Mario Routi

SFX Interview

1. Rebecca Newton grew out of your 2003 adult book Orizon. Why did you choose to rework it as a young adult novel nearly ten years later? And how different is the current text?

When I started to write Orizon, my intention was to write a fantasy novel for young adults. On the way, too many philosophical concepts were added into the story and Orizon finally became more literary fiction for adults. However, I always intended to rework it at some point and make it what I always wanted it to be, since Fantasy is my favorite genre both as a writer and a reader, and I felt that that time had come.

People often ask me if they need to have read Orizon to understand Rebecca better. The answer is most definitely not. On the contrary, it could confuse them. Rebecca Newton and the Sacred Flame maintains all of the epic adventure elements of Orizon, but with less of the philosophical musings. Rebecca is differently structured, written in a different style and there are several changes in the concept and plot though, even in the main characters.  It also has a new beginning and after a certain chapter, it's a whole new story. Most importantly, this book will be the start of a trilogy.

2. With her name now emblazoned in the title, Rebecca is definitely front and centre of the new book. How has she grown as a character in the past decade and what makes her so fun to write? It’s interesting that she is 18 at the start of the story as she is consequently on the cusp between her teenage and adult years.

Rebecca is now indeed at the center of the book. She has changed quite a bit, I'd say, as a character and I think she has become more likeable due to changes in the story. I have hundreds of letters and emails from readers and have spoken to many more at events, and I listened to their opinions carefully when deciding what sort of character Rebecca should become.  That makes it interesting and really fun to write about and, hopefully, even more fun to read! Rebecca will discover the real meaning of life in this book, she'll find love, she'll face Evil and fight against it, she will come face to face with death and she will need to overcome her fears and weaknesses.

3. Can you tell us a bit about your background. Where did you grow up and when did you move to London? Have you always taken inspiration from Western authors like JRR Tolkien and Stephen King? And why write in English and why make Rebecca originally English?

I was born in Greece to Greek parents and grew up in the city of Thessaloniki. I studied in Greek College, followed by studying marketing and business courses in several colleges and universities. I have been writing since childhood and it had always been my greatest passion.

I have read legendary Greek authors like Nikos Kazantzakis and Vasilis Vasilikos and learned a great deal from their work; however it was always Western fantasy authors who inspired me the most.  The first time I visited London at the age of 12, I knew that my future would be somehow connected with the city. From that point onwards I visited London for at least a month every year, until I decided to start spending more time in the UK back in 2005. It felt natural to choose London as the birthplace of the main character in my stories.

Rebecca Newton and the Sacred Flame is actually the first work that I wrote in English. Even Orizon was written in Greek and was translated into English, but I choose to write in English from now on, so that my writing style wont be modified or depend on others.

4. While you cite Tolkien as an influence, it strikes me that The Land of the White Sun - and the novel overall - is closer in tone to the likes of Narnia and His Dark Materials as it involves a protagonist being transported from our Earth to a mythical land rather than being a story set entirely in a mythical land like Middle-Earth. Do you like that contrast between the ordinary and the fantastic?

As a writer, I have many influences, including JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis. Jules Vern has influenced me a lot, as well as Stephen King and so many others. However, I consider JRR Tolkien as my 'Mentor', even though you could say that my own mythical world resembles the works you mentioned more closely. The reason for that is that I do indeed like the contrast between the ordinary and the fantastic; I enjoy exposing that contrast in several ways in my books.  It's not always the easiest way to go but, like my heroes, I some times choose to follow the difficult path.

5. The novel also boasts many parallels with Greek mythology such as Tartarus, Centaurs, Minotaurs and Cronus? Did you want to reinvent such myths for the 21st Century and have you enjoyed combining them with your own concepts and twists? How would you compare your take to US/ UK stories that are also based on Greek mythology such as Percy Jackson?

I love all mythologies, but Greek mythology is my favorite and I'm very much inspired by it. Incorporating Greek myths and mythological creatures into my work is something I really enjoy and I hope that readers will do too. However, in most cases I don’t exactly follow the mythology, but use it as a tool, so I'd say that I just twist and tweak it in a way to make it suitable for my stories, without insulting the originals. I think that the author of the Percy Jackson series did something similar, as he doesn't actually follow the mythology either, nor could we say that his story is based on the mythology, but it's inspired by it.  In general, I feel that mythology can be the number one inspirational tool for any fantasy novelist, screenwriter or director.

6. Can you tell us more about the Sacred Flame and what else we can expect from the remainder of the series, which I believe is a trilogy?

The Sacred Flame is the Source of Good. It's the Cosmic Energy that balances the universe. It's also the source of immortality for the Orizons. It's the reason that Good fights against Evil in my stories and it must be protected by all means, in order to not fall in the wrong hands. Allegorically speaking, to me, the Sacred Flame could even be our own Soul and internal power, our Light Energy…

The Rebecca Newton series is going to be at least a trilogy. For now I'm focusing on the first three books and I'm already finishing the second one. As for the next books, I can promise more romance and even more breathtaking adventure, because in the first book I wanted to focus on introducing the reader to my characters and the worlds they live in; their habits, strengths and weaknesses, their enemies, the dangers they're facing and above all: their eternal mission!