Anne: The idea of Hermes seemed to come suddenly to mind, but he’s an amalgam of thinking and reading over several years. He stems I think from a strong interest in mythology and Jungian psychology (Jung, of course, had his own theories on personal archetypes, of which Hermes was one), and from plenty of exposure to the more earth-bound heroes of crime fiction. As for his appearance, he’s one of the only characters I’ve ever written based on a real person; he was modelled on a man I knew only briefly, who stood out from the Greek island crowd as a very snappy dresser indeed.
Anne: I was indeed a Shirley Valentine, and though it sounds a cliché now, I committed what was seen at the time as a very rash act, giving up a lucrative job for marriage to my holiday Romeo. It was a huge change in lifestyle, and money was very tight; there was no work in the islands in winter, so we relied on what we could grow, or catch, or slaughter during those months. Summer was different, much easier, and life was good then. The marriage didn’t work out, but I never went back to IT, and I’ve never regretted never going back.
Anne: I’m asked this question a lot, and my answer tends to be the same, because some readers don’t want the solution to the puzzle, they prefer to hold on to the air of mystery which surrounds Hermes. So I’ll just refer anyone who’s struggling with his identity and origins to the preface to The Messenger of Athens. There’s a passage there from the Odyssey, and all you need to know is in those few words.
Anne: I’m hugely interested in the paranormal, and a real sucker for TV shows like Ghosthunters. I also love ghost stories, especially the Gothic classics from writers like MR James. I’d love to write a novel to rival The Turn of the Screw or The Woman in Black, but believable ghost stories – if that’s not an oxymoron – are tricky to pull off. Subtlety is everything. Perhaps that’s why I’m never overt about who Hermes is. He needs to keep his air of mystery.
Anne: I prefer to write using the seat-of-pants method, because it makes the writing of the book much more interesting if I don’t know whodunit. It’s an approach not every author likes, because inevitably it involves at least a few sleepless nights, worrying whether you’ve got 50,000 words of unworkable manuscript. But in my experience, if you have faith in yourself and your subconscious, it’ll all work out in a satisfactory and satisfying conclusion. So far, anyway.
Anne: I’ve been a cook since my early teens; I learned from my mother, who was an excellent cordon bleu cook – that style of French cooking very popular in the ‘60s and ‘70s. She used to make hugely complex dishes like chicken in aspic (who on earth does that any more?), and everything was served with brandy-and-cream laden sauces. So by the time I got to Greece, I had a pretty good handle on basic cooking methods. What came as a shock there were the raw ingredients – seafood I’d never laid eyes on before, especially. I learned a lot from my mother-in-law, who always thought I was a bit stupid, I think. In her eyes, a woman who can’t clean and de-spine a scorpion fish is no good for anything.
Anne: The working day there is structured differently, because of the heat; we used to get up very early (a habit I still keep) and get the day’s chores out of the way before it got too hot. There was a siesta in the middle of the day, when we’d sleep for a couple of hours, so we’d stay up very late. I found that daily rhythm came very naturally. Now I try to be more UK-conventional in my habits, but it doesn’t always work.
Anne: I find there’s always a point in the middle – somewhere between 35,000 and 50,000 words – where it feels as if it’ll never be over, never be done, and I get dispirited. But novel writing is like a marathon, and you have to find inner reserves to keep going, especially if a deadline is looming.
Anne: Absolutely - the moment I press ‘send’, and the finished manuscript goes off down the wire (or however it works) to my editor. It’s always time, then, for a celebratory G&T.
Anne: I can’t say too much, but fingers crossed... As to who’ll play Hermes, I don’t know. Ideally I think it should be some unknown, who emerges from the shadows of Central Casting, plays the role, and disappears back whence he came...
Lizzie: Anne, tell us about your just -published seventh book ‘The Feast of Artemis’
Anne: The book is the last in this series of seven, based on the Seven Deadly Sins, and the Feast, unsurprisingly, is about the sin of gluttony. It focuses on two families who are rivals in the olive oil business (which is, I have discovered, quite a dark trade in its own right). A young man is burned in an incident which may or may not be an accident; then an old man dies, apparently of natural causes. But all is not as it seems, and when it becomes clear there’s a strong smell of retribution in the air, Hermes steps in to dispense justice.
Lizzie: Now you have finished The Seven Deadly Sins, have we seen the last of Hermes? Is there a new series in the pipeline? What are you currently working on?
The Taint of Midas (2008)
The Doctor of Thessaly (2009)
The Lady of Sorrows (2010)
The Whispers of Nemesis(2011)
The Bull of Mithros (2012)