Welcome to the end of another week, and another FIVE FOR FRIDAY interview! This week I welcome Kassandra Flamouri to the table to talk about the parallels between writing music and writing fiction, celebrating Greek Independence Day, and her latest book, MAGISSA. Click CONTINUE READING below to check it out!
Why don’t we start by going around the table and introducing ourselves? Tell us who you are, why you’re here today, and one interesting thing about yourself.
I’m Kassandra, and I suppose I’m here to talk about my books! One interesting thing about me … hm. Difficult to say what people will find interesting. Maybe that I went back to school a few years ago to become an Occupational Therapy Assistant but then, because of all I learned about identifying individual needs, recognizing limitations, and adapting to accommodate those needs and limitations, I realized that I was likely not going to last in Occupational Therapy or in any traditional employee role. I instead started my own SAT prep business and took on work as a freelance copywriter and digital marketer, and I now work happily from home with my furbabies.
Tell us a bit about MAGISSA. Greece feels like a truly unique setting for a contemporary fantasy story, so I’m curious about the personal experiences and folkloric traditions you explored when writing Chrysa’s world.
Magissa is a story very near and dear to my heart, in large part because it explores some lesser known areas and elements of Greek culture. Most often when Greece shows up in books, the setting is sunny beaches and islands. And the magic, especially in young adult fantasy books, centers on classical mythology—the Olympians, or more recently villains and secondary characters like Medusa, Circe, Ariadne, etc. But still, we’re talking about the ancient myths. But there’s more to Greece than beaches, and there have been thousands of years for mythology to evolve.
Modern Greece has a rich folkloric tradition that has a lot in common with the Celtic stories of faeries, changelings, brownies, etc. Most people outside of Greece have no idea, so I really wanted to showcase that lesser-known version of Greece. I can provide some pictures from my research trip to the Zagori region on which the setting for Magissa is based. They don’t do it justice, but it’ll give you a taste! I absolutely loved exploring and talking to the locals about the stories and superstitions they grew up with. I knew some—my grandmother was the go-to fortune reader in her village (Greeks use coffee grinds rather than tea leaves), and I knew the stories of the kallikantzaroi, but a lot of research went into fleshing out the book’s magic and supernatural characters.
You self-published your earlier books (two short story collections and the novel THE CHALICE AND THE CROWN) before signing with Parliament House Press for MAGISSA. How different has the experience of working with a small press been compared to going it alone?
To be honest, my experience has been kind of mixed. There is definitely something to be said for retaining creative and administrative control—it’s a lot more work, but there’s a certain comfort in knowing any mistakes (missed deadlines, missed formatting or grammatical errors, missed opportunities, etc.) are your mistakes. For me, at least, it’s a lot more upsetting when those kinds of things aren’t my own fault. And then of course there’s the fact that you don’t have final say in the cover design. That was kind of hard for me, too. But at the end of the day a publisher, even a small publisher, has a much wider reach than I do, and they take on the initial financial risk. The results, too, were kind of mixed in that they don’t point toward one or the other being the better choice. Financially, Magissa did better than Chalice, but not by much. Chalice, on the other hand, got way more reviews both on Goodreads and Amazon. I’m still not really sure how that happened, since Magissa did much better in terms of units sold. It’s all very mysterious, and I’m still not sure which experience I prefer. Of course my hope is that I’ll be able to experience traditional publishing with a big publisher next!
You studied music composition in college, if I’m not mistaken? I’m curious to know if you draw any parallels between music and writing prose fiction, or if the two disciplines are completely different?
For me, at least, there was a lot more overlap than my professors would have liked. I always seemed to tell a story or incorporate some human/social element with my music. One memory comes to mind of my professor challenging me to write something without any narrative or programmatic content, and I came back to him with a dance suite. He just sighed and muttered “that’s not what I meant” and then gave me more specific instructions to write a fugue
Tomorrow, March 25th, is Greek Independence Day. How is the holiday celebrated in Greece and among the Greek diaspora around the world?
Lots of noise and food! Think parades, pastries, music, and sizzling meat. School children dress up in traditional garb: the fustanella (a sort of kilt) for boys and the Amalia dress for girls; very cute, with an embroidered jacket and skirt. I had to look up the exact name because everyone always seemed to just know what dress was The Dress. In Athens there’s also a big military parade. The greeting or, I don’t know, slogan for the day is “Zito i Ellada!” Basically, “Long live Ellas!” (Ellas = Greece).
Thanks for taking part in Five for Friday, Kassandra! Have a great weekend!
Kassandra Flamouri made her storytelling debut at age three with “Squirm the Worm,” which was warmly received by an audience of assorted beetles. After many years spent exploring a variety of interests, she went on to study music composition at the Sunderman Conservatory of Gettysburg College. She currently resides in Pennsylvania, where she juggles writing, editing, teaching, and digital marketing. Kassandra shares her heart and home with a very sweet and loving man, a very sweet and excitable cattle dog, and two goofy cats.
MAGISSA on Goodreads
Chris Patrick Carolan is an author, editor, and hovercraft enthusiast, originally from Glasgow but now based in Calgary, Alberta. He writes science fiction, fantasy (urban and epic), and steampunk, though he has also been known to turn to crime to make ends meet. Crime fiction, that is. His first novel, THE NIGHTSHADE CABAL, was published by Parliament House Press in 2020, and was a finalist for the Crime Writers of Canada Awards of Excellence ‘Best First Novel’ award. He can be found on Twitter as @cpcwrites but–consider this fair warning–it’s mostly wisecracks about McNuggets.
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