Konstantine Paradias is a bilingual Greek-English novel and short-stories writer. His latest published novel is Sorry, wrong country.
What is your earliest reading memory?
If I had to say for certain, it would have to be "No-man in Yes-Land", a children's books that my brother and I took turns reading. Back then, we really enjoyed the story of the contrarian weirdo ruining the normies' fun, but when I found the copy again and re-read it for this interview, it read more like a children's picture book into to dystopian fiction. I am not sure, but this book is kind of what got me scared of people in the first place.
Thankfully, my faith in the natural order of things was restored, when I read Pienkowski's "Oh My A Fly" and found out that we're all just parts in a clunky, sighing, aching machine.
Has writing been a conscious choice or a natural thing for you?
I started writing, believe it or not, when I was 14 and my English teacher at the time told me that I didn't have a chance in hell unless I started working on it. Seeing how I was an insecure teenager with a terrible laugh at the time, I decided to crack down on it and wrote a 200k fanfiction book that I have since tore down from the internet and buried as far as I can.
I didn't write again for 7 years and I only did it because I thought I could maybe make a job out of it. The idea came naturally enough, but I would lie if I ever said I never had to drag my sorry butt out of the couch and try to string words together every damn day.
Not that I don't enjoy it.
Do you have any special habits or rituals when you write?
I never noticed it, until my wife told me so, but apparently, I am told that I zone out. She likened me to a lizard once, after she realized that I was working on a story for 5 hours straight, without once talking to her, going to the bathroom or getting a cup of water.
Imagine that: just banging away at the keyboard, going back to fix a typo, going online to check some fact I got wrong or another, not saying a damn word while staring at the screen like a zombie, rolling cigarettes with one hand and typing with the other, lighting up, crushing the butt into the ashtray, making another...
And they say writers aren't junkies.
Do you choose your stories or do the stories choose you?
A little bit of both, I guess. I like to browse markets, I like to gauge whether I can tell a story or not. It might come off as cynical, but I hate writing for myself. I am the worst audience I've ever had: I'm awfully judgmental, offer little to no feedback and am an all-around insufferable smartass.
But writing for others? Man oh man, that's a blast. I love talking to editors or readers, especially, pitching ideas on the sly and searching for that little nod, that semi-indifferent "go for it" sign and know that I wanna give them something they will enjoy.
Hell, even if I bungle it up I'll get some form of feedback.
What national books/authors do you enjoy re-reading and why?
I grew up on the works of Andreas Karkavitsas and other cynics, like Emmanuel Roides, so those two are at the top of my list. I even liked some of their most famous works so much, I turned them into audiobooks, in fact.
The first book I adapted was 'The Beggar", which proved to me that Greece, warts and all, hasn't changed so much, even two hundred years since gaining its independence. We're still the same aching, sighing, singing and wholly superstitious lot, with our occult fixations and our individual strangeness and wants, ready to get swept off our feet by every enterprising bastard.
The other one was "Poppess Joanna" and this book tied perfectly into my first job, selling icons and jewelry, segwaying me from the good old Medieval madness into today's strangeness. It's a work full of wry humor and I love it to bits.
What foreign books/authors do you enjoy re-reading and why?
Too many to list here, so I'll just do a top three, to avoid boring readers to tears:
1-Ward Moore, because he was a brilliant author, amazingly funny, the kind of guy that sat on a treasure trove of amazing work until he went away and no one bothered to check and his "Greener Than You Think" enivronmental apocalypse story is amazing and for free on LibriVox so please check it out.
2-Thomas M. Disch, because he is bleak and he is witty and he wrote short stories that could make you feel like utter crap and because 343 and his short story collections changed me. Also, because he wrote "Brave Little Toaster", which is, frankly, amazing.
3-Theodore Sturgeon, because his prose is haunting and he hasn't ever written a stinker (as far as I know) and because he told nerds about secret schools for psychic mutants before it was cool.
What is so important about fiction/poetry?
Nothing. Fiction and poetry are a waste of time.
Everything. Fiction and poetry make and unmake worlds.
Pick your own option. I never searched for meaning. I've long since accepted that all writers and poets are junkies, borderline burnouts with a few successes thrown in here and there just out of sheer randomness.
I mean, we try to string words together to create homogeneous images across the minds of strangers. What kind of madman would apply to a job with that kind of description?
Flaubert says he was physically sick when he wrote Emma Bovary’s death. Are you empathetic with your characters?
I love every single one of my characters, even the bastards from the lot. While I've never felt physically sick for them, I did feel sad when Larry the janitor found out he was sliding into monsterhood; I got mad when the mad scientist's son found out his mother was trying to stop time for good; when Baraat Buriyat got flogged, there was that teenage anger high all over again; when the time traveller realized he'd changed the universe so much he could never get home, I called my mother just to see if she was doing okay.
God, I've put them through so much crap. I feel awful now.
Who is your ideal reader?
Someone who'll reach out to me with a complaint. Someone who will tell me how a story could have been better. Someone who'll maybe have cared enough to have notes about whatever he's stumbled upon. Someone who'll even go, when I go into a nonsense ramble:
"You know what? I'd read that"
Or if I can't have any of that, at least someone who'll add me on Facebook and give me no context. I can appreciate that.
Should writers be embraced by society or should they be exiled?
I don't know, how do you treat junkies in your country? We sort of ignore them mostly in mine.
But on a more serious note, I cannot answer the question earnestly: I don't consider that writers deserve a special place in people's minds. Writing is a job, after all, as much as brick-laying or plumbing. Sure, the hours are awful and the pay is terrible, but you're not hurting anybody, are you now?
I don't think writers deserve a pantheon, just a chance to prove themselves by merit and live from it. Maybe fame will come and so will fortune, but in the meantime, paying the power bill from the money you made selling a story sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me.
Is there a God or are there gods for writers?
There is Jawheh, as far as I have heard and Zeus and Ra and Huitzilopochtli, the Sun-Lord; there's Thoth, who came up with writing and got us into this whole mess and Janus, who peeks out from the doorways and sniggers like the bastard that he is.
There's Typhon and Tiamat and Ahura Mazda with his brother Ahriman, still not getting along. I could go on forever, but I'm sure that they wouldn't really listen; they're each way too busy in their own right to give a damn.
But if I had to picture an afterlife for writers, I'd imagine a rejection pile as big as the world, filled with overflowing ashtrays and crushed beer bottles and rejected manuscripts, growing bigger by the second.
What makes a writer a writer?
Writing. Also, publishing, talking about writer, reaching out to editors, editing his own stuff, talking to people about writing (even if they don't give a damn), giving and receiving feedback, getting rejected over and over again, striking gold only to start all over.
There is no label to writing. It's just a thing we do. A writer isn't a person or an idea or a notion: it's a job that's nowhere near as old as prostitution, done by doomed weirdos until the end of time.
Tell us about your fiction.
I write about people I know. Places I've seen. Things I have no knowledge about. Weirdos that I'll never meet. I write stories about bad things happening to good people and about how there's no way to magic your way out of a bind.
If there's anything I love writing about, it's failure. Not in that abject, hopeless sort of way, but in that all-too-human manner; failure makes us, molds us, teaches us to succeed. Failure is our fairy godmother and she plops that rock down on that little chests while we're in our cots and we gotta learn to carry it, whether we like it or not.
What is the purpose of your writing?
Exactly seven years ago, I would have told you that my purpose was to 'stir people into thinking about the world that surrounds them.'
Now, 140 stories published later, three books coming up and after having worked with a whole lot of professionals I never thought I'd be good enough to work with, I have to say that I honestly have no idea.
I just make worlds. It's up to the readers to decide whether they wanna inhabit them.
How do you really feel about recognition and fame? Are you a satisfied mind or always craving for more?
There's no such thing as too much recognition, as far as I know. We're made to want it, like the social animals that we are, but I never think I'd be comfortable being super famous. Maybe just being the guy people turn to when they want a good story would be a good starting point.
Or maybe the butt of a weird joke or a last-second addition to one of those high-falluting Oxford anthologies or...
Or maybe just being famous enough to pay rent with book royalties. That would be enough, in a pinch.