Greek-American Christopher Cosmos, author and Black List screenwriter, was raised in the Midwest and attended the University of Michigan as the recipient of a Chick Evans Scholarship. His debut novel, titled Once We Were Here, was released in honor of the 80th anniversary of Oxi Day, and in celebration of how Greece helped the Allies to win World War II. Cosmos spoke with The National Herald about his roots and about Once We Were Here.
TNH: Where in Greece is your family from?
Christopher Cosmos: My family is from Volos, which is why I also chose that area as the location for much of Once We Were Here, and as the village where the three main characters are from and grow up. It's also an area where so many ancient heroes visited or spent time, which was very appealing to me, too, to be able to weave some of those stories that we still tell in with the stories of these new heroes who are more modern.
TNH: What was the most surprising thing you learned in the process of writing the book?
CC: The most surprising thing that I've learned is how many people weren't familiar with these events; most everyone knows about World War II, but not the pivotal and important role that Greece played in helping the Allies to win the war. It makes it even more exciting for me, in being able to share this story with the world.
TNH: How long did it take from idea to publication?
CC: I first heard the stories that became Once We Were Here when I was very young, so in many ways, this novel represents my life's work. I went to the Greek Orthodox church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where I'm from and grew up, and one day after church there were a series of speakers who were just parishioners who lived through these events in Greece, before coming to America. One of them told a story about how they were so hungry after the Nazis came and occupied their village that they had to chew on the sole of their shoe, because the sole was made of leather. It's a story and image that stuck with me, and that was when the idea for this novel first was born, and so, in a lot of ways, I've been writing it ever since.
TNH: How have your family and friends reacted to the book?
CC: Launching a debut novel during a pandemic has provided its own unique set of challenges that I, of course, didn't anticipate when I originally wrote and sold this, and the publishing date was set; but my family and friends have been incredibly supportive of both this story, the way that I've told it, and helping me to get it out there. My mom and grandma have even had t-shirts made with the cover printed on them!
TNH: What are you working on next?
CC: I'll still be working on Once We Were Here, though in a slightly different way, as I want to also turn it into an epic and beautiful mini-series, shot on the shores of the Aegean, like a Greek version of Band of Brothers with a mutli-generational love story at the center of it. There are so many amazing and talented Greeks in Hollywood that are phenomenal storytellers that I'd love to work with, like Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks, and who I also think this story will speak to and who will understand the great pride that I've taken in being able to tell it and share it with the world.
Once We Were Here by Christopher Cosmos is available online and wherever books are sold. More information and links to purchase can be found on Cosmos' website: www.christophercosmos.com.