Greek Australian author Peter Papathanasiou follows up his first novel – the 2021 crime debut novel of the year The Stoning – with another haunting story, The Invisible. A burnt out Detective Sergeant George Manolis travels to Greece to reconnect with his roots…
Hi there I’m your host Jenny Wheeler and in Binge Reading today Peter talks about combining a leading career as a medical geneticist with fiction, and the space allowing his creative spirit to blossom filled in his life.
Our giveaway today is Free Series Starters in Mystery and Romance. My Book #1 Poisoned Legacy is in there along with a selection from a lot of other talented authors.
And a little bit of exciting book news – we’ve finished recording Poisoned Legacy in audio and it should be available to buy for Christmas! We’ll be announcing exact dates very soon!
Episode links can be found here
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Links to this show episode
Peter Papathanasiou. Memoir, Little One: https://www.allenandunwin.com/browse/book/Peter-Papathanasiou-Little-One-9781760875596
Peter Temple: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Temple
Jane Harper: https://janeharper.com.au/
Miles Franklin Award: https://www.perpetual.com.au/milesfranklin#:
Chris Hammer: https://chrishammerauthor.com/
Garry Disher: https://garrydisher.com/
Adrian Hyland: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adrian_Hyland
Wake In Fright – 1971 movie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0mh7qZq0f_w
Wake In Fright Kenneth cook book: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1533656.Wake_in_Fright
Wake In Fright – new release movie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HbS4Yt4aBHU
Where to find Peter Papanathasiou Online
Introducing author Peter Papathanasiou
Jenny Wheeler: Here we are with Peter. Welcome to the show, Peter. It’s really great to have you with us.
Peter Papathanasiou: thanks Jenny. It’s great to be here.
Jenny Wheeler: Now you built a very successful career as an internationally recognized research geneticist before you began your writing. That’s hard to even get your mouth around research geneticist. But you say that you’ve always had a passion for writing. What part did writing play on your life when you were doing your serious academic?
It might not have even played a part. Just tell us about.
Peter Papathanasiou: I used to write a lot as a kid, read and write. I eventually wanted to create my own stories. I was pretty good at school and I became more and more academic. And as I became more academic with science mathematics and these hardcore subjects, I started to leave the creativity behind.
And for many years I, yeah, I didn’t touch it at all. And I guess the way I was doing it was probably like writing letters and emails to friends and that’s where I was telling them stories about what was happening in my life and things that had happened in the past as well.
I did a law degree as well and I think that helped improve my writing. A lot of scientists do struggle to write and also help my writing generally, but for many years it was mainly just I look back at some of. Emails and they were like 20, 30 pages long
Jenny Wheeler: Oh my gosh.
Peter Papathanasiou: It was just a way of catching up and staying connected and when I look back on it, it was a form of creative writing.
The Stoning – Debut Crime Novel of 2021
Jenny Wheeler: Yes, that’s right. Now the books, you’ve got two books out. Your first book, The Stoning was deemed 2021’s Australian Crime Debut Novel of the Year. A fantastic start. And the one that you’ve just published called The Invisible is a follow up on that. The same character inhabits both, although they’re slightly different books and we’ll get into that.
How did you make that transition from serious academia to serious fiction writing that was of a level that you can be a debut novel of the year.
Peter Papathanasiou: Yeah. I don’t know. I think I was probably just a bit burnt out on the serious academic stuff and I wanted to reconnect with something that was more fun and creative.
We’re going back now to 2006, so back 15 years when I started to make that switch. I began writing my first book in 2008 and it was actually a memoir which came out before my two crime novels.
It’s been a long journey and a lot of ups and downs, a lot of coursework and residencies that I’ve done along the way and drafts and ups and downs with agents and publish.
Jenny Wheeler: That memoir, we’ll go into it in a little bit more detail because I think there are quite a lot of parallels between some of your character George Manolis in the crime books and your personal experiences, which we can delve into as we go. But I’d like to start with the stoning because it’s a pretty remarkable book.
A story underwritten with black humour
It’s a tragic crime story underwritten with black humor. And the black humor is very much front of mind. You send a Greek Australian cop named George Manolis to an outback town. He’s very much a metro guy. He’s a vegetarian, he’s a non-beer drinker, and you send him out to this dead end town where they pretty well don’t believe people exist who don’t drink beer.
His off sider Sparrow, is a gay indigenous policeman. You’ve got a great set up for cultural conflict right at the beginning. And then you put internment camp there too, so that you’ve got another spike in the tension levels in the town. It’s an audacious setup and I wondered if it did have personal undertones view with this Greek Australian hero in particular.
Peter Papathanasiou: Oh yeah. Hard to lie and say that it didn’t, I guess if I was always gonna write a character I was, they talk about the fact that debut novelists have one foot firmly in nonfiction. They’re inspired by their real lives. As I said, I studied law, and I specialized in criminal law.
Why Peter finds crime compelling
Crime stories are very compelling. Yeah. It’s also the idea of a puzzle, that people try to solve. So I thought if I was ever gonna do something like that, it would probably be a detective that was an extension of myself. I guess it’s based on myself and my brothers.
And my brother is George. I think every Greek family has at least one George in it. And I, my overarching goal of the stoning was to tell a story about Australia and how the country appears today, as a multicultural country the history that we have. We also have a check in history with our indigenous peoples.
And also, my parents came to Australia as migrants and were warmly received in the 1950s when Australia needed to populate or perish, which was the catch cry after the second World War. And I guess I feel we’ve lost our way a little bit in, in, in terms of immigration policies and and treatment of refugees and asylum seekers.
So it, it was that idea of having a small country town where you have these tensions that are existing between, the white folks and the indigenous populations. And then you have this third. Group of people who come in who are new arrivals, and this is something that takes place in Australia.What you’ll learn in this episode
What you’ll learn in this episode
- What Peter wishes he’d done with his writing career earlier
- Books he admires
- Father-son relationships in fiction
- What he’s working on now
- How crime writing has changed since Agatha Christie’s day
Jenny Wheeler: Yeah. Look, that’s wonderful. We’ve come to the end of our time today, but it’s been fantastic to talk and you certainly are an author that’s keeping your readers guessing. We will put those links on the show notes for this episode so people can find them.
Peter Papathanasiou: Great. Thanks for your time, Jenny. It’s great to be a
Jenny Wheeler: That’s great.
Jenny Wheeler: Bye.
Peter Papathanasiou: Bye bye.
If you enjoyed Peter you may also enjoy…
Adrian Hyland’s Aussie Rural Noir in Canticle Creek: Whip Smart Crime at https://thejoysofbingereading.com/adrian-hyland-whip-smart-crime/
Next week on The Joys of Binge Reading
Next week on Binge Reading bestselling international author, Jane Green with Sister Starlight, a bio fiction work based on the real life story of Talitha Getty wife of mega rich heir Paul Getty, and their Bohemian lifestyle in rock and roll Marrakech in the 1960’s.
That’s next week on Binge Reading
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