A few days ago, The Shape of Crete by Philip T. Nemec was released. Below is a synopsis and a q&a with the author!
Set on the Greek island of Crete, The Shape of Crete is a thrilling drama and passionate love story between a Bulgarian artist, Steffi, and James, an American historian. Rekindling their romance after a separation, Crete’s history of ancient myths and Nazi occupation entwines them in surprise and danger. They meet an Englishman searching for traces of his brother missing since 1943, and a local woman whose father was a partisan war leader; and then, shards of information reveal Steffi’s grandfather fought with the Nazis. Danger lurks when a local thug decides Steffi and Jim’s relationships with the others concerns gold lost in the war. The final tension-driven scenes unfold in a labyrinth-like cave in the spirit of the mythical battle between Theseus and the Minotaur. The unexpected conclusion questions whether love’s best outcome is enlightenment or physical survival.
Question: When did you begin writing and what inspires you to continue?
Philip T. Nemec: I began writing as a child and found myself creating stories in my head ever since. The inspiration to write boils down to a creative drive that will not leave me alone. When I attend concerts, the ballet, or plays, my mind spins into my own creative spirit, and ideas flow. I’ve had other jobs and careers, but writing keeps bubbling to the surface. Writing is where I find peacefulness. I find I am most content working on a manuscript.
Question: Setting plays a big part in this novel. How and why did you choose Crete?
Philip T. Nemec: Crete is unique because this 100-mile-long island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea exists as a metaphor for the collective memory and experience of us all. The endless ways Crete has shaped and reshaped itself from before the Bronze Age to modern times have left indelible traces, sometimes in pottery shards or abandoned thrones, in the marks of war, in the discarded hubris of conquerors’ proclamations, or in its enduring olive groves. Crete is our distant relative that has experienced all we have experienced or likely hope to experience, has known every aspiration we have, every pain of defeat, and every joy of success.
Question: Who would you say is the ideal reader for The Shape of Crete?
Philip T. Nemec: Someone who is drawn to the way history impacts societies and individuals – someone who is interested in exploring the deepest corners of relationships. Readers who like faraway settings.
Question: History impacts your characters even in their modern lives. Why was it so important for Steffi and Jim to know their pasts?
Philip T. Nemec: Our memories are short. Few of us know anything of our past families beyond perhaps our grandparents. The past stories are lost; their beliefs evaporate, and we often navigate life with nothing but the present. Nevertheless, the past lives in the present like dark matter, often unknown and unseen, but forever influencing us so that the arc of our lives change through it. We hunger to know or pasts to understand who we are now. Jim would say knowing the past is the way to know truth.
Question: In your opinion, what makes the love between Steffi and Jim endure? Why does their love last?
Philip T. Nemec: Best friends, soulmates, enduring physical attraction are all powerful, if not always realistic goals in loving relationships; but the deepest relationships seem to connect on a spiritual level that has the capacity to anodize those relationships by protecting them from corrosive forces that tear others apart.
Question: How do you feel our desires to connect with others have changed during these months of isolation?
Philip T. Nemec: The threads, the connections that bind us all, have been frayed during the pandemic, and we long to have that back fully. We are like disconnected wires.
Philip T. Nemec grew up around Chicago. After graduating from Saint Louis University and studying under his writing mentor, the Midwestern poet, John Knoepffle, Phil served three years as a Marine Corps infantry officer. Following completion of his service, Phil graduated from the writer’s program at The University of Illinois at Chicago. Afterward, Phil breathed fresh life into a farm in the “Ocooch” area of southwestern Wisconsin and also served as a teacher and administrator at two of Chicago’s private high schools. Eventually, he entered and retired from an overseas career with the federal government. Writing has, however, always been his passion. His poetry has been recently published in After Hours, a Chicago based literary journal. His novel, The Chicago Syncopator, appeared as an Amazon Goodreads. His current novel, The Shape of Crete, takes place on Crete and mines both his interest in history and his overseas experiences. A father of two grown children, Phil resides with his wife, Harumi, in the Washington, D.C. area.
Connect with Nemec at PhilipTNemec.com.
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