Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Interview With ANTARA Author Marilena Mexi!

Marilena Mexi was born and lived in Athens, Greece in 1986. She studied graphic design and illustration in “Akto of Middlesex University - Athens, and she has been working as an illustrator for the past few years for book publishers – magazines and fantasy board and card games. She is also an awarded illustrator from various CG community sites, and she has been featured in a few magazines from around the world. Her artwork reflects her own personality; it is emotional, romantic and dreamy, and it can touch the viewer’s soul.In her spare time she likes reading books and listening to symphonic music.
Her love for books led her write her own which she illustrated, too. This process has been very time-consuming and difficult, but it also was a journey to the land of dreams. ‘Antara’ is her first illustrated novel, and it includes 26 illustrations. At the writing of this article, she is preparing the sequel and the final part of the story.

I have gotten to know Marilena Mexi through Goodreads, where she is promoting her debut fantasy novel Antara! Antara is different from other fantasy novels these days as it is illustrated with 26 beautiful illustrations done by Marilena herself! Here's a summary of the book:

Peace and tranquility on the island of Aster, home to both humans and 'merfolk', has long been broken by a devastating phenomenon, recurring every five years. A storm including gusting winds and huge waves mysteriously appeared and eradicated much of the population. The misunderstandings, suspicion and hate born of this disaster have torn the two races apart, and the peace loving merfolk are now in a never-ending struggle to prove their innocence and restore peace to the island.
On the human side, things are even worse; under the tyranny of cruel king Orestis, the people suffer and all their king cares for is vengeance against the “fish”, as he spitefully calls them, executing merfolk after merfolk for just being near his lands.
Secrets, intense emotions and strange phenomena will upset their lives forever.

I have also included some pictures of the beautiful artwork featured in Antara that I have used with the author's permisson. Now, here's an interview I did with Marilena where she talks about herself, her work, and the beautiful realm of Antara!

Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
First of all, thank you for giving me the chance to say a few things for myself and Antara. I live and work in Greece, I'm a professional illustrator and I mostly work with publishers / writers. I make book illustrations, game cards, I'm an awarded artist from various cg sites, and my work has been published in various magazines.

What can you tell us about your illustrated novel Antara?
Antara is an illustrated fantasy romance for young adults, and its target audience is mostly women/girls. Of course, it was illustrated by me. A couple of years ago, I've written a short story on a paper and then I started making illustrations based on this story. Afterwards, I decided to sit down and write it from scratch, creating a full novel, where the reader could also see the concept art of the story. Back then I haven't thought of publishing it, until my sisters encouraged me to try it. In the process, however, I faced a lot of problems. I have written the book in Greek, so I had to find a good translator in order to translate it in English, and after a log time I found one and I'm really grateful to him. Then I started sending queries to literary agents, hoping that I'll find one to represent me in order to find a publisher too. Unfortunately, I found out that there weren't any agents specialized in my book's category. Those who who look for author / illustrators, are actually looking for picture books and graphic novels, which is completely different from Antara. But I didn't let down and I decided to publish it on my own. With the help of some friends I tried to achieve the best possible result.

What inspired you to write Antara?
I come from Greece and Greek mythology has inspired me, along with symphonic metal music. Also, my grandfather was a fisherman, and many times he's been telling me stories with mermaids when I was a child, and I adored them. So, my first story couldn't have been anything else.

Which character do you relate to most in Antara?
I think that I mostly relate to Urania. She's a character from the side of humans; low profile, caring, calm and shows understanding and patience.

How do you feel about all this sudden attention mermaids are getting in the media?
Indeed, recently there's been some particular interest in books with mermaids. I think that a few years ago everyone were writing stories with fairies and wizards, then stories with vampires and werewolves, then zombies, and now it's the mermaid season. I believe that this is going to be the summer of the merbooks.

Antara is not only a novel, but also features your own beautiful artwork. How long have you been drawing and painting?
The illustrations of Antara took me about 2 years. There were some illustrations that I have been working on them for about a month. The process was very tedious and time-consuming, and I really gave everything I got to get a good result. I would like to make the viewer travel to a magical world, and forget all the drudgeries of everyday life.

Will we see more adventures set in the world of Antara?
Of course, I'm working on the second and last part of Antara. Many people ask me why it is not a trilogy. I understand that trilogies are common nowadays, but I don't feel that Antara should end in a third book. I'm going to publish that in a few months too, hopefully during the summer.

What do you hope readers will take away from your novel after reading it?
I want the readers to feel like they've read a fairy tale, like they entered a land different and magical, where time and everyday problems don't exist. My book is a fantasy romance, but for me it's purely symbolic. The merfolk represent a different society of people, ideal, without hatred or cunning. A paradise I would like to exist in our world. I want the readers to feel hope in their heart, and every one of us can become better if we really want to.

Finally, what other projects --if you’re at liberty to say -- are you currently working on?
After the sequel of Antara I would like to take break from the typical fantasy setting. I have thought of a new concept much different than Antara. Probably I'm going to start writing this during the summer.

Thanks again to Marilena Mexi for agreeing to do this interview! Check her out on Goodreads or her own website at http://www.marilenamexi.eu/ where you can learn more about her and the magical world of Antara!

You can buy a paperback copy of the book here: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/antara/15202347
You can buy an ebook version here: http://www.lulu.com/product/ebook/antara/15206378
Soon, Antara will be available on the websites Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Ebay.

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