I’m delighted to be featuring another Book Connectors on Facebook author on Linda’s Book Bag. This time it’s Jennifer Barclay whose latest book An Octopus In My Ouzo is published tomorrow 14th April by Summersdale. An Octopus In My Ouzo ia available on Amazon UK and Amazon US and directly from Summersdale Publishers.
An Octopus In My Ouzo
Loving Life on a Greek Island
With a laptop and hiking boots, surrounded by wild beauty and traces of ancient history, Jennifer plans to embrace her new life on a tiny Greek island to the full.
Bursting with Mediterranean flavour, An Octopus in my Ouzo takes you from surviving winter storms to serving drinks on the beach, dancing and walking and swimming your way around the island with an exuberant fisherman and an adorable canine companion – a funny, sad and inspiring journey to find that happiness lies in living small and thinking big.
Praise for An Octopus in My Ouzo
‘A seductive evocation of Greek island life and an honest exploration of what it means to try to live differently. An Octopus in My Ouzo is about diving into the unknown and staying afloat’ Lizzie Enfield
‘Poetic, touching, enlightening: Jennifer’s very personal journey into Greece’s deep heartland will give even the most couch-bound armchair traveller itchy feet’ Anne Zouroudi
The Inspiration of Travel
A Guest post by Jennifer Barclay
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been inspired by the fresh experience of going somewhere new, or simply being on the move. In my last book Falling in Honey I mention finding a notebook from when we went on a family holiday to Corfu when I was twelve; discovering it again decades later in a box, I was amused to read how excited I was by everything from the airline meal to the feeling of arrival.
When I was young, I wanted to see the world, and I left England straight after university to begin: Greece, Guyana, Canada. But I’ve always preferred to stay in places for a while and get to know them, so I haven’t travelled widely. I’m also not so interested in seeing famous places – I prefer to explore places that aren’t well known and come to them without preconceptions, which is why my first book (Meeting Mr Kim) was about my accidental three months travelling around South Korea.
In Canada, I started trying to break into book publishing (it really can feel a bit like that, you’re an intruder trying to find a way in without anyone noticing), and eventually got a full-time job at a literary agency. When I was given the chance to take on my own clients, I was drawn to fiction that revealed stories from other cultures; Canada is very multi-cultural and our agency represented Rohinton Mistry, for example. With a friend, I later put together an anthology called AWOL: Tales for Travel-Inspired Minds that wasn’t conventional travel writing but explorations of travel in unusual styles by novelists, poets and so on. And when I moved back to England in the early Noughties, I leaped at the chance to commission and edit travel literature, narratives of adventures in other places, stories of other lives, other ways of living.
Maybe it’s because I want to experience so much in life – I’m bored by the standard; I’m bored when things don’t change and evolve and remain exciting, and I wish I could live different lives. I lasted seven years as a literary agent before flying to South Korea and then spending two years in the south of France; I lasted seven years back in the UK as editorial director before moving to a Greek island. I’ve never been very good at following others; as a teenager I made my own weird outfits and caused my parents a fair amount of grief by running away from home, getting suspended from school for taking a day off, staying out all night when we were on holiday in Crete so I could sit on the beach and watch the moon with a Greek biker. A fair amount of the trouble I got into has been boy-related. I’m not entirely wayward – in some ways I love stability – but when a shiny new lively thing appears on my horizon I do have a tendency to leap for it.
An Octopus in my Ouzo is a celebration of the first few years I spent living on a Greek island. This wasn’t the standard ‘expats buy a house in the sun’; this was full immersion on a rugged island, storms and all, jumping in at the deep end of a new culture and misunderstanding all sorts of things, getting pregnant on an island that’s a ferry ride away from a hospital… One thing I talk about in An Octopus in my Ouzo is the decision about whether to keep trying to start a family. On the one hand I want the life that is me in my Greek island country kitchen, wellies and home-made bread and walks on the beach with my dog. On the other hand, as someone who’s always moved on when things get dull, I was terrified of being stuck with a situation forever, scared of the convention that you have to give in to – to a certain extent – when you have kids.
Oh, sorry, is this a blog or a psychotherapy session? Did I just say all that in public?
After Falling in Honey came out, people said, ‘You’re so brave to reveal so much of your personal life’. But I think reading about the funny and painful moments in other people’s lives, we recognise ourselves and realise it’s all OK, and anything is possible.
About Jennifer Barclay
Jennifer Barclay grew up in the north of England in a village on the edge of the Pennines; she left for Greece after university, lived in Canada and France and the south coast of England before moving to a Greek island. She works with books as an editor and agent and writes for newspapers and magazines. She has previously written Meeting Mr Kim and Falling in Honey, and her blog about daily life is here. You can follow Jennifer on Twitter.