Nicholas C. Rossis is the author of the children’s book Runaway Smile. He kindly consented to answer some questions for me. As you will find out, he is also the author of several other works, but it was this book that first brought him to my attention. I’ve reviewed Runaway Smile on “Connie’s Picks.” (Yes, it’s that good!)
Runaway Smile is now available in print format as well as Kindle on Amazon.com. In my opinion, it’s an excellent deal! Click on the image to get your copy today. (For the purposes of this interview, hover over any of the images or colored words in bold to see links.)
For my review of Runaway Smile, click HERE.
Q– For how long have you been writing?
Since as far back as I can remember, I have enjoyed writing. At school, many of my classmates dreaded essay-writing, whereas I could count on my essays to be read aloud in class.
In 2009, I felt ready for a career change and decided to again try my hand at writing. A newspaper had a segment called “9” that included a short science fiction story each week. Usually these were stories translated into Greek, but every now and then you would see a story actually written by a Greek author. I decided to submit a story, not expecting much.
They published it and sent me a cheque for 150 euros. I was ecstatic! Sadly, by the time I had written and submitted another couple of stories, the newspaper had run into financial trouble and discontinued that feature. I therefore submitted one of my stories to a short-story competition and, to my great surprise, won. The story was published in an anthology called Invasion.
I then started working on my novel, Pearseus, which evolved into a series. I published the first book in the series, Pearseus: Schism, on Amazon in late 2013, certain that I was missing something: surely it couldn’t be that easy. Sooner or later, someone would call my bluff. Amazon or someone would take a look and say, “Hey, you’re not an author. What are you playing at?”
Instead, people bought Pearseus and reviewed it. They said nice things about it and actually paid to read my work. It repeatedly became an Amazon bestseller.
Wow. People liked my work! This really was an eye-opener, and I have continued to write and publish ever since. I’ve learned a lot, developed my voice, and made scores of wonderful new friends. I now wonder, Why did it take me so long to take the plunge?
Q– What are some of your other publications?
I have also published Pearseus, an epic fantasy series that describes what happens when humanity is forced to start all over again on a remote planet. I love that series and have dedicated enormous amounts of my time and energy to it.
Finally, I have translated one of my favourite books, the Tao Te Ching, into Greek. I offer the electronic Greek edition for free on www.taoteching.gr , as I feel it is a book that everyone should read.
Q– What prompted you to write a children’s book?
It’s funny, as I don’t have children of my own yet, but I love the genre. One of my favorite books is The Little Prince, and I feel really comfortable writing for children. I’m fascinated by the “anything goes” kind of imagination children have, and I love to connect with that part of myself.
Q– Runaway Smile is a lot of fun to read. Did you have fun writing it?
Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed it. I did have fun writing it. After playing around with the original poem for a few weeks, I ended up writing the whole book in a single Saturday morning. I remember it clearly, as Electra wanted to go for a walk in Tatoi (a nearby national park) and was annoyed that I chose instead to spend my Saturday writing.
Q– Do you think you’ll publish more children’s books in the future?
Oh, absolutely! I’m already working on Musiville, a story about a village filled with animals that are also musical instruments, with Dimitris. I have written a total of six children’s books, five of them still waiting to be illustrated. The only question is how fast Dimitris can draw!
Q– The illustrations match the tone of the book very well. How did you find the illustrator for your book? Did you check out several illustrators before choosing one?
Thanks for asking! Dimitris is as much the creator of Runaway Smile as I am. It started out as a silly poem that I was playing with in my head (you can read the final version of it at the end of the book). One day, back in 2012, I was having my childhood friend, Dimitris Fousekis, over for lunch. He’s a professional illustrator, and he liked the poem so much that he suggested we turn it into a children’s book. This was before I decided to become an author, and Pearseus had not yet been conceived, so I was intrigued by the idea.
The book was written by me, but I used several ideas that came up during our conversations. We then read through it together, improving it and coming up with gags and ideas for illustrations. Obviously, everything had to be approved by our pets, as you can see by the photo.
Q– The boy in the story reminds me a bit of Bill Watterson’s Calvin from Calvin & Hobbes: he’s wise in some ways and naive in others. Is he based on anyone you know, or did you just have fun inventing him?
I am a big fan of Calvin and Hobbes; indeed, I have all of Watterson’s books, so I’m pleased and flattered to hear of the resemblance. Watterson obviously based Calvin’s point of view about humanity on John Calvin, the 16th century theologian, but I seem to recall that Watterson based the boy on his nephew, Tom.
In my case, the boy is based on no one in particular. Perhaps myself? I always feel I’m fooling the world by pretending to be an adult, when in fact I’m just a kid.
Q– You’ve written a humorous book with a serious moral. What was the reason for your choice of this particular moral?
I’d love to answer that, but I’d have to ask you what moral you’re talking about. You sit down and you write, then you analyze what you have written. I can tell you what my personal take is on the story, but you and I may not have gotten the same thing out of it.
For example, I got a strange call from a family friend who’s a psychologist the other day. She said she loved the book because it said exactly what she had been struggling to convey through her own unfinished book: that all men would turn into criminals if not for their mother’s love.
When I indicated that this was not my personal understanding of the story, she refuted me, explaining that I obviously did not understand what I had written.
Having said that, if you’re still interested in my personal understanding of the story, it’s the story of how we wake up one morning and realize that we’ve forgotten how to be happy. We seek happiness in our work, in money, in power, in humor, in knowledge… All of these things can offer us fun, symbolized by the false smiles worn by everyone. (I’m not sure that people have noticed this, but everyone except for the boy and the mother are wearing strapped-on smiles). True happiness, however, comes from sharing. Sometimes we forget that, and we need someone to reach out to us and help us through this dark time of the soul.
As to what prompted it, I had been struggling with my own version of a mid-life crisis, I guess, when I found myself giving up my 20-year-long career to become an author. This is because my previous career as a web developer no longer made me smile. Sharing my stories, however, has put the smile right back on my face!
Feel free to read into that anything you like!
Q– Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about the book or the process of writing it?
There are times when we connect to something higher than us. Call it your Inner Self, call it a Muse, call it God. All I know is that it’s the greatest feeling in the world. It’s almost like someone is dictating the story and you are but a conduit for the words.
I have written a dozen books, both for children and adults, but the only time I felt fully connected with that feeling was when I was writing Runaway Smile. Don’t get me wrong: I genuinely like and am proud of all of my work, but every day I hope and pray to feel that feeling again. Will I ever get it back? I have no idea. But it’s what makes me look forward to another day of writing.
Q– How can your readers and fans contact you?
I’m all around the Internet, but the best place to find me would be my blog, http://nicholasrossis.me/
Anyone interested in my books can check them out on Amazon:
Also, for a limited time, people can read for free both Pearseus: Schism, on Goodreads and Runaway Smile on my blog: http://nicholasrossis.me/childrens-books/
Other places to connect with me include
Avid reader. Web developer. Architect by training, holder of a PhD in Digital Architecture from the University of Edinburgh. Now, most importantly, author.
Nicholas loves to write. His first children’s book, Runaway Smile, is now for sale in both print and Kindle formats on Amazon. The fourth book in the Amazon best-selling epic fantasy series, Pearseus, is expected to be released mid-February, 2015. He has also published The Power of Six, a collection of short sci-fi stories that includes his award-winning short story, “I Come in Peace.” This, too, has reached #1 on Amazon.
He lives in Athens, Greece, in the middle of a forest, with his wife, dog and two very silly cats, one of whom is always sitting on his lap, so please excuse any typos in his blog posts: typing with one hand can be hard. Mercifully, all his books are professionally edited!