Kika Hatzopoulou writes stories for all ages, filled with lore and whimsy. She holds an MFA for writing for children from the New School and works in foreign publishing. She currently splits her time between London and her native Greece, where she enjoys urban quests and gastronomical adventures while narrating entire book and movie plots with her partner. Find Kika on Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok @kikahatzopoulou.
I had the opportunity to interview Kika, which you can read below.
First of all, welcome to Geeks OUT! Could you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m so excited to be here! I’m Kika, a native Greek who’s been writing in English since childhood. I completed my MFA in Writing for Children at the New School in New York and have held teaching and publishing positions in the past. I love all things fantastical, both as a writer and as a reader!
What can you tell us about your debut book, Threads That Bind? What was the inspiration for this story?
Threads That Bind is my debut YA fantasy noir, the first in a duology that comes out from Razorbill in May 2023. It’s a twisty story about a detective with the powers of the Greek Fates that is charged with solving a series of otherworldly murders while navigating a soulmate romance and her complicated family dynamics. The story came together by combining a lot of the things I love: Greek myth, especially side characters such as the Fates, the Furies, and the Muses, noir settings, murder mysteries, post-(climate)-apocalyptic scenarios!
With many novels inspired by Greek mythology, there’s often a sense of these stories lacking original cultural context, i.e. relating back to real-life Greece or Greek culture. As an author of Greek descent, what does it mean to you writing a novel like this?
It truly means a lot. Back when I was first querying this story to agents in 2019-2020, I often got the feedback that Greek-inspired fantasy is oversaturated or that my particular mix of Greek myth and noir would be a hard sell. The feedback discouraged me at the time, particularly as a Greek writing about their own culture, and because so many of the books referenced in the rejections were retellings written by non-Greeks and set in antiquity – which is vastly different to the Greece of today. Modern Greece is an amalgamation of cultures with a rich recent history of wars, immigration, and political upheavals. In Threads That Bind, I attempted to pull this modernity into the story and form a world that reflects our own. I feared such a weird combination of Greek myth, noir plot, and contemporary setting wouldn’t resonate with readers, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by early reactions that praise these very same elements!
As a writer, what drew you to the art of storytelling, specifically speculative fiction, and young adult fiction?
I love creating and exploring new worlds – it’s one of my favorite parts of writing and one of the foundations of speculative fiction. When I first started writing as a teen, I was mostly imitating the stories I was reading at the time: Meg Cabot’s works and modern YA classics such as Eragon, Graceling, and The Hunger Games. But as my writing matured, I became more interested in reinventing the tropes I loved and exploring new ways to tell a story, which has led to manuscripts that range widely in age group and genre. Fun fact: when I signed with my agent, I was pitching Threads That Bind as adult, but after discussing it with my agent, we chose to send it to young adult publishers – both because Io’s character arc is one of coming-of-age and because YA fantasy is my first (true) love. I’d love to continue writing widely in middle grade, young adult, and adult in the future, but I doubt I’ll ever tell a story where there isn’t at least some small magical element. The act of reading is its own kind of magic; and for me, it’s all the better if there’s actual spells and powers in it!
How would you describe your writing process?
I think the best way to describe it is explorative. Strictly speaking, I’m a planner, but I like to pants the first chapters, take my time with the first act of each new story, and try different things before settling on the voice, world, and themes. And beyond that, I’m the sort of book nerd that enjoys every part of publishing. I love the first light bulb moment, I love brainstorming and outlining, I love the messy first draft and revising with my editor, I love nitpicky copyedits and pass pages (all of which shows you what a wonderful team I’m surrounded by!).
Many authors would say one of the most challenging parts of writing a book is finishing one. What strategies would you say helped you accomplish this?
Oh, yes, finishing a book is definitely one of the hardest parts! Every writer is different, but what personally helps me is dividing the story in smaller chunks. I love a 3 or 5 act structure, depending on the needs of the story, and I like to pause between acts and reorganize my plans for both the plot and the character’s journey. In the duology of Threads That Bind, I structured each act to end on a twist or revelation, which created some momentum as I wrote – I really wanted to get to that twist and put my vision into words! In more practical terms, I’d suggest using placeholders: for names, descriptions, worldbuilding elements, nitpicky things you need to research further. Keeping up momentum is crucial in finishing a first draft!
Growing up, were there any stories in which you felt touched by/ or reflected in? Are there any like that now?
I love this question! The first one that comes to mind is The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan. My jaw was on the floor the entire time I was reading it when I was 18. I remember I kept thinking, “I didn’t know we could write that!” For those unfamiliar with the book, it’s a character-driven zombie story that centers on religion and faith in a way I had never seen before. It really resonated with my experience growing up as an inquisitive kid in a religiously conservative community. More recently, I had the same experience with Naomi Novik’s The Scholomance trilogy, which are my absolute favorite books in the world. I guess something about teens picking apart the system they’ve been raised with really resonates with me!
As a writer, who or what would you say are some of your greatest creative influences and/or sources of inspiration in general?
Definitely myth and history, but also other media! I love that moment where you’re reading a book or watching a movie and a completely random small element of the story makes you go, “Oooh! This could be interesting to explore!” In terms of prose, and especially as someone writing in their non-native language, I have found that reading a text closely greatly helps in learning new words, new turns of phrases, new ways to structure a sentence or paragraph. And personally, because I love setting so much, I’ve lately been enjoying researching natural phenomena, scientific discoveries, and different types of governing systems.
What are some of your favorite elements of writing? What do you consider some of the most frustrating and/or challenging?
As I mentioned above, I have enjoyed all parts of writing so far, because I’ve been blessed with a really great publishing team! I particularly love the exploration of the brainstorming stage, but I think my absolute favorite part of writing is those internal monologue moments towards the end of the book when the character comes to terms with their own self-sabotage and chooses a new way to live their life. (If you enjoy character journey arcs, do check out Michael Hauge’s Six Stages!) What I usually have trouble with is trying to narrow the world I’ve created into a cohesive elevator pitch to send to my agent or editor!
What advice might you have to give for other aspiring writers?
KH: I’d second the advice often given by other authors that you need to read a lot, read outside your genre and read critically. But I’d also suggest to seek the joy; do you love voice and character, romance, twisty plots? Hold on to that joy as you write, seek new ways to embrace that feeling, make writing time into a little ritual. Writing can be lonely and publishing is a hard business, so the joy that you find in your own creative process is vital to sustain you during the hard times!
Are there any other projects you are working on and at liberty to speak about?
I’m putting finishing touches on the sequel to Threads That Bind as I’m writing this. I’m so excited for readers to experience the conclusion of Io’s story and find out how the Muses’ prophecy comes to pass. I’ve also seen the sequel’s cover and I’m in awe – Corey Brickley have really outdone themself with this one!
Finally, what books/authors would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT?
I love this question! Some of my recent favorites are: Bitterthorn by Kat Dunn, which is a dark gothic fairytale with a swoony f/f romance; Bonesmith by Nicki Pau Preto which is a sprawling fantasy world with a kick-ass necromancer at its center; and Seven Faceless Saints by M.K. Lobb, a murder mystery in a fantasy world with one of the most well-drawn angry girls I’ve ever read!
Header Photo Credit Kostas Amiridis