Saturday, February 16, 2013

Interview with Author Vasilios Birlidis

Give us a quick introduction yourself and your book.
Thanks for including me in this opportunity to promote my work. My name is Vasilios Constantine Birlidis, pen name V.C. Birlidis. I was born and raised in Miami, Florida. Moved to Ohio to attend college. Graduated from Capital University with a Bachelors in Marketing and Communications. I am the marketing director at SBC Advertising, one of the larger integrated advertising agencies in the Midwest.

Muse Unexpected is my first book. It is currently working its way through final prepping before being released by Crescent Moon Press. It is the story of a young girl, Sophie, who after the mysterious death of her father discovers that her mother and grandmother are Greek Muses and she is expected to take up the family business. Destined by the Fates to be an extremely powerful Muse, Sophie will be the only thing standing in the way of the Olympians rising again and taking over the world. The book is incredibly dark, yet somewhat comical. The Olympians are pretty much ripped off of their marble pedestal and exposed as the incredibly flawed and obsessed beings they are.

What inspired you to write your first book?
It was several things. For over 10 years I have been working as an independent marketing and communications consultant (so it was very creative), but when the real estate bubble burst, so did my client base. I was lucky enough to land a job at Ernst & Young, as a proposal writer, but that was about as far away from being creative as you could get. Writing the book was my creative outlet.

Do you have a specific writing style?
I consider my writing style to be very conversational and easy to read. It's also very descriptive. One compliment I've received from a lot of people who have read the book, in its many versions, was that they could easily picture in their mind the world and characters I was creating.

How did you come up with the title?
It's kind of a play on the whole ridiculousness of the situation Sophie finds herself in. One day she's a normal girl growing up in Columbus, Ohio, two weeks later she wakes up in Greece, and she has been transformed into a Muse. I could hear Sophie say to herself, sarcastically, "Well, that was unexpected." Hence the title.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
There are actually several. One of the biggest is regardless of the odds, by believing in yourself you can achieve great things. The other important theme deals with family relationships and how they can be both volatile and destructive, while also being nurturing and loving. Relationships are complicated and the relationship between the three main protagonists in my novel hold true to this rule.

How much of the book is realistic?
The situation that Sophie finds herself in is completely unrealistic. However, how she deals with it is very realistic. I am a huge fan of the Harry Potter series, but one item that didn't seem very realistic was how easily Harry adjusted to his magical life. It could be attributed to Harry being so young, but unfortunately for Sophie, being sixteen, she struggles with what her fate is and how ridiculous the new world she has been forced into.

Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life? Absolutely. Most of the characters are based on people in my life. Sophie and the relationship she has with her mother is based on my niece, Grace, and my sister-in-law Christine. Georgia, Sophie's grandmother is a collage of every strong woman I've met in my life. Muse unexpected is almost like a love letter to those who are important to me.
What books have most influenced your life most?
Wow... good question. There are actually several. Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House impacted me greatly. I love it. Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley was also a big favorite of mine. I also loved just about every book F. Scott Fitzgerald has written. I am ashamed to admit that I have a secret stash of Jacqueline Susann's books. They're complete trash, but entertaining in a campy sort of way and perfect for a writing weary author who just needs something to take their mind off their own projects.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
I had a writer friend who was an incredible mentor to me in the early stages of Muse Unexpected. Rebecca Gifford, who wrote Cancer Happens: Coming of Age with Cancer. She was the first person to read the first few pages of Muse Unexpected and the first to comment that I had something.

What book are you reading now?
I'm reading My life in France by Julia Child. She has a charm that literally leaps off the pages. Very irresistible.

Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Ransom Riggs interests me a lot. I just got Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children and I can't wait to start reading it. Everyone tells me it's incredible.

What are your current projects?
Right now I'm focusing on building my social network for the release of Muse Unexpected. It's been going incredibly well. Anyone who would like to follow the publishing journey of Muse Unexpected can do so at www.facebook.com/vcbirlidis. Additionally, I've started outlining the next book in the Muse series.
Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
That would have to be Paula Friedrick. She has been such a support and my number one cheerleader.

Do you see writing as a career?
I would love for writing to be my career, but understand that most writers don't have that luxury. We'll have to see how well Muse Unexpected does.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I think I would have made it even darker, although it's pretty dark right now. I think I might have also taken a few more risks with it, but overall I am very pleased with what I've done. I'm my worst critic.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
It originated about 5 years ago, with a minor spark of an idea. I just sat down and started writing. When I had about five pages I started reading it and realized it was complete shit. I had literally written, "It was a dark and stormy night" in a different interpretation. I ripped it up, threw it in the trash and decided writing wasn't for me. After a month, something kept gnawing at the back of my mind, pushing me to sit down and try again. I did and except for an occasional break, haven't stopped writing since. One thing I did do while I wrote was refused to read any other works, which drove me nuts because I am a voracious reader. But I wanted to be focused.
Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Since it's going through final edits, I'll have to pass on this, but once it's done, I would love to.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
When I started to write some of the "magical" portions of the book, I started to struggle with feeling what I was writing was good. When you actually read any book that takes you completely out of reality, there is a moment where you have to suspend disbelief. This is particularly true for YA fantasy. Finally, I decided to take a week off and to reread potions of one of the Harry Potter books and realized I just had to get over it and let it fly. So I did.

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I know this is going to sound strange, but I love Shirley Jackson. I have a very worn copy of The Haunting of Hill house that I have in my office. The cover fell off years ago, but it's a book that I always pickup every so often and read it. Shirley Jackson had this way of writing that appeared to be so effortless. She also have the ability to suck you right in. "Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone." How can you resist such a start?

Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Right at this moment, no, but I do have locations already scouted out where I will want to do book signing...etc. So travel will be part of my overall marketing plan.

Who designed the covers?
Presently the cover is in the works. Will let you know once it is finished.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?
The book took over 5 years to write. At one point I went back to an earlier section of the book and realized my writing style had changed slightly and I had to go back over those sections and adjust. That was very frustrating for me.

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learned, thanks to Rebecca Gifford, that you have to look at the editing process as a sort of game. Yes, you should always speak up if you disagree on a suggested edit, but once you receive your first set of suggested cuts and adjustments, embrace those suggestions and see how far you can take it. It ends up not being painful at all and you start to enjoy the challenge.

Do you have any advice for other writers?
Don't give up. Seriously. There are a million publishers and agents who will say no in all sorts of creative and sometimes cruel ways. You have to be able to say, "F%#$@ them". Additionally, do your research. There are a lot of predators out there ready to pounce. Always check into who the organization is that responds. The Absolute write website is incredibly handy. Search out the organization in question on there and see what other people are saying. With a resource like the web, you have no excuse for being taken for a fool. Trust me, the writing community will put it out there if someone has screwed them over. http://www.absolutewrite.com/ forums/

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
When its available, please check out Muse Unexpected. It's a comical, dark adventure you won't want to miss. I'd like to also thank the many people who made Muse Unexpected a reality. My support group has been wonderful.

What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?
Honestly, there weren't many challenges. However, there was one and that was my better-half feeling there were three in our relationship. The third person was Muse Unexpected. Needless to say, taking breaks from writing was key in keeping everyone happy.

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