citizen kiki

Posted on October 4, 2005

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shortcut talks to kiki denis, a greek writer living in new york city. her first novel the last day of paradise will be published next year.

How does a Greek girl end up in New York?

First I moved to the US in 1990 when I got a full-scholarship to attend Mount Holyoke College for my Bachelor’s degree. After that I moved to England for a year or so where I did my Master’s degree. When I finished my Master’s, I was lost. I didn’t know what I wanted to do (or rather I knew what I wanted to do but I wasn’t strong enough to admit it to myself), so I thought let’s move to NYC where so many things are happening and so I did.

When did you start writing full time?

During my first couple of years in NYC I worked in the fashion industry as an international wholesales accountant and hated it. I was really miserable, struggling every day to go to work. My office was in a very tall, beautiful building with an amazing view but I was feeling sad, and totally confused. All that glamorous environment wasn’t my style after all. At the time the only thing that kept me happy was literature and more specifically fiction and poetry. As far as I can remember I have always loved literature. It’s a habit I got from my father who is a great reader. Also when I was young I used to write stuff and I remember loving the time I used to spend in my room alone with my books. So at the end of my second year in NYC, I decided to start taking creative writing classes. After taking a couple of classes I started rediscovering what I really wanted to do in life. Of course the hardest thing was to admit it to myself and to the people around me. At first most of my friends didn’t believe that I could be able to make it as a full time writer or even publish a book for that matter, but I was lucky; I had a great supporter, Yiannis, my boyfriend and my long life partner. Yiannis encouraged me to quit work and write full time. So I did. I now know that he was the first to really believe in my writing.

You are a writer – how do you earn a living in NY?

Well, I still don’t! In the last few years I have been applying to different grants and fellowships and it’s only in this year that I got lucky to be granted a small fellowship from Mount Holyoke College to work on a photography/text project with a great visual artist and good friend of mine Maria Antelman. Of course lately there are also a couple of poems and short stories of mine that are being published in different literary magazines but what I make from those is close to nothing. As I mentioned above I am lucky/stubborn enough to have/find the funds to support myself. But anyway I don’t think that someone decides to become a writer because he/she wants to make money. The love of writing is what makes you keep doing it. And I also believe that if your first motive is love for what you do, sooner or later you’ll end up making a living too. Luckily I am naïve enough to believe that the same principal holds for every occupation.

4. What about you is Greek, what is not?

Everything and nothing. I think of me as a human being first and I always thought like this, even when I was in high school. Actually a couple of very close friends of mine at the time they used to call me “on” which in Greek means “human being.” Of course I was born in Greece and lived there till leaving for college so my foundation (mental, emotional and psychological) is all Greek. But again I think that what we take from our environment depends totally on us and as far as I am concerned I want to believe that I got the best from mine.

Your first novel is being published – what is it about and where can we buy it?

My first novel, The Last Day of Paradise, WILL BE published sometime in the summer of 2006 by Gival Press LLC, which is an independent literary publishing house located in Virginia, US. The Last Day of Paradise is a story of a fifteen-year-old Greek girl named Sunday, who lives happily in a small Greek village till one day her life changes dramatically when her father accuses her mother that she isn’t his real biological child and walks out of her life. Sunday, angry and betrayed, sets to tell the story of her parents in a cynical, humorous, second-hand language, her “defense mode” as she calls it, with the hope to find out who is her true biological father. In one simple phrase it’s a fun, light read with lots of Greek idioms or Hellenisms (as I call them in the book).
I will let you know where you can buy it once it’s out, for now you have to check my publisher’s web site because it’s an amazing warm publishing house that every writer dreams of being represented by.

 Are you working on something new now?

Several months ago I started working on my second novel entitled “Noble Silence” and on a poetry collection entitled “The Cycle of Consciousness.” If everything goes well, I hope to finish both by the end of 2006.

What is your relationship to Europe? Any special memories?

Many….more than I can enumerate here. I love Europe. Each time I am somewhere in Europe I feel as being reconnected to my roots. The history, the culture, the old buildings, the bureaucracy!!! the cafes…really everything I can think of has a very unique charm, which is difficult to find anywhere else in the world. Of course I am more familiar with places such as Greece and England just because I spent some years of my life there but I can easily see myself living in Italy, France or Spain. I also love Prague, it’s a beautiful and melancholic city and I have some dearest friends from there.

Your favorite Greek spot in New York ?

Well, I don’t really have one but when I want to eat some great Greek food I go to Pylos in East Village. It’s a hip, modern place with delicious rustic Greek cousine.

How do you define nationality for yourself?

It’s funny you asked this question ‘cause every time I visit my family in Greece and say or do something my mom doesn’t like she always says “well, it’s because you live in America.” In other words anything incomprehensible in my thinking or behavior for my mom is an after-effect of me not living in Greece and most specifically living in the US. The truth is that every time I visit Greece in the first few days I feel as a foreigner but I am very adaptable so within days I seem to remember my old Greek mannerisms.
Now to come more into your question of nationality I understand as nationality the relationship between a person and a country. Having said that this person-country relationship to me is very important and I consciously try to keep it alive. I also believe that it’s not good for someone to forget where he/she has started.

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