In this two part interview, novelist Demetra Fisher talks about her life and her influences on what has led her to become a published author. Her first novel, In Your Dreams, will be appearing shortly in book stores and online. Part one, below, focuses on her background, life experiences and interests. Part Two, which will follow next week, will focus on the specifics of her book and the characters.
What is your ethnic background?
Greek/American. My father was born in Greece and my mother was the first generation of her family to be born in the United States.
Did your parents speak with a Greek accent? My mother didn't. She was born in Rhode Island and actually had a southern New England accent, even though she was bilingual. My father still speaks with a very thick Greek accent, even though he has mastered English quite well. How close to the "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" film was your Greek upbringing? Ha, ha... Actually, very close. We had the lamb roast in our front yard on the Orthodox Easter Sunday one year and the police showed up because our neighbors complained. I lived in a predominately Catholic neighborhood and in those days, not everyone was as used to diversity as they are now, so they all thought we were pagans. It was quite hilarious whenever we would do something typically Greek and no one would have a clue as to what it all meant. I remember I was teased as a child for being the kid with the weird lunches... I would bring stuffed grapeleaves instead of bologna sandwiches and all the kids would be horrified. It was rather funny. Do you think any of that has shaped or influenced your writing in any way?
Only in that I realized at a very young age that I was different... that I don't really fit any mold. It was more difficult as a child to embrace my heritage. When you're young, you so badly want to fit in and it seemed that I didn't really fit in anywhere. My parents never really encouraged me to learn Greek, since my father was trying so hard to learn fluent English. So when I would attend the activities in my church community, all of the elders thought it strange that I didn't speak the language very well. Then again, when I participated in school activities and sports, the kids all thought I had such a strange name, and that made me feel different. It took awhile for me to get comfortable being me.As I grew older, though, I learned to appreciate my background and now I am rather proud of my heritage.So, in some way, do you create characters that don't fit in?That's one way of looking at it. I think I create characters that deal with some of the same issues that I have had to or someone I know has dealt with. Most of those are the classic "coming of age" issues... trying to find yourself, experiencing love and loss, and just being able to make your way in the world. Most everyone can relate their experiences to those of my characters. You are from Vermont. Were you born there and were you raised there? No, I was born in NYC but my parents moved to Vermont when I was four. My father took a job at an engineering firm in Burlington and we moved just before I started kindergarten. So, I went through school in Vermont. How do you think living in Vermont has influenced your writing in any way? Well, Vermont is a scenically beautiful state, so that is definitely reflected in my writing. When you are that close to such natural beauty in your environment, it can't help but come through in your depiction of the setting of your story. Growing up in New England has made me very aware of nature and how much we all need to make time to connect with it. Did you write much when you were younger? Yes, all the time! I started writing poetry as early as the third grade. By the time I was in middle school, I had won a few scholastic awards for my poetry and also for a few short stories, I had crafted. When I reached high school, I remember writing song lyrics and more involved stories, but by that time, I had become a voracious reader, so there never seemed to be enough time to cultivate much more than that. Any favorite teachers in high school, writing wise, or otherwise? I got along really well with all of my teachers for the most part, but especially the English teachers. They all knew how much I enjoyed their classes. It's pretty obvious when you are the only freshman in the school signing up to take a Shakespeare class that is meant only for seniors, that you are an English/Humanities buff. However, my absolute favorite class ended up being Supernatural Lit. I became completely enthralled with the occult and things that were unexplained as a result of taking that course. Does that fascination with the occult seep into your writing now? Oh yes! I like to write about the same sorts of unexplainable things that I like to read about - mythical creatures, life after death, alternate realities, reincarnation, etc. All of it fascinates me, and I enjoy crafting stories that somehow supply some reasoning to those phenomena. Were you athletic when you were younger, play any sports in high school? Yes, I was quite the tomboy pretty much all through school. When I was young, in elementary school, I always played with the boys on the playground. Most of the girls in my class never wanted to get dirty and I didn't care about that, so long as I had fun. I would much rather play kickball, baseball, and tag or fool around on the monkey bars. I was elated when I got to middle school and I was able to participate in gymnastics. I was quite the daredevil until I realized that you could actually get hurt, if you weren't careful. In high school, I was a three-sport athlete until my senior year. By then, I was working part-time, so didn't have as much free time to devote to as many sports.Has any of that crept into your writing as you go along?
Only the willingness to carve your own path and not follow the crowd.And also the dedication part. If you want to be good at something, you have to be willing to work hard at it. I apply the same philosophies to my writing. When you go out to the movies, what type of films are you drawn to? Mostly films about human experiences or the trials of life. I am a sucker for romance, so I love epic love stories, especially the classics, like Wuthering Heights, or Pride and Prejudice, but the modern day romantic comedies will entice me as well. Conversely, I also like action "guy" films a lot, too, as well as anything paranormal. I do have a dark side... lol This is your first novel, why did it take you so long to come out with your first published story? Well, life often does get in the way of dreams... I was busy building my career in Human Resources and raising a family, so there wasn't much time to devote to pursuing another career. Now that I'm older, I have the time. Did you still write during that time, or did you stop? Mostly, I was writing communication pieces relating to my work, but I never actually stopped writing poetry and song lyrics. It's always been relatively easy for me to crank that stuff out, so I find that when I am bored, I will write along those lines. The stories, however, take more time and a lot more thought, so no, while I was working full time, I wasn't crafting stories. Tell us what your first novel is called and what it is about. In Your Dreams is a paranormal romance which is the first in a series. It is about a twenty-one year old college student who has suffered from sleep disorders all her young life. As a result, she doesn't dream, since she never fully reaches REM sleep. When she returns to the university she attends for her junior year fall semester, she suddenly begins dreaming. In her dreams, she meets a guy who she is clearly attracted to. The attraction is mutual and as he pursues her, they begin a relationship. While she is enthralled, she does question why this is happening to her and why can she only "see" him in her dreams. She soon discovers that he has passed on, and that he is reaching out to her via her dreams because that is the only way he can connect with this world... the world he left behind when he died. The story depicts their emotional journey as their feelings for each other grow. However, there is something sinister lurking in the background that threatens their bond. You will have to read it to discover what that is. How did you come up with that idea? Is it an interesting story? I was doing the dishes by hand one night when I began thinking about a story I had started to write but couldn't finish for some reason. Then it occurred to me that the reason why I couldn't finish the story was because I needed to write another first... that the two stories were connected in some way. I left my dishes right there in the sink and didn't even bother to dry my hands before I headed off to my desktop. I sat down, lit a candle for inspiration, and cranked out the first three chapters of In Your Dreams. At that point, I wasn't even sure where it was all going, but I just let the story flow and over the next few days, it all came together for me. At least, it did in my head. It took me the better part of a year to get it all down on paper... and another year and a half to fine-tune it. Other than being a writer, what type of work have you done in your life? When I worked in Human Resources, I designed and managed employee benefits and incentive compensation plans. Before that, I was a cosmetologist for a few years and I've also worked in retail sales. What are some of your hobbies and things you like to do? Well, I love reading, music, watching films, hanging out with my friends and my pets. I also like to dance and swim and go for long walks. As much as I love being with people, I need my alone time and I do enjoy that very much, so I will often go off on excursions like antiquing by myself. I do love to shop as well, and my favorite place to spend time is by the seashore. I used to ride hunter/jumper but I haven't done that for quite a few years. Even so, I still love horses and enjoy being around them very much.