Those that regularly follow my blog, you’ll know that from time to time I like to interview authors that’ve really touched me. Usually either fiction or non-fiction stories about life abroad.
Now it is the turn of Paul Dillon, an English author living in Los Angeles, author of “The Magic in the Receiver” a fiction novel intertwining three timelines and fully explores the 1953 Kefalonian earthquake told through the effects on two families. Paul kindly agreed to answer some more in-depth questions about this novel.
Your debut novel is based in Kefalonia, successfully intertwining 3 stories into one and showing us the harsh reality of the 1953 Kefalonian earthquake. You are British and live in Los Angeles, what inspired you to base your novel in Kefalonia? Have you ever spent any great length of time there?
Location is an important factor in storytelling. I like to immerse myself into the scene, imagining the sights, sounds and scents of a place. Kefalonia was fresh in my mind as I sat down to write the novel and, at times, it certainly felt like I was back on the island. I hope that immersion transferred to the pages.
Many readers have asked whether I lived on Kefalonia – unfortunately not. I spent seven days there, with my children, in the summer of 2009. My kids grew up in the UK but spent vacation time in the US. Sometimes we’d take trips to Europe—we’ve visited several Greek Islands over the years. The kids were all-but grown up by 2009 and I had the feeling that Kefalonia might be our last trip together. In that regard, the island has a very special meaning for me.
Throughout the novel, you cleverly show us the magic of the island and how it affects our protagonists, Ben & Elena. Is there an element of personal experience here? Did Kefalonia, or another Greek island, weave her magic spell over you and help you fall in love?
Kefalonia did weave her magic spell over me, and it would be a great place to fall in love, but the story is fictional. Having said that, everything we write contains elements of personal experience. The more we pour ourselves into our work the more we draw on our past. The original story idea does have a tenuous link to reality: I did have lunch in Fiskardo, at the quayside taverna where the protagonists meet. There was something supremely relaxing about that afternoon. My children and I sat at the very table described in the book – there was even a girl, behaving in the same manner as my female MC. I seem to remember thinking “I wonder what her story is?” There was no love-thunderbolt though—don’t think I was even vaguely attracted to her. It was the moment, the place … the way I felt, that dragged me back to that spot to start the story. What is Love? The novel is about love and its existential nature rather than a love-story. On a side note, I remember being hopelessly in love, many years ago, on the island of Corfu but that’s another matter. Suffice to say, love and the Greek Islands go hand-in-hand.
When recalling the effects of the earthquake on the Katros family, you go into vivid emotional detail about the humanitarian effect. Did you interview any particular families about their experiences?
I did quite a bit of research into the 1953 Ionian earthquake and tried to describe events as accurately as possible. There are some interesting accounts of the rescue efforts online and I even managed to track down a copy of the long out-of-print Time after Earthquake by Evan John. Being a writer is so much easier in the Internet age.J
My ideas for the Katros children came from a Lixouri man, Dionysis, whom I interviewed in 2010. The tree house scenes were inspired by his recollections of those terrible events. Unfortunately, Dionysis was ill at the time of the interview and passed away shortly after. His wife told me he was looking forward to reading my version. I dedicated the book to him.
I note from your website www.pauldillon.net that you feature information about other earthquakes: in Japan, for example. What is it about these natural disasters that have compelled you to write a novel based around these occurrences?
LOL – maybe it’s because I live in Los Angeles. No, I don’t have a thing for earthquakes.
Japan, like Greece, is a country that I love. The Sendai earthquake of 2011 happened the same day – probably the same hour – that I day I finished the last edit of “Magic”. I wrote a short blog post about the coincidence.
There’s sure to be a Japanese novel in my near future – hopefully it won’t involve a disaster. Although I’ve lived in Los Angeles for the past seventeen years, the strongest earthquake I’ve ever felt was in Tokyo – but let’s not tempt fate.