Ekaterina Botziou Pilalis was born in the UK to a Greek father from Igoumenitsa, Greece, and an English mother. After studying law she delved into the world of film and television as an actress whilst working in London's finance sector. She is also a freelance writer and set up a blog in 2012: Ekaterina's Greek Expectations. In the same year, she published her first non-fiction, the semi-autobiographical book Greek Expectations: The Last Moussaka Standing. Several more books followed including fiction and poetry and she has written for various European magazines.
In 2019 Ekaterina, 33, published her first children's chapter book, The Adventures of Omicron: The Temple of Olympus and a second in 2020, The Adventures of Omicron: Voyage on the Argo. The third children's book will be out this Autumn
Set to be a six-part series, the mythological chapter books are aimed at youngsters aged from 7+. The stories follow Omicron the mechanical owl as the god Zeus sends him down into ancient Greece to face giants, sea monsters, witches, and more before he can be deemed worthy enough to return to Mount Olympus.
Ekaterina is a huge fan of Greek mythology and wanted to write something for her own three young children to enjoy. She believes that Greek mythology is a vital way to teach children about humanity, virtues, and the lifelong dichotomy of `good versus evil'.
In addition to her writing, Ekaterina is the founder of The Greek Wives Club, a networking group that helps to promote those whose work centers around relevant Greek themes. She has also recently launched an online retail store I Spy my Evil Eye selling an edit of handpicked unique evil-eye pieces from jewelry and accessories to homeware.
All of Ekaterina's books are available on Amazon worldwide in paperback and on Kindle. Website: www.ekaterinabotziou.com; Instagram: @ekaterinabotziou; Twitter: @ebotziou; Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/ekaterinabotziou; Shop: www.ispymyevileye.co.uk
The National Herald: How did you start writing/illustrating children's books?
Ekaterina Botziou Pilalis: I have always been a fan of different writing styles and genres and have never wanted to pigeon-hole myself. My previous books have covered fiction, non-fiction, and poetry and I have also written for both political and editorial publications. So after having my children I wanted to try my hand at children's literature. It was a completely new direction for me but the process has been so enlightening. The mind of a child is so innocent and filled with imagination, that there are no limits to what you can write about! Children can be exceptionally harsh critics and certainly don't mince their words when rating (or hate!) a book. An adult might persevere with a story that they're not keen on, whereas you have to grab a child's attention from the very first page and hold onto it for dear life!
TNH: Which book is the one that influenced you in starting writing?
There are so many books that have influenced me during my life that I can't name just one! Growing up, I loved Greek mythology and my grandmother gave me a beautifully illustrated book all about Jason and the Golden Fleece that I used to spend hours reading. Roald Dahl and Tolkien were hugely inspirational authors and for years I were obsessed with Stephen King and the horror genre. I was also fascinated by the classic fairytales – The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and so much more!
EBP: How long does it take you to write a book?
For me, the process of writing a book depends on how much research is needed to develop the story and also whether my children are in bed asleep! I usually take about a month to write my children's stories and then another few weeks to illustrate them. I often get up at 5 AM just to get time to write before my children wake up, and then again in the evening once they are in bed.
TNH: What is the source of your inspiration when writing a book?
EBP: I always say “write what you know.” Inspiration can be found anywhere but if you can find it at home it will be so much more meaningful. My greatest inspiration for my work is my family. My first book was a humorous look at life in the Greek community and Greek marriage and I relied heavily on the experiences shared by those closest to me.
As a child, I devoured all the Greek mythological stories and was fascinated by the historical aspect of many of the legends. My grandmother in particular had a deep interest in the myths of ancient Greece. I write about things that fascinate me, what I love, and what I feel passionate about.
TNH: Do your heroes lead your way through the story or do you decide their fate?
EBP: A lot of my characters are based on the original heroes and monsters found in Greek mythology so many readers will already know what happens to them, but I decide what happens in between! Greek mythology holds such a fascination for all ages; the stories are timeless and the characters so memorable.
TNH: How do you connect with your little readers and the writing community in general?
EBP: I do a lot of promotion for my books online and have joined many wonderful book groups on social media where all of the authors help each other to connect and promote our work. I also try to get involved with my children's school and a lot of parents are very supportive. My YouTube channel has proved an invaluable resource to reach a worldwide audience.
TNH: Children's books get the message across regarding social issues. Which is your goal in writing your stories?
EBP: For young children, Greek mythology is a vital way to teach them about humanity, virtues, and the lifelong dichotomy of `good versus evil'.
Emotions like jealousy and anger, which can be difficult to explain to innocent minds, are addressed time and time again in Greek mythology. Through the behavior of the characters, children can identify these emotions. Virtues such as wisdom, courage, and a sense of right and wrong are easily identifiable in the stories. Courage in the face of adversity, hope when all seems lost, and love in a world of hate are at the moral core of many of the Greek myths. I hope that my own stories reflect these social and moral issues too.
TNH: Do you have any advice for aspiring picture-book authors?
EBP: Research plenty of other books similar to your own and take note of style, language, and structure. Then go for it! It takes courage, conviction, and dedication to pursue one's dreams. It also takes passion. And to write a children's book you have to find the child within you. So be creative, be imaginative, and don't doubt yourself!