Today I will be interviewing Loukia Borrell, the author of her debut novel Raping Aphrodite. Her novel combines two story lines: past and present day and deals with the resilience of the human spirit to persevere in the face of a militant invasion of their homeland.
To write a pretty sizable book as your first novel is quite an achievement. How did you keep yourself motivated?
I learned very early in life the importance of perseverance. My parents were immigrants and they came to America without a formal education or deep pockets. They had other things though: youth and a clear idea of making it. Their strong work ethic and their dedication to family is something I have felt all of my life. Their story and the story of my relatives who endured the 1974 invasion of Cyprus by Turkey, are things I have carried around for several decades, but was too young and undisciplined to do the work. Now, I know how important it is to tell their experiences - the story of what happened in Cyprus, to the country and its people. Keeping all of them in mind kept me motivated, as well as my own desire to say, at age 49, "Hey, I wrote a book." I spent more than 20 years working for newspapers, magazines, raising children, and caring for family members who were ill. I didn't want to surrender my belief in myself as an author. So, I stayed on target and made a commitment to finish. I was raised to complete what I begin. I also knew I was alone in this. Without an agent or a big publishing house, my chances of selling the book were even harder, but I decided not to let that stop me. What I felt inside was more important to me than having a best-seller. You have to do what you are meant to do. For me, that is writing. I couldn't agree more.
Writing is a rite of passage. What did you learn about yourself during the process?
I learned I have gotten old enough to do the things I thought were too hard when I was younger. That it is never too late to change your direction, to begin a new project. I also learned that I wasn't afraid of this book. That I put my mind to it, did the best I could and that as long as it was written, I had succeeded.
The title is pretty edgy - did you have second thoughts when settling on it?
There were several working titles I had for "Raping Aphrodite." Some of the early choices were "Killing Cyprus" and "Cutting Cyprus." I didn't think having Cyprus in the title was going to work because I have come across too many people who just don't know where the island is and/or don't know anything about its history. I chose "Raping Aphrodite" because when Cyprus was invaded by Turkey, the island and its people were raped. There are many documented cases of rape from that summer. The title also reflects mythology. There are various accounts of the birth of Aphrodite. One of the most common ones is that she rose from the sea foam (aphros) off the coast of Cyprus and came to shore. She represents the beauty that is still there. Initially, when I uploaded the file as an ebook, the cover art was of the island cut in half. That just didn't do anything, so I purchased the rights to the picture that is on the cover now.
Correct me if I'm wrong: your novel is about time travel and historic events, correct?
Yes. Raping Aphrodite has two story lines. The book's first story line takes place in current time, when an art gallery owner agrees to exhibit items from Cyprus and begins to realize her life may not be what she thinks it is. Her husband digs deeper and finds out about her secret past but has to decide if he will inform her of who she really is. The second story line takes place in 1974, when a young American escapes a hostage situation on Cyprus, in the days of the invasion, and begins a perilous walk to safety. At the end, the two story lines meet. The chapters alternate, taking the reader from the 2000s to the 1970s.
I know that you were personally affected during the invasion. Did that drive you to get the facts correct or did you take some creative license for the sake of the story?
I was 11 when Turkey invaded Cyprus. All of my relatives who were living there were refugees and my maternal grandparents disappeared. I wanted to be careful about how I presented this story. I knew I wasn't interested in doing a non-fiction book, so I did a novel with the historical pieces wrapped into it. My characters are composites of people I have known, people my parents knew in their villages or just my hard-working imagination. Their situations in the book, some of them are completely made up and others are based on actual events I researched, was told about from family, or read about. There is a mix of truth and fiction.
If you had to pitch this to a YA reader, how would you sell it? What makes your book a must read?
This book is for mature audiences, because it contains sexual situations, profanity and war violence. To readers who are interested in "Raping Aphrodite," I would tell them it touches on Middle Eastern history, and issues involving marriage, love, truth, family secrets and personal conflicts. Those are all areas we all can relate to.
What do you hope your readers will get out of reading this?
A better understanding of Cyprus, its people and what happened to them that summer. There are still about 2,000 Greek and Turkish Cypriots missing from the summer of 1974. Their story needs to be told and if I can enlighten people about the island, even through a work of fiction, that is what matters most.
I would like to do a word association. Choose one option from each selection and tell me why:
Titanic or The Poseiden Adventure?
Poseidon Adventure. If I am going down, I want to be having a good time New Year's Eve. Plus, that ship didn't sink. I think I would have had a better chance of surviving than freezing to death in the North Atlantic.
Joan of Arc or Braveheart?
Joan of Arc. I like the idea of a woman from centuries ago being a leader and worldwide inspiration. Tough broad.
The Alamo or The Iraq War?
The Alamo. The Iraq war is much more controversial. The Alamo is about fighting for independence here and what made our nation ultimately what it is today.
Historic fact or creative license?
Creative license. I've always enjoyed movies and books that add something to a historical event. It is a bit of stylizing that lets your imagination soar with possibilities.
Do you have any parting words for your readers?
Thank you Stephen for being one of many supportive bloggers. You do a lot to promote independent authors and I know I speak for everyone when I say I appreciate your work. I hope your readers will take a chance and read "Raping Aphrodite." The book is on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I am working on the next book in the Aphrodite series. Readers can follow me on Goodreads or @LoukiaBorrell on twitter.