Maria and I met up with author Socratis E. Socratous in Limassol, Cyprus. His book “The Monastery of the fools” was recently released in English by the London based publishing company Austin Macauley, which previously has published books by Karen Campbell, Alicia Douvall and David Jones, amongst others. He has also written a second book, ’From Alfa to Omega’, which was published in 2013 in Greek, but it’s yet to be released in English.
Mr. Socratous was born and raised in Limassol, Cyprus and also lived in London for a few years. Nowadays he lives in Limassol together with his wife Maria and two daughters, Eleni and Rafailia.
We sit down with Socratis in the noisy café setting of Gloria Jean’s Coffees in downtown Limassol. We order coffee and Socratis shows us his book, “The Monastery of the Fools”. He tells us that it was released in Greek in 2007 and in English in 2015. He talks fondly about it and says that we can keep the signed copy after the interview. “The best way to really understand my own philosophy in life is to read the book,” he says.
I ask him how it felt to get published for the first time and he answers:
”It is very fulfilling. It is not so much about how much its going to sell, it’s the feeling of that you have achieved something.”
Socratis has done a lot of things in his life. He has a University degree as a Public Economist from the London School of Economics and Political Science and he is a Fellow Chartered Accountant. He worked as the Managing Director of a private hospital in Cyprus until 2013 and recently started up his own consultancy firm to help businesses in trouble. Occasionally he delivers, speeches for various audiences, ranging from schools, to clubs and others on life, social and financial issues. Therefore I am curious to know if he has always dreamed of becoming a writer.
”Yes. At some point I want to concentrate on that much more. Right now I have my business as well which is very important to me, but at some point I want to dedicate myself to writing. But it’s very personal, I don’t write things that necessarily will impress, I write about my own philosophy about life and its twists, about existence, about happiness, about decisions and choices,” he replies.
When I ask him what genre “The Monastery of the Fools” belongs to, he has to think about the question for a bit before he carefully answers:
”It’s basically a life guide. It’s a novel. Both my books deal with very good everyday stories, but there are a lot of messages hidden inside them, providing the stories with a deeper meaning.”
Socratis continues to tell us what the story is about.
”The book is about how to go through life and all its difficulties and still come out better and stronger. The title means a lot. You know, in the Greek Orthodox Church some of the Saints used to be called fools, because nobody could understand them. Sometimes, the people who we think of as fools, are not. Fools are those who differ, they are those who are very small in number and usually ahead of their time, so not everybody listens to them, but then, whatever they said, becomes true.”
”And after that they are not fools anymore. Then they are Saints,” Maria agrees.
There are three characters in the book, very ordinary people, but they all go beyond the conventional ways, have a lot of misfortunes in their lives, but they still manage to get on top of that and make the most of it and pursue happiness and search for solutions. Originally they are all from Cyprus, but one of them ends up in Athens as a writer and declines the easy and comfortable solutions provided by his family and society. The other one had a bad divorce so he goes to Salonica to make a fresh start. And the third one, the girl, she goes to London with her children, to live and work after her husband’s death. Sometimes things happen and you don’t know why, but everything happens for a reason. ’Is a coincidence a coincidence or is it a manifestation of the divine plan?’’
Socratis tells us that other people’s life stories inspired him to write the book. “I am very good with people,” he says and smiles, ”So I’ve heard lots of stories in my life, a lot of people have talked to me about their problems.” And then he adds that his own travelling and life experiences inspired him as well. Finally his good imagination helps him in writing.
When asked the question if he did any research before writing the book he says that he visited the Holy Mountain a few times and also he did some research on other matters. Similarly in the book one of the main characters goes to the Holy Mountain in Greece to meet a monks. Socratis says he has not done any research online, because he wanted to actually visit the various places or talk to various people to make up his own mind about things. And then he laughs and says that he is not much into the Internet anyway.
”Although I have done a lot of adventurous things in life, a lot of travelling, different types of jobs, and always dared to do things, when it comes to social media I’m not very good. I prefer conventional things, so when I write, I write by hand. Then I put it into my computer. I’ve got my mobile phone, I know how to do basic things but that’s about it.”
-How long did it take you to write the book?
”Four years. Because I write as I feel, it’s not always planned. Sometimes I write a bit from the end and then I write something from earlier parts, it’s not always in the right order. And, if you read the book, which I hope you will, it goes back and forth, talking about different people and places and different points in time.”
He tells us that he found his two agents in Cyprus through word of mouth. “Cyprus is a small country, the book industry is not very big here, that’s why I decided to send my first book to an English publisher also. And an English teacher I know introduced me to Austin Macauley in London. So I sent them some contents from the book and they said they were interested, so I sent the whole book and they published it. I don’t know how it’s going to do, but we covered a lot of ground. It’s on Amazon too.”
He says that he has received very good feedback on his book and that it was very inspirational to people.
“This first book did very well in Cyprus, but now I’m hoping to have an impact to a much larger audience, I want much more people to read it.”
I’m asking him what he’s doing to achieve that.
”I do interviews. I’m not very good with social media, as I told you. So, I hope Austin Macauley will help me on that. But I do interviews and sometimes I do presentations, sometimes for schools and sometimes for business people and other audiences. I want to do more of this, and continue my crusade with patience. If you can make a positive impact even to the life of one person, this is something.”
-What piece of advice would you give to writers trying to break in?
”Keep trying, never give up, every time you fall down or get disappointed, stand up. That’s it.”
-What will be your next project?
I want to publish at some point a collection of poems. The work of 25 years.
Also I’m writing a third book that takes place in London in the distant future. After the financial problems we’ve had in 2013 it’s a story about two people who live in Cyprus and are fed up with the problems, the lack of law and order and the corruption here. So they leave the island. It’s set about 50-60 years from now, and so somebody is thinking back to our times. And is telling an interesting story to the grandchildren.
Socratis tells us that he has a website called ssocratous.com in Greek where you can find more information about him and his books. Also in Amazon and Austin Macauley website.
A final thought before saying goodbye to him after a stimulating chat on a rather warm winter Saturday afternoon.
He says “people obviously differ but they also have common characteristics and needs everywhere. I believe in good people. I don’t believe so much in legalistic solutions and politicians and political correctness. I believe in people and this world has moved forward and progressed because of ordinary people who dared to dream and achieved extraordinary things for humanity. So dream on, dream on, dream on, as the song goes,” he concludes and smiles….