How the Greeks Helped Me Write “SHADOW OF THE LION”
By Ruth Kozak
I first became interested in Alexander the Great when I was a 16 year old in high school. I spent my time researching about him and by my final year had written an Alexander themed novel. The passion for this extraordinary Greek warrior- king never faded, nor did my interest in Greece, but it wasn’t until 1979 that I was finally able to visit. My first stop was Thessaloniki where the amazing grave finds from Vergina were on display in the museum. This further piqued my interest in this period of Macedonian history. Eventually, in 1983 I went to live in Greece for several years and during that time was able to visit all of the sites associated with Alexander the Great.
I had always wanted to write a book about Alexander, but my favorite author Mary Renault had already done this successfully with her trilogy. So I decided to write about Alexander’s little known son, Alexander IV, who I had been briefly introduced to in Renault’s “Funeral Games”.
Little is known about this child, Alexander’s only heir, but I did all the research I could and began to write SHADOW OF THE LION as a young adult novel. However as time went on I realized this was a political story, much broader in scope than anything I could write for a young audience. So I was advised to start over. Once I had the theme established: ‘How blind ambition and greed brought down a world power’, I was ready to begin the long journey in Alexander’s shadow.
My relationship with the Consulate of Greece began in February 1991 after a letter I had written to the Vancouver Sun was published defending the Greek’s Macedonian history. Following the letter, a travel article I wrote, “Macedonia, Greece: The Spirit of Alexander” was published in the Vancouver Province. This story piqued the interest of the Greek Consul, Helen Sourani-Potamianos, and she invited me for coffee. I explained that I had studied Macedonian history since I was a teen-ager and was just beginning to research and write my novel SHADOW OF THE LION. Mrs Sourani-Potamionos suggested that the Consulate would help me return to Greece so I could do further research and arranged this with the Director for Canada of the Greek National Tourism.
Once I arrived back in Athens, a Greek journalist friend got me an appointment with the Ministry of Culture and in turn, they arranged for me to go to Thessaloniki to meet with the Society of Macedonian Studies. I had an interview with Dr. Prof. Theresa Peutzopoulou who was the secretary at the time and she also arranged for me to meet with a professor from the Aristotle University regarding the history surrounding Alexander the Great. However, he was unavailable, but kindly sent me a bibliography list of book I could use for research.
For most of the ‘90’s I lived in Greece for six months at a time doing research with the help of various Classical scholars, the Finnish Institute who arranged for me to have a museum pass, the Norwegian Institute and the British School library and Gennadius Library where I did some research.
The journey of SHADOW took me 15 years to complete. Finally in July 2014 the novel was published, the first volume SHADOW OF THE LION: BLOOD ON THE MOON, with the second THE FIELDS OF HADES to follow in 2016.
Through the years I’ve kept in touch with the Consulate here in Vancouver to inform them of the progress of the novel, finally its completion and acceptance by MediaAria-CDM publishers. The Consul, Mr. Ilias Kremmydas immediately contacted me and suggested that we meet. He has taken a genuine interest in my work, and his words “’Shadow of the Lion’ is like the Greek ‘Game of Thrones’, only this is a true story!” In January, Mr Kremmydas sponsored my book launch at the Vancouver Hellenic Centre, which was huge success. In June I am invited to read at the Vancouver Public Library during Greek Heritage Month, and also at a branch library in the Greek area of town just before Vancouver’s annual Greek Days celebration.
I have always appreciated the help, encouragement and enthusiastic response for my writing that the Greek people have shown and the generosity of the Greek Consulate in helping me forward my dream, assisting with my research and promoting my novel.
When I was in Greece this past September I was invited to read from SHADOW at the Athens Centre and they provided a reception in the courtyard. I was also invited to Larissa to present my book at a conference for World Poetry, and when I returned to Vancouver, the World Poetry organization here awarded me with an ‘empowered writer’ award. I also read to two classes of grade 9 students at the Athens Community College. The Greek people have warmly welcomed me to their country which I consider my ‘second home’ and for this I am grateful. Thank you, Greece. This book is for you!