I have had my guest in my sights for some time. Jeffrey Siger and I became Facebook friends while trading comments on the pages of a mutual friend, (and past guest of mine). He is a funny man, a sophisticated man, and always a gentleman.
Picture this: A boy from Pittsburgh grows up to become a Wall Street lawyer, but gives it all up to move to a Greek island, where he become a writer of internationally successful crime novels.
That’s not the plot of a mini-series; that happens to be Jeffrey’s life.
Jeffrey has an incredibly interesting life, a life most of us would not even think to dream of. He agreed readily once I finally asked him to join us, but oh, to ask questions that have not already been asked so many times of him is simply not possible.
Thank you for the time from your busy life to be here with us, Jeffrey, and for indulging me.
It’s hardly an indulgement, Tonette, it’s an honor!
Before we get to your wonderfully successful series, let’s talk about your other works, which are fascinating.
Among the anthologies to which you have contributed is “Creating Stories”, part of the “Making a Story” series. Would you tell our readers a bit about this?
Tim Hallinan is a great friend and former blogmate on MURDER IS EVERYWHERE, a site where ten distinguished writers from around the world share new posts everyday about the lands in which they place their books (I post on Saturdays about Greece). One day, Tim asked for “volunteers” to contribute to a book he’d long envisioned would show aspiring writers there’s no one best or right way to practice our craft, and to reassure our colleagues there’s more than enough room in our writing world for outliners, seat-of-the-pantsers and all those in-between. His call resulted in twenty-one experienced crime writers sharing their techniques on “How they plot” in a work edited by Tim that’s still drawing attention on Amazon seven years after publication.
Other intriguing titles of work in which you have contributed stories are “Sunshine Noir” and “Bound by Mystery”. What relationship have the titles to the stories?
SUNSHINE NOIR has a funny story behind it. It’s edited by two other of my Murder is Everywhere chums, Annamaria Alfieri and Michael Stanley, and contains the contributions of seventeen authors who place their stories in hot and sunny climes, locales far different from the chilly venues of Nordic Noir. And in that distinction is the funny story.
A few years back, I was on a panel filled with Nordic Noir authors at the Iceland Noir writers conference in Reykjavik. Someone in the audience asked me how I felt, as a writer who based his books in sunny Greece, about all the attention Nordic Noir mystery writers received for their work. I said, “If you’re asking whether I’m jealous of my frozen colleagues who live in lands having fifty different words for snow, while I sit on a sandy Aegean beach dangling my toes in the sea, surrounded by bikini clad fans as I type away, the answer is not a bit. I prefer my Sunshine Noir lifestyle.”
Yes, it got a big laugh. But it also triggered the idea in Stanley Trollip (one-half of Michael Stanley) to put together an anthology of work by Sunshine Noir writers bearing that title!
BOUND BY MYSTERY is an anthology of new short stories written by thirty-five Poisoned Pen Press authors on the occasion of PPP’s twentieth anniversary, edited by its assistant publisher, Diane DiBiasi. Poisoned Pen Press has since been acquired by Sourcebooks as its mystery imprint.
You also donated a story to “Shaken: Stories for Japan”, for the Japanese Relief Foundation, as a fund-raiser for the victims of the earthquake and tsunami of 2011.How did you become involved?
Once again I have Tim Hallinan to blame. In the aftermath of that horrendous tragedy, Tim reached out to his friends in the writing community for contributions to an anthology that would donate all proceeds to tsunami victims. Not only did twenty great writers respond, Amazon agreed to forgo its customary share, assuring that every penny paid for SHAKEN: STORIES FOR JAPAN went to the “2011 Japan Relief Effort.”
We have many writers, some among us, (plus many of our readers and friends), who feel that they are less than successful or would be, (if they pushed their writings), so they get discouraged. Will you please share the philosophy which took you away from your old life and into your new?
I wish I had a precise answer to that question. But let’s start from a basic principle; one that if you don’t embrace inevitably will lead to disappointment: Writing is a lousy way to make a living, but a wonderful way to make a life. Yes, there are some who will achieve great fame and fortune in the craft, but if that’s what drives you—as opposed to a passion for writing—I wish you Godspeed.
In my case, I walked away from a position as a name partner in my own New York City law firm to write of people and places in Greece I cared deeply about. I was fully convinced when I made that decision that in one year as a lawyer I’d likely earn as much as I would over my entire career as a writer. Still I took the risk, because I’d come to the conclusion I’d not live forever. (I should add, only one of those two earlier conclusions seems assured. )
Perhaps the best I can do in the way of passing along a philosophy is to share the perspective I gained the evening of my very first book signing—an event I shared with the great Tom Perry. After our event, Tom regaled me with tales of his own journey along the writer’s path and in summing up his feelings, expressed mine perfectly: “I can’t believe that every day when I wake up, all I have to do is write.”
If you have that fire in your belly, don’t be discouraged, at least not for long. We’ve all experienced the doubts, and always will. It comes with the territory. Just enjoy the ups, and push aside the downs.
You have numerous awards, and have been nominated for a Barry, (Harlan Coben and Lee Child numbering among the past winners). Did you ever think that your success would take you this far?
Not in my wildest dreams. All I ever hoped to achieve was to earn the recognition and respect of my peers, and to the extent I’ve done that, I feel blessed. The rest is fun, but not what drives me, though I must admit that having “The New York Times Book Review” select me as Greece’s thriller writer of record did make me tingly all over.
Speaking of far, twice I have moved to small-town America and found it impossible to find my niche, yet you have found the Greeks to be welcoming and have allowed you into their society. Is there any ‘glass ceiling’ or barrier which you feel that you cannot penetrate?
If there is one, I’m not sure I’d want to penetrate it. In my experience, prejudices exist to protect the severely insecure, and Lord spare us from that unpredictable lot. I’d rather contend with a hard-ass any day.
You are one of the few people that I know who understands of the disastrous and misguided (at best) formation of “Yugoslavia” and the lasting effects of the break-up with mal-formed borders. (One set of my grandparents-in-law had a Capulet-Montague situation, being Croatian and Slovenian.) You have a truly ‘simpatico’ (sorry, don’t know the Greek word) relationship with the Greeks within the borders of Macedonia. Do you feel “Greek” in soul, or by osmosis?
I don’t know from where my “Greekness” comes, because I’m not Greek by birth or heritage. Yet, from the moment I first set foot on Greek soil I felt I was home, and the Fates embraced me at that moment with friendships and inspirations that continue to this day. Whatever the reason for my good fortune I can say without reservation that my heart and soul are Greek, and I’m deeply honored at how Greeks treat me as one of their own—in both the good and not-so-good aspects of membership in that proud family.
THE MYKONOS MOB, by JEFFREY SIGER
The Aegean Greek island of Mykonos is a world-renown, 24/7 hot-spot playground for the international rich and famous. When a corrupt former police colonel who runs the island’s protection rackets is gunned down, Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis finds himself face-to-face with the nation’s top crime bosses, all just as baffled as Andreas over who’s responsible for the assassination––and why. While Andreas wrestles for answers in an effort to head off an all out war for control of the island’s vice operations, his wife, Lila, struggles to find a meaningful role for herself beyond wife and mother. Andreas’ investigation and Lila’s search bring them to her parents’ summer home on Mykonos where she meets Toni, an American ex-pat with a contagious, iconoclastic zest for life, a reputation as a fixer and finder of stolen goods, and a late night gig as a piano player in a gender-bending bar. Together they hit upon a plan to mentor young island girls caught up in an exploitative culture, unaware that their well-intended plans are on a deadly collision course with Andreas’ investigation.
Now, let’s get to plugging your Greek Inspector Andreas Kaldis series. How does a nice, Jewish boy from Pennsylvania who wanted to be a pediatrician, end up with a Greek policeman alter–ego? Does he ever surprise you with where he wants to go, say or do, (like some of my characters)?
It appears I have no secrets from you, Tonette. You’ve hit upon a very interesting point, because up until a few books back I never realized how unique was my choice of a protagonist in Andreas Kaldis. I was on tour with a new book, and happened to be sharing a panel with two other American authors of mystery-thrillers based in foreign cultures. In response to a question about why we chose the protagonists we did, my mates on the panel drew a very clear distinction between their main characters and mine. They each used an American protagonist living as a foreigner in a foreign land, while mine was native born, a choice each said he would never dare attempt.
That’s when it struck me. As clear thinking as those gifted writers were in their reasons for not choosing to risk viewing the cultural nuances of lands foreign to them through the eyes of native born protagonists, such concerns had never crossed my mind. I’d spent more than thirty years amid life in Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis mystery, and felt more at home there than anywhere on earth. I wanted a local as my lead character to tell it like it is about Greek culture, politics, society, and foibles, and, Andreas fit that role perfectly. I never saw risk in creating a native born hero, for I felt confident that Andreas would show me the way. And show me the way he has, leading his crew along twisting, turning, fast-paced story lines while I traipse behind chronicling their adventures as best I can.
You are one of the few authors that I know who actually still goes on book tours. Please tell us about them.
I tour because I love the interaction. To me, an essential part of the writing life is the camaraderie of our writing community, of which readers are the most essential element. I’m also naturally gregarious, and don’t mind enduring the slings and arrows of a hard questioning audience. Some might say it takes me back to my days as a lawyer being interrogated by a judge. Also, touring gives me the chance to meet booksellers face-to-face, and they’re who introduce me to new readers through their recommendations. It all comes back to my central premise—writing is a wonderful way to make a life—and for me being on tour is a big part of the joy.
Your series titles are alliterated. Was that planned out, or did the names just fall into place, by their place?
The first two titles, “Murder in Mykonos” and “Assassins of Athens” were that way by coincidence, but with their success I was trapped in Alliterative Title Hell. My most recent title, THE MYKONOS MOB, is the tenth alliterative title (April 2019, Poisoned Pen Press—an imprint of Sourcebooks), and I just might have to invest in a larger thesaurus for the next one.
I try my half-Italian hand at making some Greek foods and pastries, since I now longer live near Greek friends, restaurants and church picnics, but I can only imagine how incredible it all must be there. Tell me that you are enjoying every morsel!
I love Greek food, but rather strictly follow the “Mediterranean Diet.” Otherwise the “eat, eat” (and “drink drink”) aspects of legendary Greek hospitality will quickly overrun your waistline.
Jeff, I wanted so much to be an archaeologist when I was a kid, and had my sights on Greece and Macedonia. I appreciate the photos that you post on Facebook so very much; please keep them coming.
Tonette, your wish is my command!
Jeffrey is on a world book tour and graciously did hte interview early for me. He has just returned to the States from the European leg of the tour and from promoting his books Down Under. He is still touring across the country, ( I think he is still in California.Gee, don’t you pity his life??? LOL!)
I wish to thank Jeffrey again for joining us today. It’s been a real pleasure.
Here is how everyone can learn more about Jeff and his works.
Facebook: @jeffrey siger
Jeffrey Siger is an American living on the Aegean Greek island of Mykonos. A Pittsburgh native and former Wall Street lawyer, he gave up his career as a name partner in his own New York City law firm to write mystery thrillers that tell more than just a fast-paced story. His Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis novels are aimed at exploring serious societal issues confronting modern day Greece and the world at large, while touching upon Greece’s ancient roots.
The New York Times Book Review honored his work by designating Jeff as Greece’s thriller novelist of record, the Greek Government’s General Secretariat of Media and Communications selected him as one of six authors—and the only American—writing mysteries that serve as a guide to Greece, and Library Journal named his ninth book in the series, An Aegean April, as one of the best books of 2018. He’s also received Barry and Left Coast Crime Best Novel award nominations.
Jeff’s work is published in the US, UK, Germany and Greece, and he’s honored to have served as Chair of the National Board of Bouchercon, the world’s largest mystery convention, and as adjunct professor of English at Washington & Jefferson College, teaching mystery writing.
His new book, The Mykonos Mob, is the tenth in Jeff’s series and explores the wildly profitable dark side of this renowned 24/7 island playground for the world’s rich and famous, the forces battling for control of its vices, and the innocents affected by it all.