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Victoria Hislop

"One August Night" and a talk with Victoria Hislop

The beloved - now Greek - author talks "The Island", its continuation, the pandemic and all that we dared to ask her.

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Best-known for her evocative and thoroughly researched historical novels, set against the backdrop of southern Europe – particularly Greece - Victoria Hislop is one of the UK’s bestselling novelists. She read English at Oxford, and worked in publishing, PR and as a journalist before becoming a novelist. Her first novel, The Island, held the number one slot in the Sunday Times paperback charts for eight consecutive weeks and has sold over two million copies worldwide. Hislop was the Newcomer of the Year at the Galaxy British Book Awards 2007 and won the Richard & Judy Summer Read competition. Hislop acted as script consultant on the 26-part adaptation of The Island in Greece, which achieved record ratings for Greek television. Her works include The Return, The Thread, The Sunrise, Carte Postales from Greece and Those Who Are Loved. Her most recent novel, One August Night, was published in October 2020. Her books have been translated into more than 30 languages. In 2020, Hislop was granted honorary Greek citizenship for promoting modern Greek history and culture.

Victoria Hislop is currently living between Greece and Great Britain, while a TV series based on her book "Cartes Postales from Greece" is being filmed in Crete and London. Locating her was difficult but not impossible. With great joy and stoicism she agreed to answer our questions.

You can read the Greek translation here.
Διαβάστε την ελληνική μετάφραση της συνέντευξης.

Mix Grill: Have you ever thought how different your life would be if you hadn’t been in Spinalonga that summer a few years ago?

Victoria Hislop: I think it would be totally different! I think all our lives are a series of doors that we can choose to go through, or to ignore. So every time we make a decision, it can alter the course of our lives – there are many options that we can take and no single path is the one and only option. Think of the film “Sliding Doors” or the wonderful Greek film “What If...” (Greek title «ΑΝ») - both films explore this idea beautifully.

So I am very, very glad I went to Spinalonga on that particular afternoon back in 2001, late in the day so that we were the only visitors there, the light was low – and somehow inspiration came. Maybe the following day, another week later, it might have all been very different.

MG: In crime fiction, it is quite common that “the murderer always returns to the scene of crime”. In your new work, One August Night, it seems that you have followed the same rule. Have you done it on purpose or it was more of an inner need?

VH: I would describe it as desire (rather than need) that drove me to write a sequel. I wanted to see what course the lives of my characters took after that very life-changing night when the patients leave Spinalonga and Anna is murdered. It is a night that is transformative for them in many ways and I wanted to explore the effect of that. It was really interesting to pull open the drawer and find that they were still there, almost waiting for this development.

MG: In your historical novel "The Island" the characters who suffer from leprosy, experience social distancing while trying to live a normal life. What’s your thoughts on the current social distancing due to the covid-19 pandemic?

VH: Social distancing was the only way to keep people with leprosy from infecting others – so it was the right approach. Before the drug treatment was discovered, it was a worldwide decision by every country where leprosy was a problem to keep patients separated from the rest of the community. And similarly with Covid 19 – it is highly infectious and the only way to stop it spreading was to keep people from being close to each other. The similarity is very obvious. And we have all found this incredibly hard – it has been terrible for everyone to be very distant with each other – but not as hard as losing a friend or relative from Covid 19 – that would be even worse! We keep our distance for good reason – and it will be so wonderful when we don’t have to any longer.

MG: I happen to know from people close to you that you intend to visit all the Greek islands and, according to the same people, you have already visited more that forty of them. Does this mean that you have gathered together new material for even more books to come?

VH: Most places I go in Greece give me some kind of inspiration. So yes, the islands have definitely given me something. Each one of them is totally unique.

Victoria Hislop

MG: Now, I will try to scare you a bit. If the pandemic was to spread everywhere around the globe and authorities require that all people should be isolated in safe places, which book would you choose to take with you in such unfortunate conditions?

VH: War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy – it’s the most artistically and philosophically satisfying book I have ever read – and I would love the time to re-read it.

MG: What's the biggest mistake you have done in your life or career?

VH: I should have taken the opportunity to study languages at university (rather than English Literature) – but it wasn’t the end of the world – I have learned Greek since and speak some French most days…

MG: Last but not least, could you think of a question that you have never been asked, but you always wanted to answer?

VH: I have never been asked which is my favorite ice-cream.

MG: Really? What’s your favorite ice-cream?

VH: Rum and raisin.

MG: Thank you very much for your time.

VH: Thank you, too - for all your questions!

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