Myrto Petropoulou is a northerner. She was born in Kastoria, in Western Macedonia. After graduating from Aristotle University’s School of History and Archaeology, she has worked as an archaeologist in various areas around Greece, participating both in excavations and the conservation of archaeological sites. Her interest in mythology and cultural tourism led her to take part in several programs conducted by the University of Aegean and the Kapodistrian University of Athens.
Myrto writes poetry and songs, and her fairy tales have appeared on numerous magazines. Her story Melissanthi received critical praise as a result of her participation in a Kefalos magazine competition. Her recent publications include the books Merry Christmas Star and The Cherry Tree in my Yard, published by Ydroplano Publications. She speaks English and German and currently works as a freelancer. She can be contacted on Facebook: Μυρτώ Πετροπούλου. https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100043836499259
The National Herald: When did you start writing children’s books?
Myrto Petropoulou: I started writing stories, fairy tales, and poems at the age of nine years old. They helped me relax, dream and overcome the difficulties of everyday life that arose unexpectantly.
TNH: Which book is the one that influenced you in starting writing?
MP: It would be very difficult to choose one book over another. I’ve always been a bookworm and I still am. Mythology a large element of my decision to write a book with the prospect of publication. I got to know mythology from a young age – I fell in love with it through my studies in archeology. When my child was born, I wanted to create an anthology to pass on this love for mythology and archeology in a pleasant, interactive way.
TNH: How long does it take you to write a book?
MP: It depends on the story each time. There are fairy tales like Merry Christmas Star, which I wrote in one month, or the one I completed in a week, The Story of Melissanthi, that received praise in the first pan-Hellenic competition of Kefalos magazine. On the other hand, the book With the Wings of Pegasus took me almost two years to complete, because I had to research and analyze ancient sources, compare variations of myths, create book activities, riddles, cryptocurrencies, language exercises, games, and much more for the little readers to enjoy.
TNH: Which is the source of your inspiration when writing a book?
MP: Apart from my little one, who is the main source, I am inspired by life itself, other people’s lives, my childhood memories, desires, whatever appears through the eyes of a child’s imagination. I always try to put myself in a child’s shoes. Another big part of my stories is nature and its endless cycle, as well as man's relationship with it. The better it is, the more it can beautify our lives. My conception of nature is presented in my book The Cherry Tree in my Yard.
TNH: How do you ensure a picture book lends itself well to being read aloud?
MP: I don’t believe in magic recipes. I follow my instincts and write with love, desiring to present something on paper that is hidden in my soul. Only then do I feel satisfied. If I also work with diligence regarding my book's promotion, then the result will take it off, for sure.
TNH: Do your heroes lead your way through the story or do you decide about their fate?
MP: In my writings, the heroes lead me, most of the time. What I decide on is the main subject I wish to present to my readers. Then the story’s development goes in conjunction with the heroes’ characteristics that unfolded in the book’s pages. While I may have a basic idea of the hero at the beginning, better ones emerge once I work through the story, being guided by the plot.
TNH: How do you connect with your little readers and the writing community in general?
MP: Interpersonal communication. About a year ago, most commonly through presentations and events in libraries, at various places, as well as at schools. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case, due to the coronavirus that has changed our lives. Today the most common form is social media networking. I hope that soon we will find our lives again, being able to move freely since interpersonal relationships and physical meetings co-exist, because human contact is precious and irreplaceable.
TNH: Children's books get the message across regarding social issues. Which is your goal in writing your stories?
MP: With the Wings of Pegasus I wanted to convey to the children my love for archeology and my knowledge of mythology. Mythology is the story of our ancestors, cultivated with care throughout the centuries so that today it offers us lessons, moral values. It does touch social issues that have always occupied man such as faith, friendship, companionship, respect. It shows all the troubles that can happen to someone and how to overcome them and not only survive but to experience heroic achievements. With this book, I wanted to pass all this on to the children, while they also have a lot of fun. With the lovely book Merry Christmas Star I wished happy Christmas to my little friends. I consider my new book The Cherry Tree in my Yard a hymn to nature in connection to humanity.
TNH: Which are the Greek children’s books you wish you had written?
MP: Maybe Gravias Street (Odos Gravias) written by Tiga Toula. It is a book that struck me when I read it as a child but I would read it again very happily. And of course Menelaos Loudemis’ books.
TNH: Which is the most recent book you have published?
MP: The Cherry Tree in my Yard was published in April, 2021 by Ydroplano Publications. https://ydroplanobooks.gr/product/i-kerasia-stin-avli-mou.
TNH: What’s coming up next for you?
MP: I am preparing a new writing voyage to mythology since a wide range of myths isn’t so well known but they are still fascinating. Another story having a snowman as a protagonist is the second project I am currently working on.
TNH: Do you have any advice for aspiring picture-book authors?
MP: I believe hard work seems to be the key, in combination with great effort then dreams do happen. What I can say to everyone is to look to the future with optimism, to strive to achieve our goals with patience and perseverance, to become more and more creative every day.