A warm welcome to author Marjory McGinn on my blog this week to tell us about her great new book which transports us to Greece on the wings of a pun – Things Can Only Get Feta.
Although born in Perth, Scotland, I emigrated with my family to Australia as a nine year-old but I think it engendered a restless spirit in me that has continued ever since. Like most kids brought up in Australia, I didn’t have a sense of boundaries, or a fear of exploration, so it was a very transformative experience. My first friend in Australia was a vibrant Greek Aussie called Anna with whom I shared many long family lunches where Greek was mostly spoken, which sounded madly exotic to my young Scottish ear. I am sure that inspired a life-long interest in Greece which culminated in my spending three years in the Peloponnese from 2010, and writing a book about it.
What made you want to be a writer?
The move to Australia and my attempts as a child to make sense of that huge experience definitely spurred the urge to write and I used to pen stories for my own amusement which, not surprisingly, always had a migrant angle. I started in journalism in Sydney and later became a feature writer for a Sunday paper. I loved journalism and found it deeply fulfilling yet at the back of my mind, I had the dream of writing a novel. I had no shortage of material either but despite scribbling out a few stories now and then, I never got round to the novel when I was younger. Maybe it was the fear of failing that put me off. Journalism was a safer bet and all journalists know the thrill of seeing a byline on a big newspaper spread. It can sustain you creatively for a long time.
Tell me about your journey as a writer and how you have developed.
About eight years ago, now living back in Scotland with my partner and our manic Jack Russell dog, Wallace, I was freelancing and finally had time to start a novel. The story had a journalistic theme and was very light-hearted. I thought it was great (naturally) but the rejection letters piled up, and despite two massive re-writes, I never found a publisher. It’s a common rite of passage, I know, but I think the book probably wasn’t good enough, and I had a lot more to learn about creative writing. But during that time though I did discover my own writing ‘voice’ and that certainly helped when I began writing my non-fiction book Things Can Only Get Feta. It was certainly encouraging that my publisher Anthony Weldon said the book read like a novel. That might not have delighted more serious writers of non-fiction but it certainly hit the right spot for me.
Things Can Only Get Feta is about a slightly risky adventure my (journalist) partner Jim and I, and our dog Wallace, undertook in Greece from 2010. After an Arctic winter in Scotland and a restructuring of the newspaper industry we decided we needed time out of the rat race and escaped to Greece since it’s a place we both love, and I had some Greek at least having spent a year in Athens in my twenties. The timing was terrible though as Greece slid into economic ruin, but we went anyway, picking a remote village in the Mani, southern Peloponnese, because it seemed more authentic. We met some wonderful, stoical Greeks who provided great material for the book. We also had many escapades, especially with Wallace, like smuggling him into a 2,500 year old archaeological site in a backpack with the lure of chicken sandwiches, which turned into a chapter in the book.
I started writing it after the first year. I had the sense that this region was so remote and unspoilt that it couldn’t stay that way forever and I wanted to capture its way of life before it disappeared. And because I worked hard on the language I got to know a lot of the village Greeks well, so I like to think the book, although it’s also entertaining, goes a bit deeper into the Greek experience than a lot of comparable books.
What’s next? Maybe a second book on Greece and one day I might have another bash at a novel. We’ll see.
Where is the book available?
Things Can Only Get Feta: Two journalists and their crazy dog living through the Greek Crisis (Bene Factum Publishing, London) is out now.
And also at www.bookdepository.co.uk, and leading bookstores.
Information about the book and about Greece http://www.bigfatgreekodyssey.com