Our Favourite Cretian Narrator, Victoria Hislop, Talks Exclusively to Domes Stories
A fervent lover of Crete island, Victoria Hislop, writes through the ink of compassion combining her zeal of anything Greek with the strong awareness of sensitive social topics. In her first book of children, she narrates a different tale for the age of innocence.
“Maria’s Island” is your first novel for children. You have stated that “Writing for children requires a whole different set of skills and I hope they will enjoy reading it.” Looking back now, what kind of skills you mastered while writing the book?
You have to be straightforward with children. They are curious, ask questions and demand answers, so you can’t be euphemistic because they demand the truth. And children are often highly intelligent. So a brief answer to this, is that you should never write “down” to children. They deserve your best writing too.
Mini Travellers’ critic was that the novel was “…a powerful story about love, stigma and hope.” According to you, what are the characteristics that a book about stigma and sensitive social topics should have?
In the case of The Island, which I adapted for children, the stigma of course is leprosy itself, which has caused people to be shunned for many millennia. But children relate that to themselves and their own situation – they know what it is for someone to be left out in the playground, and how children are often quite cruel to each other (no less than adults) and are often very aware if someone is different in some way. I think teachers are really aware of this in the 21st century – and education is showing us more clearly how to incorporate social issues into classroom teaching from a very young age – but I hope books such as Maria’s Island can contribute to this.
Recreating “The Island” theme for children after 16 years felt like living that time all again or not?
The Island has been with me almost every day in some way since it first came out in 2006! So, I think I live it almost every day: I am currently working on the development of an international version for television (I am working on the outline at the moment), recently it came out as a graphic novel in French, I am discussing it with a theatre producer for a possible stage production, and it continues to be published in several dozen languages, so there is always new activity. And my involvement with Lepra – the philanthropic organization that helps people who have leprosy (still a few million mostly in India and Bangladesh) is ongoing.
Gill Smith’s rich and full-colour illustrations offered shape and colors to our imagination. Did they meet your own imagination about Maria and her environment?
Yes! Very much. I think her illustrations perfectly capture the pathos of their situation and the beauty of Crete too. They are beautifully coloured and have real emotion. I chose Gill from a large number of other illustrators – and I am really happy with that choice. She was wonderful to work with and very talented.
“The Island”, “One August Night” and “Maria’s Island” are like an exciting window looking at Plaka and Spinalonga. If you could describe your favorite window with a view, what that would be?
I once stayed at The Domes of Elounda when we were filming the Greek TV version of The Island – back in 2011. And that was an amazing view! Straight on to Spinalonga. A perfect window with a view!
You have a special bond with Crete island. Would you describe it as your spiritual refuge? Do you have a special route that adore to follow when you visit the island?
Yes, I do really adore Crete. It is my spiritual, physical and emotional refuge. I think Crete has an extraordinary energy. From the minute I land there, I always feel very healthy and happy. The landscape, the sea and the people give me huge happiness.
If you could take something in your suitcase to remind you of Agios Nikolaos and Lasithi, what would that be?
Oregano – I always buy big packets of it for myself and my friends. It is the true scent of Crete for me. I pack some oil as well if I have space.
Do you have a new plot in my mind for your next book?
Yes. I am finishing the first draft soon and it will be out in the autumn in English. It has a Greek theme of course!