not a hero of history. Patty Apostolides combines this option of zero focus with the inclusion of extensive interactive parts where the heroes chosen by each other give vividness and immediacy to telling the listener / reader. "Listening to" the reader of the heroes of history, he enters history and becomes part of narration.
In conclusion, the novel of the author, Patty Apostolides, is a work devoted to research, content and writing, and especially to the two most important virtues of fiction, namely to achieve fascination in reading and to excite the reader by inspiring him/her for a meaningful, meaningful life and purpose.
When does your creative moment happen? Is it while you're working, playing, in the shower, or walking? Is it in the mornings, in the evenings, with family, or alone? My time is usually in the late mornings or late evenings. By knowing when your creativity is at its peak, you can optimize those moments and be at your best in creating.
During my creative moments, I feel as if my universe is expanding and I am in the "flow" of things. Time stands still and I get absorbed in what I am doing. I lose myself in my creativity. I read about this state of being from the book FLOW by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and recommend this book highly. There are some similarities to this state of being as in Maslow's self-actualization. Both experiences are peak experiences.
AVOID NEGATIVE THOUGHTS
When negative thoughts, however, take over, then it becomes difficult to create. This happened to me recently. The negative thoughts came after I went to a talk given by an author who had sold over a million copies in the past nine years. I admired him for his success, but at the same time, I felt that I could never gain that kind of recognition. The reason? I don't write in that genre (Sci-Fi) and I don't write sex or violence. So I shut down. I didn't want to write.
It took me time to figure out why I was feeling bad after I left that talk. I have been writing for fourteen years and know quite a bit about writing. However, I have wanted to expand my readership and it wasn't happening. In an effort to understand the reason why, I asked myself the following questions: "What garners attention by readers? What excites them? How can I reach them? Do I have to put aside my interests to please my readers? How much of my own interests do I want to sacrifice to do that?" I noticed that my thoughts were going off on tangents. This was a waste of valuable time for me, the creator. If you catch yourself thinking negative thoughts, don't do it! If you catch yourself playing these mind traps over and over again, stop! They will keep you from creating your masterpiece. You can't create when you are in that negative mode. It's impossible. Trust me, I've been through that route.
Remember, most of the successful creative people failed at one point. Yet that did not stop them from continuing doing what they did. They kept at it. They had perseverance, and that's what separated them from the wannabes. In Angela Duckworth's book GRIT, she describes how grit, or perseverance, makes people successful. People who persist, even in the face of rejection and failure, ultimately succeed.
The students that succeeded in school and the employed people that rose to the top did it because of grit, and not because of IQ or wealth. They simply worked hard at what they did. So along with creativity, one must have a heavy dose of perseverance and persistence, and self-confidence. You will have to also love what you are doing because you will be spending much time with yourself and your creative endeavor.
Recently, I came across a poem that I had written years ago but never finished. It sat in the drawer since 2010, forgotten under a pile of other papers. Recently, as I was rummaging through the drawer, I discovered it. It was titled "Soul Mate" and I remember that at the time it was written in 2010, I had started to write it for my husband, but was not pleased with it. Anyway, I took it out of the drawer and started fiddling with it. Then I became inspired. It slowly morphed into a more concrete poem with spiritual undertones. My husband was no longer here to receive it, since he departed this earth four years ago.
Meanwhile, I had recently played around with some music on my synthesizer and saved it. I decided to put the poem together with the music. Then, I became even more inspired and made it into a video and posted it on Youtube. I am including the link here:
These moments of inspiration are very happy moments for me. I found myself staying up late at night, and getting up early in the morning to work on this project. I was driven, and I feel good with the results. This is the "flow" state of being that has been written about by author Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, where time stands still and there is no time, while you are absorbed in what you are doing.