Thursday, October 5, 2023

Q&A with Sophia Kouidou-Giles




Sophia Kouidou-Giles is the author of the new novella An Unexpected Ally: A Greek Tale of Love, Revenge, and Redemption. It is a retelling of the Circe story. Her other books include Sophia's Return. She lives in Seattle.


Q: What inspired you to write this take on the story of Circe?


A: Growing up in Greece and later pursuing my college studies in the US, I carried with me a deep familiarity with the works of Homer and other ancient Greek authors. The foundation of these stories accompanied me, forming a bridge between cultures and providing a touchstone to my roots.


I was familiar with the captivating story of Circe, but Homer's narratives predominantly centered around tales of warfare, heroic exploits, and daring adventures. Within his epics, women often assumed secondary roles, a characteristic that was emblematic of his epics.


The concept for An Unexpected Ally took shape after immersing myself in numerous historical fiction books written in English. Works by authors such as Madeline Miller, Ellen Barker, and Natalie Haynes, which drew from mythology, greatly inspired me.


Through these readings, I came to the realization that Greek myths held even more depth and potential than I had initially imagined.


I had finished writing and publishing my memoir, Sophia’s Return: Uncovering My Mother’s Past. It seemed like a perfect segue during Covid days to continue writing delving into Greek mythology. Two years later, I had finished the story and found my publisher, She Writes Press.


Q: What do you think continues to fascinate people about this ancient Greek myth?


A: She certainly charmed me! Of all the stories, plots and characters in Greek mythology, when I reread Homer’s description of Odysseus' arrival to Aeaea, Circe’s Island, I knew she would be my protagonist!


In the retelling of her story, I saw the chance to infuse her character with depth, to introduce layers of complexity, to adapt to shifting circumstances, confront challenges, and display both vulnerabilities and strengths.


I was discovering what many writers, such as Margaret Atwood, James Joyce, and Eudora Welty have known: Greek myths have held value through the ages and are flexible, a perfect foundation for creative writers.


I found expanding and extrapolating Circe’s character in the retelling a wonderful opportunity to create a relatable goddess with flaws and virtues contemporary readers could relate to.

Q: What did you see as the right balance between your own retelling and the original story?


A: To strike the right balance between my own retelling and the original story, I aimed to honor the essence of the original myths while infusing them with a fresh perspective that resonates with contemporary audiences.


Interlinking three original myths took center stage in An Unexpected Ally and served as the bedrock upon which the narrative was built.


The primary characters are Circe, Glaucus, and Skylla, and their stories provide a foundational framework, shaping the overarching plot and establishing the core thematic elements.


I also found that it was essential to interweave my own creative interpretation to breathe new life into the tales and ensure their relevance in today's world.


Q: How was the book’s title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: My goal was to come up with a title that provides a hint about the content of the book concisely and is engaging. I also used a subtitle.


The title sprang out easily, when I was writing the final chapters of the book. Identifying the subtitle took a lot of back and forth, as I was debating what powerful emotions to highlight.


My writing group and a couple of my beta readers generously engaged in the debates, and I thank them for the brainstorming.


The book title, An Unexpected Ally, hints at an interesting twist that would surprise readers with the fortuitous friendship between Circe and Skylla.


The subtitle, A Greek Tale, identifies the basic ingredients of the novel, ancient Greek myths. Then it discloses the principal challenges the characters will face: love, revenge and redemption.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m currently embarking on the creation of the third book within this trilogy of Greek Tales. The second installment has reached its completion and is set for publication in November 2023. It revolves around the new protagonist, Perse, who happens to be Circe's mother.


As I start to contemplate the myths that will find new life in the third novel, one thing is certain: Greek mythology will remain my foundation.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: As a bicultural and bilingual immigrant, I've been fortunate to find a home in this country that has not only embraced me but also provided the platform to pursue my dream of becoming an author, even after retiring from a career in social services.


It’s a source of immense joy for me to weave the heritage of my natal land into my novels, allowing me to share its rich tapestry of stories with the world.


This journey has been deeply inspired by my grandsons, whose boundless fascination with myths has fueled my passion for writing in this genre. It’s with heartfelt dedication that I present this first novel, a labor of love, to them.


For those who share in this passion for storytelling, I invite you to subscribe to my website, By joining our community, you'll receive a bi-monthly newsletter brimming with insights about books, upcoming events, and the exciting world of mythology and literature.


It's an opportunity to stay connected, exchange ideas, and be among the first to know about new authors, and the exciting narratives that lie ahead.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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