Did you always want to be a writer or did you kind of fall into it? Tell us the story of how you came to identify yourself as a writer.
I wanted to be a writer as long as I can remember. When I was six years old and people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would say author. I started writing little books around that age, I’d even staple them together like real books and in school, I’d try to sell them to my friends. For around 10 to 20 cents, and 50 cents for those I considered extra special! My school sales ended when a teacher confiscated the book I was trying to sell. She liked it and asked if she could show it to her class and I never got it back.
In high school, I chose a dream I thought was more likely to bring stability and went into law school when I graduated. It soon became apparent though that the way I’d identified myself as a law graduate and future lawyer wouldn’t come to fruition as I was unable to secure even interviews to work in my field. This led to years of frustration, depression, soul searching. I wrote my first book as a result of taking to writing down these feelings and realising I couldn’t be the only graduate out there going through this. The result was a year of research, interviews and writing before publishing my first book, ‘When Study Goes Wrong’.
As a writer, are you a reader? What genres do you read and do you read more frequently in the genre you write in, or avoid it completely?
I love to read, as work and life gets busy, I don’t get the chance to read as often as I’d like. My second book was a non-fiction travel narrative and I love to read travel books (especially those penned by Bill Bryson). I also love non-fiction books about the universe and astronomy.
A novel I highly recommend to everyone is ‘A Gentleman in Moscow’ by Amor Towles. It’s the best book I’ve had the pleasure of reading in recent times!
Tell us about your first writing experience. How does that compare to where you are now?
My first writing experience as a child involved creating worlds and characters I could identify with or felt comfortable creating. I was often influenced by Enid Blyton as I loved her books as a child. All those adventures and magical places were wonderful to broaden the horizons of my imagination. Later, I was influenced by Carolyn Keene, as I loved the Nancy Drew books, and the incomparable Agatha Christie.
We all know the ‘just write’ memes if you are following any writers page, so apart from that, what’s the best advice you can give to someone new?
Just write is so cliché but also so true. When you’re new to writing, my best advice is to read widely and study the craft. But when you sit down to write, don’t focus too much on editing then and there. Just write. The first draft does not need to be a masterpiece, it’s just a first draft. It will mean you have put pen to paper and thought about the world you’re building. Whether that is non-fiction facts and descriptions or a fictional world of your making.
What’s your biggest obstacle to writing and how do you overcome it? Most of us know that it is time, so try and let us know when you are best at your writing, and why that doesn’t work, and what you do to counter or overcome that problem.
Time, writer’s block and a lack of motivation. Writer’s block happens if you let it. Some days you simply move on to something else – another section of the manuscript perhaps or simply take a break. It happens, we all get tired. What’s important is how you deal with it. Take a break but get back to it. Don’t prolong the break so much that it turns into procrastination.
It’s all too easy to put it away and not look at it again for months. I know; I have been there with my third book that has only been a quarter of the way finished for over a year now. It’s a process to get back into it, re-read and work out where it is you wanted to go.
Motivation is influenced by a lot of things and for me it was things that were going on in my life that took happiness away from things I enjoyed, like writing. I’m enjoying getting back into it and re-reading the first few chapters of what could become my third book.
Self-published or traditionally published? Tell us why that works for you?
I tried both. My first book I made no traditional publishing enquiries at all. It’s a niche book written as a bit of a catharsis for me, I didn’t feel it would have the audience needed and certainly not something universities might want out there – case studies of graduates like myself who tried so hard to get jobs in their fields but were unable to. I got a team of professionals involved to design the cover and do full edits and proofreads and published through CreateSpace which is linked to Amazon.
The second book I did make enquiries as I felt it had more chances to be accepted. It was accepted by a small traditional publisher who wanted to make changes to it such as including recipes. For me, it wasn’t meant to be a travel cook book, I don’t even enjoy cooking. I wanted to keep it as a travel narrative and my vision was to publish a book in that genre. So I chose an assisted publishing route instead and ‘A Greek Odyssey’ was born.
Here is your chance to plug a book. Tell us about it and why we need to read it?
‘A Greek Odyssey’ was born out of the need to highlight the Greece I know. Not the Greece that is often prevalent in mainstream media and travel books, largely Athens and the Greek islands. It seemed the mainland was forgotten, and the mainland has so many treasures that I wanted to highlight them in my own way.
I climbed to the top of the monument of Zalongo, saw the famous Edessa waterfalls, found myself on what is truly the edge of Greece. I explored places filled with rich history and mythology and recount these stories while describing the richness of the landscape and traditions.
If you want to discover traditional Greece, have unique experiences and see places that are off the beaten track, ‘A Greek Odyssey’ is for you. It’s a book I want to one day expand on and create a second volume or revised edition. There is always more of Greece to explore! The photos I took for the book are all on my website so check them out at: https://authortia.wixsite.com/tiamitsis
Next project? Where are you in your writing journey and where to next for you?
I’ve alluded to my long forgotten third book. I didn’t touch it for over a year due to other issues and I’m enjoying getting to know my heroine again. It’s my first foray into fiction. It also involves travel and Greece as a destination. It’s a very different genre for me in that it’s fiction but also allows me to play with imagery and the type of travel experiences one can have when overseas. I am in the process of re-reading it, reacquainting myself with the heroine of the story and finding out where I want to take this. At nearly 20,000 words, it would be a shame not to make it work and it’s certainly something on my current to do list. It’s hard to find time around work but I can’t wait to get writing again!
The most personal question of all, what does writing give you? Why do you do it, what’s the point, and what does it provide in your life that you can’t fulfil by any other means?
I need to write, I need that daily escape. Writing relaxes and inspires me. Take away the technology and I’d gladly use pen and paper! I find that when I stop writing and stop using that as a medium of expression, it has a negative effect.
My first book was a catharsis, but my second book was born out of love for Greece and for the creative process. I love to achieve, to create and while life as a writer certainly isn’t easy, it’s rewarding it its own way. You do need to put a lot more work into marketing yourself than I do, for example, but that’s not the key aspect. It’s the love of writing, love of sharing and expressing something – whether that is helping graduates feel they aren’t alone or helping travellers discover the hidden gems of Greece.
What is the hardest thing you had to learn about putting together a factual book? Talk about how you verify facts, or try to display the information, especially if there are a lot of photos or diagrams. Offer some advice for the audience who might want to try non-fiction.
I spent many hours finding facts and ensuring the sources were worthy. Keep meticulous notes for references. Do not think you can go back and verify them at the end, it’s a long process in itself and it helped to consider the book an academic work. That helped to not only ensure quality references but to fact check with other sources also.
I couldn’t quite work out the analysis of qualitative data for ‘When Study Goes Wrong’ and I had a Skype session with a friend in the field who talked me through what it all meant and provided me with resources to aid my understanding. It was a rich learning process, one that I feel helped me to learn more about research. The next challenge was writing facts and statistics in an easily understandable way. This was not an academic textbook after all and I needed to provide the data gathered in a cohesive, easy to understand and engaging way.
Break it down into shorter chunks if there are diagrams, not too detailed so the reader’s eye is not distracted by numerous parts of one diagram that may or may not make sense to them. Keep it clean and simple enough to be easily understood.
Keep photographs crisp and clear, don’t overload the book but look at perhaps including 10 -15 photographs. I didn’t do this with my second book because it was too difficult to narrow down for me and I chose to place all photos on a web gallery. But I do wish I had put some colour photos in the book and I would definitely do that in a revised edition.
Tia Mitsis is the author of ‘When Study Goes Wrong’ and ‘A Greek Odyssey’. She holds a number of qualifications, including a Master of Laws and a Master of Communication. Tia was born in Brisbane, Australia and currently resides in Germany. Her personal motto to pursue success is Face Everything and Rise, which she was introduced to by an athlete she admires. She is passionate about travel writing and travel. Her favourite countries to visit are Greece, Ireland and Canada. When she isn’t writing, Tia enjoys kung fu, figure skating and Irish dancing.