Author Apollo Papafrangou spoke with The National Herald about his latest projects and the recent honor for his novel Wings of Wax which was a finalist in the Multicultural Fiction category at the 2017 American Book Festival Awards. The Oakland-based Greek-American writer has roots in the Peloponnese and Mytilene, Lesvos.
He told TNH, “My father, a Greek native, is from Ermioni, a small seaside town in the Argos region of the Peloponnese… My mother is first generation Greek-American. My yiayia immigrated from Kranidi, another town in the Peloponnese, and my papou came from Mytilene, Lesvos.”
When asked about Wings of Wax being a finalist in the Multicultural Fiction category at the 2017 American Book Festival Awards, Papafrangou said, “The American Book Festival, Best Book Awards is a yearly online competition that selects from a wide variety of books from major publishers, as well as mid-level presses, and independent houses. Of course, I was honored, and pleasantly surprised, that the novel was a finalist in its category from a pool of so many entries. It has always been difficult to market and sell literary/contemporary fiction compared to mystery or science fiction, for instance, but I’m happy that Wings of Wax continues to gain a favorable response from readers. The story seems to be connecting with people, regardless of whether they’re Greek or not, and for an author that’s the real reward. That gives me the encouragement to keep going; keep pushing as a writer.”
He noted about the inspiration for his work that “I tend to write about relationships in both my fiction and poetry… family relationships, romantic relationships, friendships; the dynamics that bring people together and, sometimes, tear them apart. We can all relate to that, regardless of ethnicity. That being said, I often write through the cultural lens of my experience as a Greek-American because I think we have a voice that is still largely unheard, especially in modern literature. We have such a rich culture, there’s so much to explore.”
Papafrangou continued, “My life experience inspires my writing. If I suffer a heartbreak, or meet someone special, it tends to shape my work, especially my poetry. For me poetry is distilled emotion, it’s brushstrokes and colors; word painting. The poems seem to hit on a direct feeling. Sometimes you have an experience that doesn’t lend itself to narrative form, it doesn’t have enough impact to shape a whole story through a character’s eyes. So that’s where the poetry comes in to provide just enough imagery to allow the reader or listener to connect the dots. Greece is a land of poets, from Homer to George Seferis and Odysseas Elytis. I consider them influences.”
“As an example of how life inspires my work: a while back I went into this local bar. It’s an old dive owned by the sweetest couple from the island of Leros. So, this Greek couple and their kids run the place, and the clientele, because of the neighborhood, is largely an older, African-American crowd. From the first time I walked through the doors, it felt like my whole experience growing up in Oakland was captured within the space. The mix of cultures felt very familiar. So, it’s become my version of ‘Cheers.’ I go in and speak Greek with the owners, while classic soul music plays on the jukebox. It’s home, in a sense, and the place will find its way into one of my stories, in one form or an another,” he told TNH.
When asked what he is working on now, Papafrangou said, “I recently finished a draft of a new novel I’ve been working on for the past year and a half. I have some people reading it for me, so I’m just waiting on their feedback, and then I’ll dive into the revision process. It’s about a thirty-something Greek-American who is willingly involved in a modern-day arranged marriage. It explores his adventure in letting his family match him up with a woman in our current era of seemingly endless choice and options. Like Wings of Wax, it partially takes place in Greece. I hope to find a publisher for this new book in 2018.”
“In addition,” he told TNH, “I have a collection of short stories that are all loosely related in exploring the theme of gentrification in Oakland, CA, where I’m from. There’s also a film script I want to tackle, and the poems, of course. Looks like the new year will be busy for me!”
Wings of Wax by Apollo Papafrangou is available online.