A Writer’s Odyssey: Navigating the Myths of An Unexpected Ally – GUEST POST by Sophia Kouidou-Giles (AN UNEXPECTED ALLY)
Today we welcome Sophia Kouidou-Giles to the Hive to celebrate the publication of her novel The Unexpected Ally with a look at the myths that influenced her novel.
Before we hand you over to Sophia, here’s a little more on her Greek myth retelling:
Powerful Circe, daughter of the sun-god Helios, is sad to see Odysseus, King of Ithaca, depart from her island, Aeaea—but her heartbreak is eased after dolphins take her to Delos, where she explores a new love relationship.
Circe has a strained relationship with her mother, Perse, but when she finally listens to Perse’s encouragement to seek out the amphibian god Glaucus, she’s glad she’s heeded her advice. Together, the two embark on underwater adventures, and Circe shares with Glaucus her knowledge about the healing and harmful power of herbs. While in Delos, she also meets and befriends Skylla, a local beauty with whom Glaucus is enthralled, although the girl is indifferent.
Circe eventually returns to Aeaea, but one day she learns, upon consulting her scrying mirror, that there is trouble in Delos that requires her immediate action. In the turbulent world of gods mingling with mortals, our heroine shifts shapes, flies, and uses her superpowers to reverse the course of evil.
In a tangle of love, hate, vengeance, and the final righting of wrongs, a cast of irresistible characters weaves an adventure laced with beauty and terror in An Unexpected Ally—a newly woven set of tales that brings to life ancient Greek myths and revives issues familiar to contemporary readers.
An Unexpected Ally is out now and available on Bookshop.org
A Writer’s Odyssey: Navigating the Myths of An Unexpected Ally
by Sophia Kouidou-Giles
I’ve held a deep affection for stories and books throughout my life, particularly those rooted in my cultural heritage, in Greece. Exploring the treasure trove of ancient myths offered me a vast spectrum of narratives tailored to different eras, motivation and moral guidance. Like many other authors today, I want to make old stories fresh and relatable to modern readers. In the process of writing my debut novel, “An Unexpected Ally: A Greek Tale of Love, Revenge and Redemption” I learned to be attentive to several aspects of this craft:
Lesson 1: The Advantages and Disadvantages of Reinterpreting Myths
Undertaking the task of writing this novel taught me that crafting it based on well-known myths and reinterpreting them is a journey filled with both challenges and opportunities. It’s a delicate balancing act, where I aimed to stay true to the core of these myths while infusing them with fresh life and relevance. The reader might recognize the story of Circe and Odysseus, the metamorphosis of Glaucus and the tale of Skylla and Charybdis woven together in new adventures.
Lesson 2: Breathing Life into Mythical Characters
One of the significant lessons I learned was how myths often present their characters in a rather one-dimensional manner. Take Circe, for instance, who Homer briefly mentions as the sorceress that turned men into beasts. In my own tale, I set out to breathe depth and complexity into her character, allowing her to evolve and grapple with intricate relationships and transformations throughout the narrative. In retelling myths, one gets a chance to build out more complex characters.
Lesson 3: Unearthing Symbolism and Metaphor in Myths
As I crafted this novel, I had the privilege of delving deep into the symbolic and metaphorical layers woven within these three interconnected myths. For example, a character’s journey (Circe) from darkness to light could symbolize the human capacity for redemption and personal growth. The opposite (Glaucus) is also true in this novel. These tales became my canvas, enabling me to magnify and mirror the psychological struggles, transformations, and processes that resonate profoundly with contemporary readers.
Lesson 4: Enduring Themes of Universal Emotional Struggles
Within the pages of this novel, I explored themes that have endured through the ages—love, jealousy, and redemption. These emotions served as guiding threads, leading the characters through intricate journeys. This lesson taught me to magnify the psychological processes, struggles, and transformations that still resonate with readers today. Love, its pursuit and loss, becomes a central theme, intertwined with its enigmatic counterpart, jealousy, guiding the characters through tumultuous journeys. Through this exploration, I came to understand how these timeless themes continue to captivate and reflect the complexities of the human condition.
Lesson 5: The Power of Myths to Transcend Time
Lastly, writing “An Unexpected Ally” illuminated the enduring power of myths to resonate with readers across generations. Rather than diminishing their original strength, my intention was to enhance these myths by infusing them with depth and relevance. By harmonizing ancient mythological elements with modern storytelling techniques, I aimed to transport readers to an ancient world that still speaks to our shared human experiences. It is my earnest hope that this endeavor ignites a renewed appreciation for myths and strikes a chord with readers, kindling a renewed appreciation for their enduring impact.
I have relished working with the lasting power of myths to connect us across time and culture, reminding us that human experience remains intertwined with the echoes of the past. In sharing these lessons and the journey behind my novel, I hope to inspire others to embark on their own exploration of storytelling, breathing life into old tales and finding new ways to illuminate the shared tapestry of our cultural heritage.
Sophia Kouidou-Giles, an award winning author, was born in Thessaloniki, Greece and university educated in the US. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s in social work. In her long career in child welfare career, she served as a practitioner, educator, researcher and administrator. Kouidou-Giles has published articles in Greek and English professional journals with a focus on services to abused/neglected children. More recently, her focus has shifted to writing non-fiction and poetry. Her work has appeared in Voices, Persimmon Tree, Assay, The Raven’s Perch, The Time Collection, The Blue Nib (where she has a byline), and The Writers and Readers’ Magazine. Her poetry chapbook is Transitions and Passages. Her memoir, Επιστροφή Στη Θεσσαλονίκη (Return to Thessaloniki), was published in Greece in 2019 by Εκδόσεις Τύρφη. Sophia’s Return: Uncovering My Mother’s Past, has been published in English by She Writes Press. Her novel, An Unexpected Ally: A Greek Tale of Love, Revenge and Redemption is available to preorder, with a pub date of October 3, 2023. She currently lives in Seattle, Washington.