Rebecca Hall is a travel writer and blogger, and author of Girl Gone Greek, a wonderful novel about Rachel, and her travels to Greece. We interviewed Rebecca about the inspiration behind the book, her personal love for the country and how the novel is a journey of love, acceptance, and independence.
1. The book really does take you on a journey. What inspired you to write Girl Gone Greek?
As you'll have seen, Girl Gone Greek follows one woman's journey to escape her family's and societal expectations that seem to permeate women's lives these days; to settle down by a certain age.
The book is actually part memoir. part travel fiction so I was drawing a lot on personal experiences.
At the time I started writing Girl Gone Greek, Greece was in the headlines for all the wrong reasons: Greeks are lazy, don't pay their taxes, are responsible for the European financial crisis - and this was not my experience of the country and its people, so I wanted to set the record straight, in my own way; by writing a (hopefully) relatable book that would inspire people to come to the country to find out for themselves and fall in love with it, as I have done.
2. Why is Greece so close to your heart?
I think it's a subconscious thing: I was always coming to Greece on holiday ever since I was a young kid with my family as my dad had a lot of business contacts, and the wives of the businessmen used to coo and fuss over me, so I therefore equated Greek people as kind ever since a young age, even from a naive perspective
3. What was the biggest challenge writing the novel?
Several! I think initially getting started, watching that cursor flash on the screen and thinking 'what do I write?'
But because a lot of the book is drawn from personal experience, then once I started even writing a first phrase (even if I knew I would erase it later such as 'Once upon a time...') it helped me over that first hurdle.
And as mentioned previously, a lot of the book is based on personal experience hence it was almost as if I was re-living a fair amount of uncomfortable moments - so the book was a form of therapy for me. It was both a challenge but also invigorating.
4. The book wonderfully portrays the characters emotions, and is incredibly relatable. Do you draw any of your personal life experience into the story?
Yes! See above. But as it's also fiction it was fun to embellish this somewhat. I think there's an art in making characters relatable, that's what keeps readers interested. Also I believe in being self-deprecating. No-one likes a show off, and the main character felt waaaaay out of her depth when she first came to the country: the 'black sheep' of the family doing something different...don't we all want to root for the underdog?
5. The book follows Rachel, and tells the story from her perspective. What was your choice in writing it in the first person? And what impact do you think it has?
I wanted Rachel to follow as closely as possible a timeline that I as a person had gone through. I felt I could reach my readers that way and make the book more relatable for them and feel they could relate to Rachel, hence by association, relate to Greece - the country Rachel, and I as the author have grown to love. I tried it from a third person perspective, but I couldn't personally, as the author, get into it. When writing I really need to immerse myself - writing first person helps me do that.
6. Can you tell us about your experiences as a writer, and how it has impacted your life?
I started chronicling a blog about my life in Greece back in 2010, when the financial troubles were spilling out into the streets and people were demonstrating (what I thought) was a lot - which turns out to be actually quite a normal part of Greek life.
I then started receiving emails from concerned visitors, asking if it was safe to visit the country as they'd been told not to go, and I realised that my 'blog' was reaching a bigger audience, so I moved it onto a more professional platform and from there, Rough Guides noticed me and I was invited to update a couple of chapters of Rough Guides to Greece and the Greek Islands guidebooks.
This then led to other work such as hotel reviews for various publications and writing for inflight magazines.
My work grows, albeit slowly, and in the midst of all this, I sat down to pen my novel/memoir.
I never set out to be a writer. I never took a degree course in Creative Writing - I think we have to learn to field curve balls in our lives. Sometimes where we're meant to be isn't initially where we started.
7. Did you always want to write a novel?
I always loved reading and being told stories when I was a kid, and making up stories in my head. But I never seriously thought about writing a novel. I always assumed I would never be taken up by a publisher - and that's still the case, Girl Gone Greek has never been taken up by a publisher.
But when I learned of self-publishing and how much more seriously people are taking it now, I started to realise that I could maybe chronicle the life of a 30 something woman in Greece and source my own editor (which I did through various Linked in groups), I realised it's something that wasn't necessarily out of my reach.
I started with that blinking cursor six years ago in 2014 and went from there. And I leaned along the way: spoke to other self-published authors, put a call out for and interviewed for an editor who understood my 'voice'.
And I learned you can't do things quickly; good things do, indeed, come to those who don't just wait, but persist.
8. You want to turn the book into a film, which we think is the perfect fit. Who would you like to play Rachel?
I was so fortunate to have the script version of the book win Best Feature Fiction Script at the 2018 London Greek Film Festival. It (hopefully) means it's starting to be taken a little more seriously now.
Having seen several of Jodie Comer's performances way before she smashed it in Killing Eve (Dr. Foster, My Mad Fat Diary and the phenomenal Thirteen) I think she'd make a perfect fit for Rachel.
As mentioned above, I love an 'underdog' and watching Jodie perform, then watching her in live interviews - she is a completely different person and seems shy, almost humbled and un-assuming. I see her fitting Rachel's role perfectly.
And that scene in the book where Rachel's father kisses the top of Rachel's head at Gatwick airport as he sees her off; can't you just see Bill Nighy doing that to Jodie Comer? I have two characters cast already! Let's hope Netflix or Apple TV or the like agree!
9. What is one thing you would want readers to know before embarking on reading Girl Gone Greek?
I hope readers see it more than just a 'light read about Greece' (which of course, it is as well). I hope they see the book's essence, particularly in these trying times we live in today and see it as a country that offers so much in terms of humility and humanity.
10. And can you tell us why you love Greece so much?
For a start, it's not hard to fall in love with a country that has sunshine pretty much every day of the year. I think it's underestimated just how important Vitamin D is to us. But why Greece? Why not Spain or southern France? Well, like I say, I think the roots run deep in Greece for me and I am quite a 'deep' person. I prefer a coffee culture over the 'drink to get drunk' culture of the UK (sorry!) and I love that I can sit with a Greek teenager and drink coffee and talk politics or economics. Let's face it - many of the worlds greatest philosophers came from Greece, and my tenure here has shown me why!
I love that this country has strong family roots, and most importantly, it seems to have accepted me as part of their family. Once a Greek likes you - that's it; there is very little you can do wrong to them once they have made up their minds about you. So I feel accepted in one huge family.
Don't forget Rachel's character never had that (as you will see from the novel), hence to be accepted into such a family environment that runs deep within a country is really very moving.
Girl Gone Greek is available on Amazon.co.uk or £6.99 and is self published by Rebecca (making it even more special). And we are sure you will love it as much as we did!
Also, BRB, currently planning our next move to Greece...