I love reading books that speak to you, ones which make you a changed man afterwards. Such books draws you in, whether it is through the drama or the passion of the author, and tend to stick with you. And it makes you wonder, what personal event must have happened in the author’s life to give them such a strong passion for the subject matter. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to interview Dimitris Politis, author of The Stolen Life of a Cheerful Man. I can see a great future for this dynamic and passionate author!
Michael Pang: Can you tell us a bit about your background? How did your background influence the genre you write in?
Dimitris Politis: I was born on a small island in Greece. By some coincidence I ended up in another much bigger island, Ireland, at the age of 22. I lived in Dublin until my 40th birthday. This country had a profoundly positive influence on me, having lived there for the most formative and productive years of my life. I fell in love with it and its people. It helped me come to terms with my self as a gay person and to become a complete, compassionate yet confident human being. I lived there through all the terrorist events and the IRA bombings in the 90’s until the Good Friday Peace Agreement. These historical events gave me the perfect canvas to paint a fascinating story, a story preaching humanity, acceptance and forgiveness, compassion and tolerance.
MP: Wow, that must have been some experience to live through. How do you think these events affected your life?
DP: The initial feelings are always fear, anger and distress. But once somebody has the luxury of time to sit back, think and reflect more deeply, they can see how pointless all this is, how social resilience can in fact, create the opposite of the terrorism-desired effect. For me personally, these events helped me realize one thing: that terrorism is NEVER the right way, it can never be the right means to any end. It is just a desperate way to confirm human folly and the fact that we humans have a very short memory when it suits us.
MP: Where and when did your writing journey begin?
DP: It all started 9 years ago, almost by accident. Until then I had absolutely no idea I could write: there was an incident back in 2006 in an elevator here in Brussels where a woman made a derogatory comment about me, insinuating that I am gay. This totally unexpected act of aggression had a big effect on me: while it initially upset me a lot, naturally, it also made me more defiant. I thought to myself, I have to write a book about this. I have to write a book about how it feels to be a recipient of such mentality, such comments. To show the other side the horrendous impact that such behavior can have on their victims. The rest is all history.
MP: Wow, and you really did it! And you have received very impressive reviews on your writing. So, I have to know. Who are your favorite authors and how have they influenced your writing?
DP: There are and have been so many amazing authors over the centuries that speak to me and have influenced my writing. it is unfair to separate “favorites”… I could just mention Stieg Larsson for his amazing thrillers; he never ceases to amaze me with his awareness of IT technology in his era and how cleverly he used all that in his three thrillers. I also find the forward thinking of John Irving and his eccentric, yet so vivid Dickensian characters amazing. The identity defining novels of Luigi Pirandello. Being of Greek origin, Greek authors of course, like Odysseas Elytis, the Poetry Nobel-Prize winner and Nikos Kazantzakis with his constant metaphysical and existential concerns have had a great impact on me. But there are no favorites, really.
MP: All great writers! What does a typical day in your life look like? And how does your writing routine fit into your day?
DP: I have a very demanding full time job working as an editor and Webmaster for one of the biggest websites of the world (The EUROPA website of the European Union which consists of more than a million pages in 28 different languages!). My working day starts around 7 a.m. each morning and lasts many many hours. However, I love it; working for a political organisation like the European Commission gives me a great and instant insight into world affairs as well as the opportunity to write about them in order to update web users. Could I ask for more? My only complaint is that it does not allow me as much time as I would like for my private writing. So my writing routine is a bit squashed to say the least. But, one always finds the time, if they really want it! Even when I travel, on planes, trains, and buses, I never stop writing. And talking of travel, I consider myself extremely fortunate to have travelled a lot, both due to work but also for private holidays. I think travelling offers a different perspective, a different way to consider life. It offers amazing stimulus, different things to think, contemplate, and write about.
MP: Haha, definitely sounds like the life of someone who has a passion for writing. How did you come up with the idea for your book, The Stolen Life of a Cheerful Man?
DP: Aaaaahh that elevator woman again… despite her rudeness and the fact that she upset me, I am eternally grateful to her as she made me a writer!
MP: Oh, I see. Wow, so The Stolen Life of a Cheerful Man is your debut novel. That is an impressive debut novel. What do you think sets your book apart from all the other books in the genre on the shelves?
DP: The fact that it works on so many levels (as many readers point out to me describing their own personal experiences): it can be a thriller, it can be a love story, it can be a cry for tolerance and understanding, it can be at times a historical novel. I am eternally grateful to my readers for pointing out all this to me. Perhaps subconsciously, that was my purpose. I couldn’t have asked for more for my very first book.
MP: Because your novel stemmed from such a personal incident, your passion for your story is very apparent. That really makes it speak to so many different readers. From some of the reviews I’ve read about your book, some readers really love the main character in your book also. Who is your favorite character in your book and how much of yourself is reflected in that character?
DP: I think Dimos, the main character. He can be so beautifully delicate and sensitive, yet so tough at times, so fragile yet so ruthless… Some readers will love him, and some others will hate him. I feel very blessed as a new writer to have been able to create such a complex, ambiguous, a multi-faceted character.
MP: That’s what makes your book come to life. The main character is human. He has his strengths and his faults; he is not always likeable. The setting of your novel also contributes to the life of the book. Which scene in your book did you have the most fun writing?
DP: That frosty January night/early hours of the morning scene, which presents the main character Dimos meeting his big love Rory in a clandestine meeting place in Dublin under a pale winter full moon.
MP: What do you hope for your readers to take away after reading your book?
DP: As I mentioned earlier, each reader carries their own experiences, their own views and opinions, their own “baggage”. So I think they all take away different things from the novel. And I do find this marvelous. My original idea was “even if just 200 people read the book and think about it twice, it will be a great achievement for me”. To my delight this modest target has long ago been achieved and surpassed!!
MP: That’s great! That must feel awesome as an author! So, we’ve discussed what you hope your readers will get out of your book, what are your hopes for this book?
DP: To reach and touch people as many people as possible, to make them realise that we are all different; that this is what makes each one of us so special and so great; that diversity rules our world, that without it things would be terribly colorless and unbearably boring.
MP: That is an excellent way to view the world! I agree, whole-heartedly. What do you have in store next for your readers?
DP: My second novel “The Next Stop” (a psychological thriller taking place in a carriage of the metro here in Brussels, Belgium) is already finished and I am working on my third hard thriller. Several short stories in Greek have been published on the web and Greek literary magazines. One of them has been selected to be published by a Greek publisher among more than a thousand submissions, following an open short story competition with the theme: “On the edge”. Also, another short story of mine in English about the Greek financial crisis has been selected to be published in an anthology of English speaking/writing writers here in Brussels, Belgium. So, in all, not a dull moment!
MP: Thank you so much Dimitris for sharing with us your story!
About the Book
The Stolen Life of a Cheerful Man
by Dimitris Politis
Publication Date: July 8, 2014
The Stolen Life of a Cheerful Man explores the contentious yet universal themes of intolerance and understanding, discrimination and acceptance, violence and forgiveness. Dimitris Politis plunges boldly into the reality of contemporary Ireland, but from his own Greek perspective, creating an extraordinary mirror between the two countries, where glittering Aegean waves are crowned by Atlanic rainbows. The reader is drawn into the story through its exciting twists and turns, interlinked throughout by a fast cinematographic pace. An excellent contemporary example of black fiction with a subtle and delicate deepening of sentiments, feelings, and beliefs rooted in human nature, the novel voices a loud protest against social and historical stereotypes and is a stern warning of how intolerance and ignorance can lead to disaster. In today’s world, where countless countries are mired in financial crisis and where many forget the importance of tolerance and acceptance of their fellow human begins, the author cleverly reminds us that difference and diversity are universally present, shaping our world. This unique novel prompts us to remember that we are all born different and grow up differently, making each of us special in our own way, whatever our circumstances.
Praise from Acclaimed Reviewers
Since the initial release, the novel has left readers in awe of Politis’s adept storytelling. Reviewers are calling the novel “a brilliant and engaging novel with shocking twists and turns and challenging and thought-provoking philosophies.” Notable book reviewers are calling it, “A well-written tale that will leave an imprint on your mind, while haunting the soul.” Also saying that the book “would be absolute joy for readers who enjoy numerous twists and well-developed characters.” Midwest Review also commended Politis’s debut saying, “…his writing offers a refreshing and unique experience.”
About the Author
Dimitris Politis was born in Athens, Greece on 16 March 1960. He studied Economics in Greece and Classics and Literature in Ireland. He has lived in Greece, Ireland, UK, Luxembourg and Belgium. He has published articles and reviews on Working Conditions and Occupational Health and Safety and short stories in literary magazines and websites. His first novel “The stolen life of a cheerful man” was published in Greek in 2012. His second novel in Greek “The next stop” is nearing completion. He currently lives in Brussels. He works as a Webmaster and Editor for the EUROPA site of the European Union.