Marjory McGinn is the author of three travel memoirs, Things Can Only Get Feta, Homer’s Where The Heart Is and A Scorpion In The Lemon Tree. Her debut novel, A Saint for the Summer, was published by Pelagos Press on 28 February 2018.
Marjory kindly answered a few of my questions.
1. Tell us a little about A Saint for the Summer.
It’s a contemporary novel set in Greece but with a narrative thread back to a little known World War II conflict, the Battle of Kalamata, in the Peloponnese. Journalist Bronte McBride goes out to Greece to see her expat father Angus and ends up helping him solve a mystery from the battle when his father Kieran, serving there with the British army, disappeared, presumed missing. Their quest takes them to remote villages bound by old traditions and secrecy and the difficulty of the search will stretch their relationship to the limit. It’s a story of family tension and heroism but full of humour too, and romantic love, with a feel-good ending.
2. What inspired the book?
I spent four years living in Greece from 2010 during the economic crisis and it was during this time that I became interested in the Battle of Kalamata because it’s a war conflict that hadn’t been written about much. I did a lot of research while there and the story just percolated away in my head, though I did have to put it aside for quite a while as I was also writing three travel memoirs based on my experiences in Greece.
3. Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you?
I’m not good with extravagant plans and charts and things. Constructing a spreadsheet for example would be my idea of hell. This was my first novel and I didn’t have a formula. I knew how the plot was going to progress but I just kept it in my head for a long time and did a lot of my plot development and ‘scribbling’ there, working and reworking things. Once I get down to writing, I like to be spontaneous some of the time and let the muse mess around a little with the progress of the book – see where it goes. That’s when the magic always happens.
4. Having been through the publishing process is there anything about the process of creating a novel that surprised you?
What I love about the actual process is often having characters arrive in your imagination fully formed as if they’ve always been there. Or perhaps novelists are just children who never really outgrew their imaginary friends – but now have dozens of them. Frankly, the whole process of writing has always delighted and surprised me.
5. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?
I try to keep physically fit and walk a lot and swim. I’m quite passionate about swimming and do it regularly at a local pool and as soon as the water in the UK is manageable I’m down at the beach swimming, as we live in southern England close to the sea. I’m never so happy as when I’m in the sea – especially a pale blue Greek sea!
6. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?
Oh, a hard question now! No-one can read just one right? But since you’ve asked, I’d probably say Report to Greco by the Greek author Nikos Kazantzakis who wrote Zorba The Greek. He had a very philosophical, inquiring mind and his books are crammed with ideas and are beautifully written. One of his books would keep me going forever.
7. I like to end my Q&As with the same question so here we go. During all the Q&As and interviews you’ve done what question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?
As a journalist, whenever I interviewed writers, I always asked them when was the point they felt the urge to write and what triggered it? No-one’s ever asked me that. So here goes! I think most writers probably feel the urge first in childhood. My moment came when I was about nine after my family emigrated to Australia from Scotland. I think my need to make sense of all this produced a flurry of immature scribblings that nearly always featured birds as protagonists; migrating birds at that. So you can see where my mind was heading. Stories from there always seemed to have people flitting about and being outsiders. Although I wanted to be a writer at that early point, it was journalism I first sought out.
About the book
(What’s hidden on a Greek hillside can change your destiny …)
A novel by the author of travel memoir, Things Can Only Get Feta
Scottish journalist Bronte McKnight is summoned to a hillside village in the wild and beautiful Mani region of Greece by her estranged expat father Angus to help him with a medical problem. But she soon discovers that Angus, whom she has barely seen in 10 years, has lured her there with a tougher challenge in mind – solving a mystery from the Second World War when his father disappeared in Greece during the disastrous Battle of Kalamata, ‘Greece’s Dunkirk’.
With the country gripped by economic crisis, and the clock ticking against them, their near-impossible quest to discover how and where Kieran McKnight died, takes them from Kalamata to a remote mountain village where its few remaining inhabitants are bound by old traditions and secrecy. As the tensions of their own fractured relationship rise, Bronte and Angus are helped in their search by a cast of intriguing Greek characters, especially charismatic doctor, Leonidas Papachristou. He has a pivotal role, not least in challenging Bronte’s assumption that she hasn’t the time nor the courage to fall in love in Greece.
The secrets unearthed by Angus and Bronte will be painful and astonishing. This is a compelling tale of heroism, faith, and love – with a heart-warming conclusion.
About the author
Marjory McGinn is a Scottish-born author and journalist, brought up in Australia. She worked in Scotland for 10 years from 2000 as a freelance feature writer. Her journalism has appeared in leading newspapers in Britain and Australia, including The Daily Mail, The Times, The Telegraph; and The Scotsman, The Herald. In Australia she was a senior feature writer on The Sun-Herald, and stories have appeared also in The Australian and The Age.
A youthful work/travel year in Athens inspired a lifelong fascination for Greece. In 2010, together with her partner Jim and their Jack Russell dog, Wallace, she set off from Scotland on an adventure to the southern Peloponnese that lasted four years and was the basis for her three travel memoirs (Things Can Only Get Feta, Homer’s Where The Heart Is and A Scorpion In The Lemon Tree).
All three books are Amazon best-sellers in travel and essays and travelogues and have all reached Number 1 in Greek Travel. Homer’s Where The Heart Is was voted one of the best expat books for 2015 by the Displaced Nation website. Stories about her travels in Greece and her writing have appeared in The Telegraph, Evening Times, The Scotsman, The Herald; Neos Kosmos newspaper in Australia, Womankind magazine, Dimokrotia newspaper, Athens, among others.
Marjory is a Member of the Society of Authors and also writes a blog with a Greek and travel theme on the website http://www.bigfatgreekodyssey.com and she can be followed on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/@fatgreekodyssey and Facebook http://www.facebook.com/ThingsCanOnlyGetFeta