As far as some particular milestones during my author’s journey are concerned, they hold a special, very fond place in my heart. One of them is of course the interview I gave for the literary magazine Antigone, which I happened to discover through the bookish community of Instagram.
The editor of this versatile, brilliant zine gave me the unique chance to talk about all the things that have contributed to and keep fueling my writing and publishing experience. The interview can be read online for free on the zine’s second issue titled ‘Lost in Translation’, which showcases articles and essays on literature in translation, philosophy, etc.
So, if fantasy fiction is something that makes your heart beat a little bit faster, sit back and enjoy my musings on it for Antigone!
Simone Walt: I’m always drawn to writers with an interest in philosophy and I’d love to hear how your background in law has also influenced your writing.
Constantina Maud: I actually penned my first novel right before starting law school (yes, that book is still waiting patiently for its turn for the time being). And my educational background before that covered even more of the Humanities’ spectrum: the lyceum I was fortunate enough to attend was distinguished for its exemplary teaching of languages and the Classics, like Ancient Greek, Latin, Literature and Philosophy. Far from head-scratching was it then that my master’s degree would also be Classics-oriented, allowing me to delve into philosophy of law, ancient Roman and 5th century B.C. Athenian inscriptions, while culminating in a thesis on Thucydides’ Histories. Later came a series of creative writing lessons as well, but by then I had already been writing fiction for ten years–the first, Greek edition of my fantasy novel Hydranos included.
Therefore, for me law studies and practice of law after that have actually gone hand in hand with fiction writing more or less from day one. And yet I have never really felt the one stepping into the territory of the other—not in a negative way, at least. If anything, my work in the law field has given me some rather unexpected, unique benefits as a writer. On a more practical note, for example, it has been integral in terms of handling my copyright as a writer on both national and international level, as well as the rest of the procedural and technical parts of indie publishing.
Further than that, however, law being a through and through ‘real life’-driven and people-centred domain, I soon found that the experiences it offered me broadened my perspectives, and paired up with my imagination and writing craft they produced even more impactful pieces of fiction. Not being totally isolated over a writing desk weaving and typing out stories but coming across people and situations during my job as a lawyer that I would otherwise most probably wouldn’t, proved to be an extremely balancing factor. Few things compare to that feeling of having contributed in defense of what’s right, in helping someone. It certainly puts into perspective what it truly means to be human—a necessary prerequisite for being a good writer.
SW: That human element is certainly present in your novel. Can you tell us a bit more about Hydranos?
CM: Hydranos is a genre-bending story which unfolds in a place where death is not everyone’s fate–and where there are also Stones that are not stones. While there are other points of view as well throughout the book, we mainly follow Drynoe, a cadet official of her country’s royal council, who keeps finding herself torn between duty and her very nature. And her scarred past has forced her to believe that being governed by one’s feelings is a weakness that comes with a fatal price. When a most revered, supercentenarian ruler who was unable to die meets his unforeseen end, and Hydranos, the primordial Stone-‘essence’ of water that uncovers even the most hidden of feelings, takes flight, the cosmic balances start to go haywire. However, that’s not where everything ends… but rather where it all begins.
The first installment of The Age of Stones series is a fantasy story, yet one also exploring literary themes; like how we cope with emotions and feelings or, better, how–if at all–we allow them to genuinely be part of our inner world. Where can feelings or their lack or suppression, even, lead us? Our hearts’ whisperings may propel us to chase after our ideal aspirations and dreams, but how much of dreams and not illusions are those, really? Could it be that sometimes what we look down on and discard as our unwanted reality may actually be just where we are meant to be?
Being authentic and true to ourselves also means recognizing and listening to our feelings. The struggle, of course, to achieve this is real. That’s why maybe most of the monsters in this story actually come from within.
SW: What drew you to that genre?
CM: The story actually begins not so much with the fantasy genre per se, but with philosophy! Somewhere during my mid-teens all that voracious reading took me towards that direction too, where I was utterly mesmerized by Plato’s and Umberto Eco’s works, in particular. Epic fantasy literature was then added to the mix firstly in the form of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, of course, and I soon found myself in the middle of too beloved universes.
For me, there’s a strong connection between philosophy and speculative fiction, in general—both bask in the ‘what if’s’. Before Frodo or Bilbo, for example, it was Plato’s Gyges in the Republic who came across a ring that renders its wearer invisible! So, philosophy and fantasy kept dancing together in my mind, until it suddenly paused in front of a single question: what if I wrote a philosophy-infused fantasy story? And one of the replies is obviously Hydranos too. Both in this novel as well as in other works of mine I also ponder on literary themes I am passionate about, like gender equality, cultural diversity or inclusion, but do so within a fantastical, made-from-scratch world. The kind of liberty fantasy gives to the writer, the limitless rule-bending and rule-creating is unlike that of any other genre.
Genre categorization can be a really tricky thing. I’m aligning myself with Neil Gaiman and Kazuo Ishiguro on this by saying that genres are for the most part a marketing necessity for the publishing industry and at the end of the day there are many works, many writers that don’t ‘fit’ in one single—or any—category; something that proves even more why art shouldn’t really be pigeonholed.
I personally cannot pick up the pen to recount a thrilling, nail-biting adventure just for the sake of it without my lens ultimately focusing on the characters’ inner worlds and development, on the literary-philosophical point of a story, and without being allowed to freely weave with the language. That’s why up till now my main works may not fully fall within a specific genre. I suppose, however, that if one absolutely had to put a label e.g. on Hydranos, literary fantasy might be the closest thing one could classify it as.
* Read the full interview on p.14 of Antigone‘s 2nd issue
*Warmest thanks to Simone for the chance to give y’all a glimpse into my kaleidoscopic author’s world.
You can also take a sneak peek into my interview for Greek book blogger Matobookalo!