An Interview with Andreas Androutsellis-Theotokis: Author of Nannion

Andreas Androutsellis-TheotokisI was born in Athens, Greece, at a time when progressive rock music still got radio play. After finishing high school, I studied Biochemistry and Neurochemistry at Imperial College, University of London, obtaining my BSc and PhD degrees. Following my studies, I completed my National Service duties in the Greek Army.

Having experienced severe research withdrawal symptoms, I moved to the USA to resume professional science work, first at Yale University and then at the National Institutes of Health. Afterwards, I started my own research lab in Dresden, Germany. In parallel, I became Associate Professor at the University of Nottingham, in the UK, just in time for Brexit…

My research focuses on novel molecular mechanisms that allow us to manipulate resident stem cells and other types of cell, in different organs. The work of my team relates to neurodegenerative disease, neurological disorders, cancer, and diabetes. Currently, much of my thinking concerns how to best bring all of our work to the clinic and how to make sure I see it provide benefit to the patient. There are plenty of avenues, and none is simple.

When I don’t obsess with science or write mystery stories, there is a good chance I may be composing music (often in odd time signatures) and playing the drums. I also like photography and I seem to have a knack at enticing cats to pose for me.

Tell us about your book.

Nannion is an Athenian kitty who knows city life better than the wild. Through a series of bizarre events she finds herself on a secluded Greek island that used to be the site of a large experiment on marine ecology and evolution, now abandoned for decades. Scientists come to investigate the site and it is soon obvious that there is much more than just a cat and some people on it. Different types of creatures end up having to communicate in order to avoid doom. There are elements of mystery, science, metaphysics, philosophy, and plenty of adventure.

Why did you want to write a book?

Following my own series of bizarre events, I found myself going from a very active and productive research career phase into being “between jobs” in Athens, Greece. My mind was as energized as ever, but I had a bit of extra time on my hands and the brain drifted to areas it normally didn’t have the chance to. I got this idea for an experiment in marine biology that is not yet feasible (or is it?) and so I started thinking about it in a hypothetical manner. I was writing notes down until I realized there was a story coming out that I would be willing to read myself.

Why did you choose to self-publish?

Although I have a lot of experience in publishing in the scientific literature (I am an Academic researcher), I have no experience or network in the literary publishing world. I get the impression that there is a strong “Catch-22” issue in literary publishing whereby to publish a book it is extremely useful to have already published one. So, self-publishing had to be the way, for me.

Nannion What tools or companies did you use, and what experience did you have?

I had written a precursor to Nannion, under a pen name, which I had submitted to the eZine Bewildering Stories (www.bewilderingstories.com). They published it and helped me edit it and they provided a lot of useful feedback on it. This was like a crash course in writing. Then, based on that original story, I wrote Nannion. I designed a cover and a friend of mine who is a graphic artist (Corinna Michaelidou) worked on it until it looked really pretty. That is the alternative Nannion cover you can find on Goodreads.

Then I commissioned 100covers (www.100covers.com) to make a new cover, so as to look more like a book cover, amenable to thumbnail viewing. They produced a very nice, dramatic, and eye-catching image that I use as the main cover (I like both!). With all that I contacted SPR and that has proven to be a very good means of “jump-starting” the eBook as I am not in the literary universe and, having no network of my own, this was a very good way of getting reviews and attention. The promotion is still going – as I am writing this – and I am looking forward to getting even more out of this in the coming days and weeks.

What was your steepest learning curve during the publishing process?

Every single step was new and fairly complex. Importantly, the internet is not as useful as it could be because there is so much clutter regarding tutorials and advice on the process that I got immediately lost and frustrated. What was particularly discouraging was being bombarded by the same piece of advice: Use social media and have lots and lots of followers and friends, as if it were easy to start a twitter page and automatically have twenty thousand followers. Empty, obvious advice abounded.

As a writer, what is your schedule? How do you get the job done?

It took me over six years to write Nannion. But I only worked when I was inspired. I had phases where I would write almost every evening for weeks and others when I did not touch the story for months. It all depended on my day job responsibilities (and pains). At some point I was able to write on every airport, plane, and bus I was at. But writing at home in the evening while listening to good music was usually my favorite setting.

How do you deal with writer’s block?

By having a day job. Thus, when blocked I just focus on work and let it come back naturally. Also, hot showers.

Why did you write about this particular subject?

Being a scientist, I think in terms of designing experiments. Normally, I perform these in the lab with my team. In this case, the experiment was not feasible, so it became a hypothetical exercise. Not being able to let it go (or actually do it in real life), I “investigated” it within the context of science fiction.

What did you learn on your journey as an author?

It is wonderful fun to put well-defined characters in unusual situations and then see how they react and how the story progresses as a result – it is almost as if the characters are writing the story themselves. I did not know the mind does that until I got deep into the story.

What’s next for you as an author?

I am writing another story, also with elements of metaphysical mystery but in a very different setting and with some darker aspects at the center of it.

Author Site