Marina Frageskidou was born and raised in Cyprus. She studied Business Administration and obtained the title of auditor. From 2003 to 2010 she worked for multinational companies in Cyprus and Greece, but in 2011 her career took a turn. She has written plays that have been presented on theatrical stages in Cyprus and Greece and published a novel titled Happiness by the Window, by Anazitisies Publications (2011). She has also written two children’s books by Pnoi publications: Linos, Drakoulinos (2019) and The Lame Guitar (2017). In June 2017, the song she wrote with Michalis Charilaou titled The Banners won first prize at the 23rd Cyprus song composition contest ‘George Kotsonis’. As of February 2020 she belongs to the group involved with Thisisus (www.thisisus.gr) – a website for parents and children. There you will find her fairy tale The Lady Therapy that she wrote on the occasion of the coronavirus pandemic and is illustrated by her daughters. She has been living in Athens for the last few years with her husband and two daughters.
The National Herald How did you start writing children’s books?
Marina Frangeskidou: It came both unexpectedly and spontaneously one night eight years ago. Until I had my own children I didn’t know I could write children’s books. But with their birth I had new stimuli and being with them, it was like the little Marina – myself – came up. I can travel to wonderful worlds, strange places, fairy-like ones.
TNH: Which book is the one that influenced you in starting writing?
MF: It’s not one in particular. Growing up I had read all kinds of books offered at my village’s lending library, from Papadiamantis’ short stories, and Not without my Daughter to Bitter Lemons. These are the first titles that come to my mind when I go back to those years! I never intended to write books. It was something that emerged along the way.
TNH: How long does it take you to write a book?
MF: There are some children’s books that are made in a week, even three days, also, some take years! I have unfinished drafts that don’t seem to come to an end, because I feel like something is missing. More specifically, I started an adult book in 2012 – the ending is missing but every time I read it I can’t finish it! So it’s sitting there waiting for its turn to come.
TNH: Which is the source of your inspiration when writing a book?
MF: Everything around me. People, colors, perfumes, objects. It’s a moment, a smile, a hug, a look. It’s life, on its own terms – the one we live and the one we observe…
TNH: How do you ensure a picture book lends itself well to being read aloud?
MF: Fairy tales show that it takes a hero, a purpose or a mission, some obstacles, the trusted friend, a magical object and a beautiful ending! I believe that there is a story that wants to be heard. The way we carry it, the words we use, the style, everything plays its part and either wins the reader over or leaves him completely indifferent.
TNH: Do your heroes lead your way through the story or do you decide about their fate?
MF: No matter how many times I tried to direct them, I lost! Heroes are born and talk to us. The only way they can be quiet is when we write down everything they have to say to us. At least I personally operate that way. I try to write on demand sometimes, but the truth is I find it difficult. I try, think, write a skeleton – and then, nothing! This way doesn’t work with me. The custom-made hero has no place in my own heart and thought. That’s why I wait every time for the hero who will come out of nowhere, asking me to talk about him and his company.
TNH: How do you connect with your little readers and the writing community in general?
MF: Usually through presentations. I’m having a great time with them. They give me so much power and energy, but now with the new situation we experience worldwide, I’m having a hard time. As much as technology helps, the contact is not the same, yet the ‘door’ of social media is always open from me to them.
TNH: Children’s books get the message across regarding social issues. Which is your goal in writing your stories?
MF: As I mentioned above, I do not have a specific goal. So I’m not saying today I’m going to write about school bullying or the environment and then I’m writing! My hero is born, and when he is ready, he speaks to me, and I write the story for him! I would like readers reading my stories to have a good time. Afterwards, when reading what I have written, I perceive the story’s messages. I also understand that each reader perceives them according to what he is ready to accept while he reads.
TNH: Which are the Greek children’s books you wish you had written?
MF: I do love the writers who wrote them so much – why would I wish I had written them? Those stories definitely suited their own way of thinking.
TNH: Which are the most recent books you have published?
MF: “Linos, Drakoulinos” is my last Children’s book published by the publishing house Pnoi. It has to do with a dragon, who cannot get fire out of his mouth and is persecuted by his country. On his journey to the forest he meets many different characters and together they get involved in various adventures. Friendship, love, acceptance, perseverance and patience characterize the story and each hero separately. Because in life everything is possible and you only need space and time to make things happen.
TNH: What’s coming up next for you?
MF: Currently I am dealing with script writing and various series are ongoing, in which I participate as a screenwriter. At the same time, our website is up (www.Thisisus.gr), concerning parents and children. Fortunately, Sofia Mitrakis (a theater educator), with Cosette Anousaki (journalist), and Trifon Sianos (programmer), also do their best to make things happen.
TNH: Do you have any advice for aspiring picture-book authors?
MF: Write and have … patience! Things are very difficult if you live in Greece and you want to be a writer. But the world of writing is so magical that if you love it very much you will fight for it as well, along with the rest of us. Good luck and don’t give up!
Find Marina online at: Facebook: Marina Frageskidou; Instagram: marina_frangeskidou and email her at: [email protected]. Her songs can be found on YouTube.