‘‘As soon as I saw the blue sea and sky of Symi, an unspoilt little Greek island near Rhodes, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven,” says Anne Zouroudi of her first visit to the Greek islands all those years ago.
“I was 32 and, on my first day there with my sister, I met a Greek man called George.
It was a real Shirley Valentine moment.
He ran a taxi boat and asked us to go on board, just like in the film. He had amazing blues eyes and was very charming.
It was love at first sight.
He really did sweep me off my feet.
At the end of the holiday I came home, sensibly dismissing it because I know what holiday romances are. I’d been a hotshot in the corporate world, having worked on Wall Street for a time when I was living in America, and had a job working for the corporate side of Thomas Cook at the time. I was not a foolish woman.
But I did still hope that he would call. And he did.
He asked me to go back to Symi. So that was it. I handed in my notice at work, and off I went! I’d fallen hook, line and sinker for both the man and the place.
My friends and family all thought it was a doomed relationship, but they were gracious enough not to say so – they were used to me being a bit of an adventurous spirit. I’d taken off to live in America before, like I said.
We had a fabulous Greek wedding. My parents came over for it. There were priests dressed in tall black hats, loads of kids running around, incense burning, and we were pelted with rice and sugar.
We sometimes returned to England.
I had kept my house there and rented it out. George hated the English weather and said all the food looked brown, but he liked the central heating and the hot baths. We didn’t have those in Greece.
In 1992, after I had been in Greece for two years, our son Eassilis was born.
It was after Eassilis – or Will as we call him in England – was born that the cracks started to show in our marriage.
I was not suited to being a fisherman’s wife. When Will was five, I decided to leave Greece.
I got back to England, heartbroken over my failed marriage and failed life in Greece.
I found the best way to sort out my feelings about my life was to write about them.
So I wrote a book called Messenger of Athens to show people what life had been like out there.
I had a privileged view, having been married into a Greek family and living there as an ex-pat.
Then I came up with a character, a Greek detective called Hermes Diaktoros, from nowhere, and the book took on a life of its own.
It turned out rather differently to how I’d envisaged.
But I had always read crime books, so it made sense that I should write crime.
I’d written a couple of books before and sent them to various agents, but not got anywhere.
Then, with this book, the phone began to ring – so I knew I’d got something worth publishing.
I chose to go with Christopher Little, who used to be JK Rowling’s agent.
He loved the book and took it to Bloomsbury, who said they would publish it. It was one of the best moments of my life. I bought a bottle of Champagne to celebrate, even though I was broke.
I did odd jobs to finance my writing, such as delivering Yellow Pages, selling antiques and even selling sausages.
I was not in the slightest bit tempted to go back into the corporate world. I wanted to always be at the school gates for Will.
After a couple of years, I began to write full-time. Bloomsbury and I decided to create a seven-part series called the Mysteries of the Greek Detective, with each book being about one of the seven deadly sins.
My final book in the Mysteries of the Greek Detective series is being published. It’s about my favourite sin – gluttony!
It’s based on an olive oil business and some of these firms can be very corrupt, so it was interesting to write about that.
It feels odd to have completed the series now. When I started it felt like such a long road ahead, but now it’s finished, I feel time has really flown.
I don’t think Hermes will be gone for long though. Perhaps he’ll come back for another series based on the 10 commandments?”
Anne’s latest book, The Feast of Artemis (£11.99, Bloomsbury), is out now. For more information, visit www.annezouroudi.com
Mediterranean cuisine caught my fancy
Fishing for tuna in the clear blue waters off a Greek island helped fire Anne Zouroudi’s passion for Mediterranean cuisine. And gave her the idea for her latest novel.
“My ex-husband was Greek and a fisherman and I’d go out fishing with him, catching tuna which weighed up to 1kg,” said Anne Zouroudi.
“He’d catch weird and wonderful things like octopus, eels, scorpion fish and German fish which were little black things and highly prized.In Britain we like big cod that looks nice and white. In Greece it’s all about flavour - it doesn’t matter what it looks like or whether it has lots of bones in it.”
Food is the hot topic on her lips as it’s the theme of her latest publication, The Feast of Artemis, the final book in a series focusing on the seven deadly sins.
“It is all about gluttony – one of my favourite sins!” said Anne, who lives at Stanton-in the Peak, near Matlock. “I am a foodie, as is Hermes the lead character, although I’m a gourmet rather than a glutton.’’