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Sorry, Wrong Country: Author Q&A
Rooster Republic wanted to try something a little different, so when Konstantine Paradias approached us with Sorry, Wrong Country, his non-fiction memoir about life in modern Greece, it was a total no-brainer to pick it up and add it to this year’s roster of titles.
And what a book! We love this book. And we think you’ll love it, too. It’s already gotten a pretty great review from the folks over at Geek Nerdery. Here’s a little pull quote (click the quote to see the full review at their site):
“It was an absolute blast getting to know these strangers in their quick vignettes, and with what little time the reader gets to spend with each of them, Paradias deftly paints and precise picture of who these people are and where they place in the tapestry of human existence.”
Konstantine was a good sport and to help kick off this new release, we put a whole bunch of questions to him and got a whole bunch of answers (including his pizza crust preference) in return. Read on!
First, feel free to give a little background on yourself and your own written work.
I was born in Athens, on the month of November and I didn’t finish anything I’d ever started out to write until 2001, when I put the final touch on a 200 thousand word fanfic I’d started to write earlier that year. I proceeded to upload the thing, get a few sparing reviews by brave souls that really tore into it me so I pulled it down, printed it and locked it in a drawer so no one would ever see it.
I didn’t write again for 7 years, on account of my trying to make it into the Diplomatic Corps, which I did half-cocked and it didn’t work. After taking up a bunch of pointless, menial jobs I hated (sandwich maker, clerk, sales rep, call center) and one I didn’t hate too much (jeweler and icon maker) I got right back to writing.
Since then, I’ve managed to publish over 100 stories of mine in English, put out works that have been translated in Romanian, Portuguese, German, Dutch and Japanese and one time, a publisher thought I didn’t suck enough to put me up for a Pushcart Prize nomination. Funnily enough, I haven’t managed to publish a single word in Greek, but that doesn’t mean I won’t stop hoping. I mean, I never thought I’d get anything published, just ten years ago.
What authors, if any, do you find inspirational?
When I started writing, I think I outright ripped off the styles of Michael Moorcock, Roger Zelazny and Clark Ashton Smith, but only as far as I could reverse-translate their work. I’d only gotten in touch with their work through some translated anthos you could get for about a buck fiddy way back when.
But the writers who inspired me weren’t just the guys that brought back the prose: they were the weirdos with no plan and nothing but sheer, bloody-minded determination to go on. Kurt Vonnegut, who pretended to be a hippie liberal just so he could shift copies while investing heavily in Dow Chemical. Robert Bloch, the typewriting imp who wrote Psycho just to diss on Robert Howard, who responded to his scathing fan mail with ‘I’d like to see you do better’. Harlan Elisson, who was told he couldn’t write for shit by his professor and then went ahead to mail him every single award he’d ever won just to piss the guy off.
There’s Evgeni Zamyatin, who had balls so massive, he trolled Stalin to get a pass out of the Soviet Union just so he could get his work published abroad and Thomas M. Disch, who wrote about concentration camps filled with STD-crippled super-geniuses in between breaks of pitching Brave Little Toaster.
And finally, there’s Ward Moore, who was funny and tragic and a dyed-in-the-wool cynic, who wrote the best book on apocalyptic environmental fiction and whom people forgot about entirely. If you’re ever looking to get a chuckle out of the world choking to death by greenery, go over Greener Than you Think. It’ll put things in perspective.
What drew you to writing?
Nothing ‘drew’ me to writing. I don’t think anybody who does this really chooses to do this work. I guess you could say it started when to put down the adventures of KITTENCHILDE, the richest kitten in the world, a lazy little nihilist that my brother and I had made up when we were four and six, respectively. He had a private jet plated with gold and was plagued with mooching relatives.
Then again, maybe I started when I decided I wanted to make my own videogame, back when I was 13 and had no idea how to write, which led to that unfortunate mess I saw before.
But I think the most definitive step toward writing came when I realized you could make up to 5 cents per word if your story got accepted in a magazine and I thought that that sounded like a lot of money so I went for it. I guess I thought the process would be streamlined and I could pump out 6 stories a month and I’d be set until either burnout or coke addiction set in.
God, this answer didn’t turn out at all the way I wanted it to. Can I change it up, say that I had worlds waiting inside me or something? That sounds better, right?
Top 3 books you’ve read in the last year?
Let’s see, there’s a bunch of them, but the best 3 have to be:
Sheckeley’s Journey of Joenes. You guys over there might know it as Journey Beyond Tomorrow. It’s the story of the last American Man, leaving the South pacific islands to go back to the US, living out the sheer madness of a world that’s stuck in a perpetual cold war and coming back to become a mythological figure. You can really feel the Kafka and the audibook’s read by the guy who’s voicing Morty’s Dad so that’s a plus.
Kathleen McAuliffe’s This is your brain on Parasites. It’s a popular science book that tells you that you are mostly germs, your stomach cramps might be more tied to every terrible decision you’ve ever made so far and free will doesn’t exist. All in all, greatest horror book I’ve read so far. Amis’ The Alteration. As far as alt-history SF goes, Kingsley Amis is the last guy you’d think would write this kind of stuff, what with him being a big name among snooty dads and all that. But the dude writes this story about a boy who’s up to be castrated by the Catholic Church in a 1974 when Lutheranism never happened and it’s so bleak and strange it haunts you, but the ending’s kinda meh but what can you do?
Are there any authors whose works you wished were more widely read?
Did I mention Ward Moore? Cause he’s great. He’s a depressing bastard that can make milk come out of your nose. He’s got a buttload of stories but you can find Greener Than You Think for FREE on LibriVox.
And then there’s Thomas M. Disch again, whose stories have made it in Oxford compendiums and best stories of the year and people sometimes quote his stuff but they don’t know who they belong to? Well, he’s the dude who wrote the story about an America where breeding was controlled by the state. Also, the cartoon about the little toaster that is nearly killed by clowns.
Finally, I gotta give a shout out to Theodore Sturgeon. Not because he’s in danger of being forgotten at the moment, but a LOT of his work has gone underappreciated and most people don’t know it, but most of the cool stuff you take for granted were penned by him. Psychic hive minds? Boom, Ted Sturgeon. Cruel idiot gods ruining everything for everyone? Boom, Ted Sturgeon. Plant superhuman that thinks it’s a man? Boom, Ted Sturgeon. DC owes his family some money back, if you ask me.
All three of the above authors went out before their time, their work barely read, mostly appreciated by pros, almost forgotten by the time they were out of the picture. I’d want them to come back, somehow. Maybe I’ll meet them, after I go up there, to dwell in the big rejection pile in the sky.
As a reader, what turns you away from a book?
Knuckle-dragging. Self-indulgent author over-reach. Unrelated tangents that only increase the word count. Agenda-pushing, too: that’s a thing that’s happening a lot lately.
Suffering for the sake of suffering, as well. And characters that are just there so we can feel sorry for them. Also, endings where things just…wrap up but not really I guess? Oh and hopeless bastards as characters and worlds where everything’s become pointless so why bother.
And last but not least, vagueness for the sake of building a mystery that’s never paid off. I don’t know why people keep falling for it. Heck, I do it too.
What projects are you currently working on?
At the moment, I’m trying to put together a second non-fiction book, based on a very awful day in the life of a person I knew. I can’t give the title away yet, but it all happened during their birthday and they might be reading this interview and I just wanna keep them on their toes.
I’m also struggling to teach myself how to code, in order to finally put together a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book. I came late to the Lone Wolf and Fighting Fantasy party and I don’t want to go without having given a crack at it first. It’s the story of three people who are alternate universe versions of the same man, searching for their original across the Multiverse. I call it NOTHING BUT DANS, ALL THE WAY DOWN but I’m awful at titles so that might change.
Lots of authors have writing “rituals.” What are yours?
I bathe. Go to the bathroom. Stop to procrastinate, write, hate myself, keep writing until it’s done. Sometimes, if the going gets good, I don’t stop until I’ve type the last word in, in which case I explode into a frenzy of feasting after the submission.
Sometimes, I also like to light incense sticks and stare at my SENT Gmail folder and hope I don’t get too many rejections. When I’m trying a new market, I like to print previous rejections, grind them to a fine paste and eat them, so they can give me strength with the guidelines.
Mostly though, I just make up excuses until I can’t stand it and then write 12 thousand words in one go. Doctors tell me it’s bad for my health, but my grandpa didn’t smoke or drink a drop and he made it to 106 and he told me it wasn’t worth it, so what do they know?
Thin crust, pan, or deep-dish pizza?
Pan all the way. It’s got better load-bearing topping capacity, greater sauce tolerance, makes for a better crust and I can eat an entire box of it on my own before I’ve started to feel like maybe I’m overdoing it.
Also, pan is pretty much the only thing you can get unless you’re ordering Domino’s over here, so my opinion might be biased. That, or everybody else is eating pizza the wrong way.
If you had a time machine, but could only revisit past meals, which meal do you revisit?
I’d go back to the very first time I had real Indian food, back when I was 13 and in New Delhi with my father and didn’t know what was going on. I’d ordered Vindaloo chicken because I didn’t know any better and because the waiter had apparently tricked me into buying it. We’d sat down in one of those old-school Indian restaurants near Chandni Chowk, where you had to eat by hand and I would keep stealing glances at the other customers but I was rubbish at it, so the waiter felt bad for me and brought me a fork but I didn’t use it to save face.
When the Vindaloo came, I was so hungry I didn’t bother to even taste it, so I just stuffed a mouthful of rice and nan and that saucy goodness into my mouth and then I blacked out. Mostly because Vindaloo is spicier than the Devil’s asshole and also because I had never had spicy food before. I barely managed to keep everything in my mouth, fighting back the tears, before my father felt bad enough for me to exchange his dish with mine.
Of course, the waiter and one of the cooks were laughing at me the entire time and I still cringe when I think about it. Hell, I have been training with spicy foods since that day, so soon as I get that time machine, I will go back and eat that dish all over again and then probably regret it later, when I was in the bathroom.
Otherwise, I could travel back to the first time I had french fries. Man, those were great.
You can order a copy of Sorry, Wrong Country on Amazon in print and on Kindle