Who is Paul Lambis and where is home exactly? Tell me something about your family and your Greek roots.
Who is Paul Lambis? Good question. It’s difficult to sum up who I am exactly in one sentence. I think subconsciously, as I embarked on the road to find out where home was, I did some soul searching. I wouldn’t want to disclose all my findings in my answer-the book eventually reveals who Paul Lambis really is, and his outlook on life. I am hoping through my book to share my experiences and hopefully help people see things through a different light especially in these trying times. My family is an authentically Greek family, trying very hard to maintain their cultural heritage in a non-Greek world. I believe my family, particularly my parents and grandparents, worked very hard to preserve our customs, traditions and beliefs. There were however, extended family members who were fanatically extreme about our culture to the extent that their own children rebelled from the Greek ‘idea’. In my home, this was not the case. In our private ‘Greek world’ we were comfortable about our heritage but it was difficult trying to stand out as a Greek in a society which thought we were ‘socially weird’.
What was it like growing up in South Africa and how did you feel about emigrating to Cyprus?
South Africa, in my opinion, is one of the most beautiful places on earth. I was extremely privileged to grow up in a stable home, comfortable surroundings and excellent schooling. Unfortunately, on the opposite side of the fence, apartheid kept our eyes shut to the oppression and restrictions held against the non-whites. We were always taught to accept everyone on their own merit, irrespective of political beliefs, religion, sexual orientation and colour of skin. My parents encouraged us to have independent beliefs – I was never influenced by the apartheid laws and methods towards our fellow South Africans. In my book, I refer to events before and after apartheid. The abolition of apartheid had excellent repercussions, but it did bring on an increasing crime epidemic. This was my reason for leaving South Africa. I sometimes feel that I left South Africa as a refugee – I was forced to leave. I had no choice. Some people would perceive my actions to be cowardly, but when you are married with dependants, you have an obligation to look after them.
Unfortunately, crime knocked on my door many times and it was one of those things where you had to make a sacrifice – give up the golden palace for freedom. We had a beautiful time in South Africa. It is a country blessed with panoramic beauty and dramatic landscapes. I will never forget South Africa. I am grateful to have experienced life in one of the most beautiful parts of the world, but now we have entered a new chapter in our lives. We were faced with the option of immigrating to Greece or Cyprus as both my wife and I had family living there. We opted for Cyprus as there was a large South African community living there, and English was also widely spoken. We thought it would make the immigration process easier and thankfully, it worked out well.
In a few words. How did you feel growing up Greek in a non-Greek community?
I have always been proud of my Greek heritage. I went through various phases during my childhood; there were times when I was glad to be Greek, particularly when we had ‘show and tell’ at school. There were, however, embarrassing times when your parents would make you want to hide behind your culture and re-emerge as a simple South African.
Apart from being an author, I’m told you are also a graphic designer and an editor for a popular Russian magazine in Cyprus. Which do you enjoy doing most?
I would have to say both. I enjoy the challenge of marketing and advertising. I thrive on teamwork and brainstorming – formulating ideas and then watching those ideas mushroom into a design. In a similar light, the magazine is one of those challenges – it starts out as a concept and it grows into a dynamic work of art. As an editor though, you have to take calculated risks. The decisions made regarding design and subject matter can influence the success of the edition.
In the past, you have also worked as a radio broadcaster and copywriter for a local radio and newspaper. Do you miss being on the air?
Absolutely. I have been offered a weekly morning show for the weekends, but unfortunately ‘time’ is my enemy.
I know you enjoy travelling to London, what is it about the city that draws you there?
I could go on for twenty pages describing the magnetism I have for this part of the world. For me, London is the most colourful place on earth. I believe London represents me in every sense of the word; you will have to read the book to see what I mean.
Have you ever visited Greece and if yes, what are some of the things you remember about it?
I make it a point to visit Greece once a year. I can never get enough of the ancient sites, especially the Parthenon. Most of my family are living in Greece, on the outskirts of Athens. It is certainly a place where you can be who you are, without excusing your actions. Greece is mythical and graceful. If you overlook the turmoil of strikes, financial discord and graffiti, you will discover a rare antiquity- an asset that belongs to all who share a passion for her.
Let’s talk about your first novel. ‘The Turkish Princess.’ What is it about and what or who gave you the inspiration to write it?
‘The Turkish Princess’ is an intriguing story of a Greek girl who is abandoned by her mother during the Second World War. She is discovered by a Greek soldier who leaves her at an orphanage. A few years later, she is adopted by a prominent Turkish couple (who can not have kids), and inherits a fashion empire in later years. When she discovers her true identity, she begins to search for her Greek family, only to discover hidden secrets and lies. She unravels a startling truth which will force her to make a choice between the man she loves and a new world with strange customs and beliefs. I was inspired to write this book after hearing about a true story between a Greek Cypriot man and a Turkish Cypriot woman who were forbidden to pursue their love due to their beliefs. The Turkish Cypriot eventually committed suicide…
Do you prefer writing novels or short articles and stories? Which is more challenging?
A short story is as the cliché says, “short and sweet.” A novel on the other hand, unravels as you write. Before you begin, you have an idea of the storyline, the main characters etc, but the story changes as you go along – the more involved you become with the story, the more intriguing and captivating you want it to be.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing and what does your family think of it all?
I have a very balanced family life, in the sense that Sundays are reserved for family. No matter how pressurised your week is from Monday to Saturday, I believe Sunday is a day when all deadlines and work commitments should be overlooked.
Do you read a lot yourself? What are you reading at the moment?
I enjoy going to bed every night with a good book. I often wake up at 3am in the morning and read for about an hour. This is the best time where I can reflect, focus and drift into another world. I am currently re-reading ‘Eleni’ by Nicholas Gage.
Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way, either growing up or as an adult?
I enjoyed reading Sydney Sheldon books as a child. His legacy continues through the eyes and words of Tilly Bagshawe. I think she has certainly kept up with his thought and style. As an adult, I enjoy reading autobiographies, particularly ‘rags-to-riches’ stories. I thing these books are filled with hope and determination – two vital ingredients needed to survive these trying times.
Your new autobiography. ‘Where is Home,’ will be released next month. Can you tell me all about it?
Well, Paul Charalambous, (myself of course) is nearing his forties. Bored, unhappy and on his way to financial disaster, he decides to change his thoughts as he sets off on a journey of self-discovery. Re-inventing himself as the prodigious Mr. X, he begins to search for a new home and a new life while using his personal experiences as a stepping stone.
It is actually an entertaining autobiography of an overweight boy growing up Greek in South Africa. Overcoming the challenges of puberty, parental embarrassment, sibling rivalry, crime, death (and near-death), and immigration-–he encounters a new world of entertainment, spirituality and the opposite sex. Using only what works for him and applying it to marriage and parenthood, he tries to find the true meaning of family, and a home in London (or Cyprus)–-which includes all of them in it. But, the question is, will his travels lead him to the solutions he is desperately searching for?
So is the book based on true experiences and events in your life?
How has your environment/upbringing coloured your writing?
Throughout my book, I have made references to ‘film’. I believe our lives are, as Shakespeare once said, played out in a movie. My approach is cinematic.
You have stated, that ‘Where is Home,’ deals with some controversial subjects, can you whet our appetites, by revealing one of them?
I was always warned as a teenager that there are three things you should never discuss: sex, politics and religion. I have discussed all three…
Is there a message in the book that you want readers to grasp?
I want them to see life through a different perspective.
Did you ever experience writer’s block? If so, how did you deal with it?
When I was writing ‘The Turkish Princess’, I can safely say ‘yes’. With ‘Where is Home?’, there was never an empty moment. On the contrary, I was faced with the dilemma of having to eliminate certain stories and experiences from the book. This led me to introduce a ‘Deleted Scenes’ section at the end of the book. As my approach was cinematic, I thought it appropriate to cleverly include all the things I wanted to say as a ‘last note’.
Looking back, is there anything you would change or add in the autobiography?
Every day introduces new ideas, new experiences and new episodes. I would certainly want to write a sequel.
Do you think that you learnt anything new about yourself through writing it?
Yes. I believe when I embarked on my journey, I found the balance I was looking for.
Are you already planning a new project/book?
What would you say to the Greek people about the current world crisis?
I believe that once you have hit ‘rock-bottom’, there is only one way from there, and that is ‘up’. It is a long process, but it makes us stronger.
Finally, do you have anything specific to say to your readers?
I hope you enjoy my book as much as I enjoyed writing it. I am hoping that you will all find something you can relate to. Just remember to have fun and enjoy the ride…
‘Where is Home’ will be launched on Friday, 25th November and more information can be found at: www.paul-lambis.com, or by email: [email protected]. Paul Lambis can also be found on Facebook, Twitter and You Tube.