Apollo Papafrangou recently published his debut novel Wings of Wax. The coming of age story set in San Francisco and Greece features true-to-life details of the Greek-Americans experience. The author graciously agreed to an interview with The National Herald and talks about his writing process, the brave new world of publishing, and his upcoming work.
TNH: What is your writing process, do you outline before you start your first draft? How many drafts do you write before sending out a manuscript?
AP: I do some outlining, but it’s not very extensive or meticulous. With Wings of Wax, I had the idea for the story’s central conflict before I started, but the book just came together as I wrote each day. I did do some really brief outlining for the Greece chapters, however. I keep a Monday-Friday writing schedule. I write, generally, in the late morning for a couple hours before going into my “day job” at an after-school program. I’m a slow writer. I’ll type a few lines, sit and contemplate the screen, then type a few more. I try to get 400-500 words down each day, sometimes more, sometimes less. But consistency is most important. Typically, I get two drafts done before showing my work to anyone else.
TNH: Booktrope is a hybrid publisher which seems like the future of publishing. What is your experience like working with them? What made you choose Booktrope as opposed to self-publishing or submitting to a traditional publisher?
AP: Like any other business model, Booktrope has its strengths and weakness, but I do agree that the company’s approach could very well shape the future of publishing. My experience with Booktrope has, for the most part, been very positive. I had a great working relationship with my editor Jessica West, and I hope to work with her again on future projects. My marketing manager April Gerard has also done a great job. I chose Booktrope largely based on feedback from my old high school friend, and fellow Booktrope author, AC Fuller. I have had experience with a “Big Five” traditional publisher, and unless you’re a huge-name author it’s too easy to get lost in the shuffle. What attracted me to Booktrope is that they’re large enough to have wide distribution and reach, but small enough so that each author has a chance to shine.
TNH: Wings of Wax includes some Greek spelled phonetically, was there ever an option to print those lines in Greek, and then translate? How did the phonetic spelling work in editing? How do you decide between “ohee”, “ochi”, and “oxi” for example?
AP: It’s funny that you point out the phonetic spellings of the Greek phrases in Wings of Wax because that became an interesting part of the writing process. It was important to use Greek in character dialogue because, as you know, our language is such an integral part of our experience as Greek-Americans. Even Greek-Americans who aren’t fluent in Greek have, for the most part, a basic familiarity with the language. The phonetic spelling became a challenge in editing in that I wasn’t always consistent in my spelling choices. In early drafts, I spelled “πατερα,” for instance, as “patera” and “patehra,” the second option of which I ended up going with because it seemed closest to how the word sounds in Greek. That’s how I made my final decisions in regard to the spelling. In using the English alphabet, I wanted Greeks to still recognize the words, and non-Greeks to get a feel for how the words sound when spoken. I had to go through the manuscript very carefully to catch my typos in the phonetic Greek, and even then some escaped me until the final edits. There wasn’t an option to print the Greek phrases with the Greek alphabet, but I hope to work with a foreign publisher to release an eventual edition entirely in Greek. So many of my relatives back in Greece don’t speak or read English, so for them to experience the story would be really special.
TNH: What are you working on now? Any plans for a sequel to Wings of Wax?
AP: Currently, I’m working on two books simultaneously. One is a novel about a modern-day arranged marriage, the other is a story collection. I have a draft of the collection almost completed. I’m calling it a novel-in-stories because the same characters appear in all the pieces. The book explores the art scene in Oakland, CA through the eyes of young people seeking to make a life outside of a traditional 9-5.
The stories touch on the themes of gentrification, cultural identity, and so on. A majority of the characters are Greek, and Angelo from Wings of Wax appears in a few of these stories. But as far as a full-on sequel to Wings of Wax, I’m not sure. That story feels complete. But you never know, so stay tuned!