A mystery writer with Greek heart
Posted by Greeka on 05 Oct 2010
First, he built a successful law career in New York and then he decided to abandon it and follow his dream: move to the Greek island of Mykonos and write mystery novels. So far, he has written three novels and he is preparing a fourth. Jeffrey Siger is a man who got inspired by Greece and decided to change the route of his life. How difficult was it, really?
"When I decided to write full-time, I was at the peak of my legal career as a name partner in a very successful and respected New York City law firm. Having accepted-reluctantly- that I would not live forever and knowing writing was my true passion, making the decision was remarkably easy. Many who sincerely want to take such a step fear that change risks losing whatever status they've achieved in their society's hierarchy. I'm not one who worries about that sort of thing. I believe your best years always are ahead of you.
Although I am not Greek by birth, I chose to live on Mykonos because I felt "my heart was Greek" from the first moment I set foot there. Once I decided to leave my career as a lawyer in New York City, moving to Mykonos was an easy decision. A friend suggested I try Mykonos for a holiday. She said I'd love it. She was right. What attracted me then, and has me living there now, are the Mykonian people. I live among Mykonians who treat me as family, in both the good and not so good connotations of the word, showing the same generosity of spirit and hospitality that captured me on my very first visit. That was over twenty-five years ago and I now live on Mykonos more than half of each year, generally between April and November."
As you live in Mykonos for about 25 years, do you think the island has changed all these years?
It most certainly has. All of Greece has changed. The most pronounced difference I see is in the number of tourists, foreign and Greek, wanting to be part of the "Mykonos experience". Personally, I think that is a very subjective desire, for there is no "one" Mykonos experience. Yes, it has a legendary 24/7 in-season lifestyle and dozens of magnificent beaches but at its core Mykonos remains an island of proud people raising their families in keeping with rich cultural traditions and a storied-history tracing back to the glory days of the nearby holy island of Delos.
Do you prefer Mykonos in high season when the island is all lively and vibrant, or in winter when just the locals reside there?
In the winters I'm generally on book tour or visiting family back in the U.S., but as with many islands, outside of late May through September, the population of Mykonos is mostly locals. Out of season, life is laid back with more time to spend with friends, but the summer peak brings a fantasy-like energy to the island. It may not be for every one, but it's definitely something to experience. As for my life, I partake of it all. Each season inspires my writing in some way, and during the summers hushed conversations at five in the morning yield wonderful book material from persons who should know better than to share secrets with a man holding a notebook and pen.
Your books are all related to Greece and the Greek islands. How does Greece inspire you in writing?
My books are an effort to convey, through fast-paced mysteries, my feelings on a country that I love and deeply appreciate. From time to time, a conversation or event triggers an idea for a story.
In the case of Murder in Mykonos, I always wanted to place a novel on Mykonos that showed the real beauty of its people and their way of life. While trying to come up with the right story line to tie my ideas together, my best friend on Mykonos passed away unexpectedly. He and I had talked a lot about my ideas for the book, and as I stood in the Mykonian church for his funeral the whole plot line spread out before me... as if his spirit were saying, "Okay, Jeffrey here it is, now write your book." And, so, I did- in tribute to his memory.
With Assassins of Athens there was a similar sort of "epiphany". I was invited to visit a newly opened virtual reality theater in Athens (the Hellenic Cosmos) for a journey back in time to the burning of Athens by the Persians, and the chance to experience life in Athens' Agora during its 5th century BC Classical Period. It was fascinating, and when the ancient practice of ostracism came up, it was as if a lightening bolt struck me. Once again, I saw the story spread out before me.
My soon to be released third novel, Prey on Patmos, An Aegean Prophecy (January 2011), also was inspired by Greeks but in an unexpected venue. I was at a taverna in Clearwater Beach, Florida visiting some Mykonian friends on winter holiday. One asked me if I was familiar with Patmos and I said I'd been there many times and at one point knew that island almost as well as I did Mykonos. When I mentioned its famous monastery, one friend began talking about the monasteries of Mount Athos, which brought on a Bingo moment of inspiration for my third novel.
The main character in your books is police-officer Andreas Kaldis. How did you get inspired of this character? Did you try to create a typical Greek character or someone that even your foreign readers would recognize?
Friends tell me that Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis and I share the same sense of humor and the same way of addressing problems. I never intentionally set out to do that but I think ultimately a writer cannot help but put part of himself into many of his characters. Now, I find that with each new adventure Andreas keeps evolving in ways that surprise even me- hopefully bringing me along with him.
As for my conscious purpose in creating CI Andreas Kaldis, I like the way serious issues, political and otherwise, are expressed around him, and as my writing is intended to explore issues confronting modern-day Greece in a way that accurately conveys to non-Greeks what I see and why I so love the country- all within the confines of a fast-paced mystery thriller- I see Andreas as the perfect character for such expression.
You have written three books related to Greece so far. Are you preparing a fourth book already?
I’m almost finished with the fourth adventure of CI Andreas Kaldis, tentatively titled Slaves to Sparta, and I am at work formulating book five in the series.
What are your favorite places in Greece, apart from Mykonos?
Oh, there are so many. Where to start without offending so many friends? Please, excuse me while I draw names from a hat. Okay, here we go, aside from the Cyclades, my favorite places are: Patmos, Nafplion, Symi, Delphi... Stetson, whoops. I'll take that as a sign to stop.