Interview: Stella Zografou Talks About Dreams, Challenges and the Greek Publishing Industry
Greek writer Stella Zografou just finished high school and one of her books was chosen as the ebook of the week by the Widbook team. We had a conversation via email to learn more about the author writing “Bloody Witch.” She dreams of becoming a famous writer. Get to know the 18-year-old girl behind the “blackink” pseudonym:
WIDBOOK – Hi Stella! Congrats on your work. When did you know you had a talent for writing?
STELLA ZOGRAFOU – When I was in junior high (middle school) many of my Greek teachers told me that my writing was good but I never thought of it that much. In my first year in high school I started writing in Greek, my memories of being bullied for a project that my ancient Greek teacher had told me to do in order for the teachers to learn more about bullying and to help me surpass all the bad feelings I had. Since then, I participated in our school magazine and I started writing a fiction thriller in Greek, which later I stopped because of the big amount of homework I had. A year ago I discovered many sites in which I could read English stories and then I decided to write my own ones in English, too. Some of my stories are scripts from my comic and manga series that I am about to start working on soon.
WIDBOOK – What is your favorite style of book?
STELLA - I mostly prefer fiction books, teens and young-adult ones, as a young adult I am. I prefer mostly books that make me feel different emotions at the same time. I want something with action and adventure. I am not that much into just plain romance. It’s something that I can’t explain well.
WIDBOOK – What is most difficult for you when writing?
STELLA - I try to keep my readers interested. I am trying to write each story in a different way and to work on each character the best I can. It’s difficult because there are still many things that I don’t know how to write in English – English is not good in Greek schools, we learn only the basic things. I also have a problem with the “male” point of view, feelings and behavior, but I am working on it. Like other people, many times I have no idea on how the story will flow. Sometimes I have some main parts that I am trying to connect and develop, and many times things don’t go as I was thinking. When I am writing and designing the only thing that I do is to grab a pencil (or whatever else) and start working (my hand leads me).
WIDBOOK – Your book “Bloody Witch,” which was chosen as the book of the week, talks about witches and vampires. Where do you most get inspiration and where do you hope to take the book?
STELLA – For example, in the book “A Discovery of Witches” by Debora Harkness, the main heroes are a witch and a vampire. Witches and vampires are nothing new. For my story, I first thought of a girl who discovers that she comes from a very ancient witch family. There is the church, as always, to try to stop her research and burn her alive. I thought of the vampire idea as a funny threat. Vampires are supposed to be enemies with the church so it is funny that even though they are in war they both want her dead. Everyone believes that witches are bad and the reason of many great disasters, but our heroine and her future witches’ friends are coming from the good ones. It will be a very different story from all the others that I have written, both story and the way of writing. Through that book series (yeah, there will be at least three books) readers will travel in many different countries following the heroine as she tries to discover her family secrets and hidden treasures. There will be adventure, magic, action, trips, history and a split of romance decided by the “evil fates.” Many of my stories come from my dreams, (yeah, very weird dreams), others just pop! I may read a word and behind it create a whole new adventure. So I would say that I don’t have something specific as an inspiration in my life – maybe that’s because I’m a moving inspiration too. What can I say, there’s a reason everyone calls me “real life cartoon or anime.”
WIDBOOK – What is your goal as a writer?
STELLA - I would like to see my stories published and on sale. I would love one day to meet them on a bookstore’s shelf. So, yeah, I would like to work as a writer too. I would love it to have lots of people liking and enjoying my stories, just like I do with other writers’ books too.
WIDBOOK – Which books are you reading at the moment?
STELLA - Well, now that I finished high school I have a lot of free time and I am reading many books at the same time. I just finished the ebook version of “Up In Flames” by Williams NIcole. I started a month ago the book series “House of Comarré” by Krinsten Painter and right now I’m on the third book. I just also finished “Lonely Werewolf Girl” by Martin Millar and I am reading Victoria’s Hislop newest book, “The Last Dance.” I am very eager to find out what people from other countries think of us Greeks. I am also reading “The Circle” by Sara Bergmark Elfgren and Mats Strandberg. I’ve got many more to talk about but I think that’s enough.
WIDBOOK – You are from Greece. How it is the publishing industry doing there?
STELLA - That’s a very difficult question. If you are a young or new writer things aren’t so good. Because of the economical crisis, many Greek Publishing Companies have decreased their work a lot. Due to my own research I can tell you that in the last two years the biggest publishing houses have made an announcement that they are not going to give any money to publish a new writer’s book. The writer will have to pay everything and the company will just give in the book its publishing logo (company’s label name). Smaller or newer publishing companies, on the other hand, accept to read your work and according to what they believe they will cover everything - half, more or less of the book’s publishing money. The readership is something unstable. It’s true that the economical crisis increased the amount of Greek people reading. The prices of books, though, do not help at all. An English fiction book in the United States costs $9, its translated version in Greece costs twice or even three times up the actual price. I’ve found very few books being only two Euros up from its actual price and it was from small publishing houses, Harlequin publishers and thriller publishers. Most readers, mostly teens and young adults and some few older adults, prefer just like me to buy the English version of a book instead of the translated one. Many teenagers prefer to download books through some apps, free from the Internet or just buy the audio book. The government does not help at all. For example, in Germany the government pays some money in order for books’ prices to be low or share some discount coupons in students and families. They try to promote books (translated only) as much as they can. No matter how the Greek School is trying to promote reading books to all students, things are not very good. Most of the teen readers are females, too.
WIDBOOK – Who are your favorite Greek authors?
STELLA - To tell you the truth, it’s kind of difficult to say. There are mostly old ones. Some of them (very few) Adonis Samarakis, Manolis Anagnostakis, Miltos Saxtouris, Takis Sinopoulos, Evgenios Trivizas, Marios Hakkas, Tatiana Gritsi Miliex (her story “A story of a resistance” even though has been published in a very old magazine, is really amazing…). It’s really difficult because all Greek writers are very special people and their writing makes you feel amazing things (every one of them is similar to how we talk about Shakespeare, that special). It is really difficult for me to explain.
WIDBOOK – How do you like Widbook?
STELLA - Well, I am enjoying it a lot. I’ll have to admit that two weeks ago I was still trying to understand how everything works. I like the presentation of the whole site and how the books are being represented. I found the collaboration thing very clever, in other sites you don’t have that, even though I am not going to collaborate in my stories (sorry guys). I’m still discovering the whole site.
WIDBOOK – Where does your artistic name “blackink” come from?
STELLA - That’s a really weird story. A year ago when I started writing in English, I started dreaming, like all teen girls do, of becoming a famous fiction writer. Back then I was thinking about fantasy stories, vampires, witches, demons, angels… “Dark side” fiction as we called it in Greece. So I thought of a name that would create some kind of a mystery and would be connected with the whole dark thing. It could also represent the most ancient tool that was used to write books, the black ink. Since I create my own comic and manga I thought that it was a good name for my artistic self too. It was also something small and easy to remember, catchy, so I like it a lot. The first idea of blackink was the comic-like image of a girl dressed in sassy black dresses with a little bit of gothic Lolita too. I could say that it just popped in my head.
WIDBOOK – You are a designer as well. How important are covers and illustration in a story?
STELLA - Very important. Book covers are the first thing people usually notice, then next is how famous or how many copies it has sold and the description. For book illustrations it’s the same, too. Of course there are times where the cover is better than the story and we should not judge a book by its cover but it’s just the nature of our brain. Like in advertising or products’ packages, presentation and looks are very important. The same goes usually for books. I believe that the cover should be well-worked and chosen according to the story. It should represent the story.
WIDBOOK – Thank you Stella. Much success to you!