Author Spotlight: Zafirios Georgilas
This month, meet Greek-Canadian Novelist Zafirios Georgilas. Keep reading to learn about him and his novel, released in February 2023.
Meet Zafirios Georgilas
Author Zafirios Georgilas studied English Literature, Classics, and Latin at the University of British Columbia, then moved to London, where he earned a Masters Degree in Publishing from the University of Arts in 2001. He returned to Canada, and has lived in Downtown Vancouver ever since. He’s also a musician. Keep reading to learn more about him, his writing, and his music.
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Q&A with Zafirios Georgilas
… On his Greek roots
Where is your family from in Greece?
My dad was born in a village called Mikrokampos, which is 33 km north of Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city. I spent my childhood summers in his village. It’s a Greece that no tourists go to because it’s not a sun-drenched, glamorous island that serenades moviegoers.
Spending my summers in our village, I was lucky to get a real sense of what Greece is. Waking up to the rooster’s crowing and hearing donkeys bray. Seeing my grandfather, a farmer, and his brother helping a cow deliver a calf. Watching my grandmother feed the chickens and their other farm animals. Playing soccer with childhood friends unsupervised for hours on end until the lunchtime siesta and then back again until dinner. Knocking on cousins’ houses and always having many cousins and friends to play with. Seeing the village priest drinking morning coffee with other villagers at the kafeneio.
Compared to North American standards, it may have been poor, but I felt safe and loved. It was only later that I realized what a lucky, enriching childhood I had.
Apparently, my great-grandmother Vassiliki’s family originally came from Mani. Now, I understand why she had a bit of a temper.
You have Asia Minor roots.
My dad’s family originally came from a village called Goulio in Asia Minor. That part of Asia Minor also known as Ionia, is one of the formative places of Western Civilization. It’s where Homer, Heraclitus, Herodotus, and many other great minds were from.
Where are you mother’s roots?
My mother is mostly Celt (Irish/Scottish) with some Norwegian and English thrown in for good measure. I had my DNA tested recently and I’m a little over a 1/3 Celt. Greeks and Celts share a love of poetry, storytelling, and music.
… On life
Tell us about you.
I’m a simple man who loves the taste of espresso, feeling the sun on my face and smelling the ocean breeze while walking. I love eating revithia and fasolatha. With each passing year, I know less.
Do you have a job outside of writing?
I work as a hospital porter at Vancouver General Hospital, one of the largest hospitals in Canada. It’s a job that requires a tremendous amount of physical strength, stamina, spatial awareness, and patience. I think I have all those qualities except the latter. You hear patients’ life stories. They want someone to talk as often they’re afraid because they may have a life threatening illness. The best part of the job is when I find out a patient gets healthy and can go home.
… On music
Love for music runs in your family.
My mother was a classically trained pianist, so she started me on piano when I was five. I’m very slow at reading music, but I learn songs by ear. From piano, I progressed to saxophone, which I didn’t stick with. I moved to the guitar, which I still love, and drums, which I enjoy, but am slowly learning. That’s probably because I practice guitar and piano more.
Tell us about your band.
I play in a band called Zafirios. We gig regularly around Vancouver. Our music is a mixture of funk, doo wop, psychedelic boogie, bossa nova, and rock ’n’ roll. We recorded our debut album a few years ago onto 2 inch tape for a warm analog sound. We have shows lined up this summer around Vancouver. I would love for us to tour and play festivals. Listen here. Watch a video clip here. Check out our Facebook page for more info.
… On writing
When did you start writing?
My love for writing started as a child with short stories. My favourite classes in high school were creative writing and music composition. Michael Weinberg, my high school creative writing teacher, encouraged me and told me to pursue it. I laughed at him when he said that because that didn’t seem like a possibility. But now, I’m grateful he encouraged me.
I also wrote poetry in high school. And I continue to write poetry for song lyrics. Over the years, I’ve written blogs, stories, and screenplays. But my novel,How Not To Find Work, is the first piece of writing, outside music, that I’ve felt comfortable with putting out.
What inspires you?
Life, overcoming obstacles, finding beauty and magic in the seemingly every day.
What do you like to write?
My favourite is writing music and poetry for song lyrics. Writing fiction is a laborious, solitary task. However, it can be rewarding if you find out later that you’ve revealed something within yourself. And a bonus is when someone tells you that your story resonates with him/her.
What are you trying to convey in your stories?
I want the reader to feel like he/she is having a drink with a good friend who is telling a story that’s sometimes funny.
… On reading
Who is your favorite author(s) you like to read?
Nikos Kazantzakis, probably one of the wisest people to live besides Socrates. Every writer can learn from the master Ernest Hemingway how to tell a story. Mark Twain also taught me about the importance of humour in storytelling. Aldous Huxley because we’re living in the world he predicted.
I just finished The Creative Act by Rick Rubin. Don Quixote by Cervantes because we all have a little Don Quixote within us. W.B. Yeats was an incredible poet. Edgar Allan Poe for his imagination. George Pelecanos who gave me the confidence to write about what I grew up with. Homer because his stories are timeless. Esi Edugyan is a Canadian writer who stories have surprising plot shifts.
Don’t forget those Russians like Gogol, Dostoevski and Tolstoy. And Politics and the English Language by George Orwell should be required reading for anyone studying communications these days as we live in an age when sophistry is used to win arguments and trust is rarer like gold.
… On his debut novel
What inspired How to Not To Find Work?
I wrote it between 2009-2011. After moving back to Vancouver from London, I tried to find media work. Vancouver’s a small town media/publishing wise compared to London or New York. After a series of odd jobs, I decided to go to a temping agency to find work. They sent me on a series of strange jobs, unrelated to my education, experience or interests. Some of the temping agencies had a high turnover. When I needed to speak to someone about the job that person sent me out for, that person had already left. Often the best way to deal with a difficult situation is laugh about it. And if you’re an artist, you use it as inspiration. So that’s why I decided to write this book.
I also wanted to write about some of the colourful characters I knew in West Broadway/ Kitsilano, so I placed them in the book.
What’s it about?
I think many people can relate to the expectation gap that happens after getting an education and trying to find work that relates to what you’ve studied hard for. In fact, all that preparation goes out the window once you enter the job market. You think your life will unfold in a linear path, but experience shows you the opposite.
After I finished it in 2011, I sent it off to some literary agents. One in New York liked the premise, but thought there were too many characters. I put the manuscript aside for over a decade as music became again my main creative focus.
Around December 2022, my friend Author Angela Saclamacis encouraged me to revisit my book. Having spent over a decade away from the book was a blessing. Time away allowed me to view the story with detachment and clarity. I excised 200 pages, and eliminated superfluous characters. The book became less deliberately clever. What was left was a story.
When did it come out?
How is it being received?
The first run of copies sold out at my favourite local bookstore, Book Warehouse. Hearing this news, made me feel like I won an Oscar. I’ve never won anything in my life yet, so this gave me a wonderful serotonin boost.
Are you doing any events to promote it?
I would love to do some book readings. A dream would be to do a book reading with a performance with our group, Zafirios.
… On the future
What’s next for you?
I would love to see How Not To Find Work be turned into a film or tv series, so some of our talented Greek-American actors can work on it. I’d love to narrate an ebook version of it. And playing live shows with Zafirios. The best, most fulfilling life for me is spent creating.
Anything else people should know?
“γνῶθι σεαυτόν – Know Thyself” as the Temple of Apollo at Delphi advises us.
Author Spotlight: Zafirios Georgilas
Hope you enjoyed meeting Greek-Canadian Author Zafirios Georgilas. Check out his book, How Not to Find Work at your local bookstore or on Amazon. It’s available in paperback and Kindle version. Follow him on Twitter.
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