Thursday, 9 August 2012

Molly Ringwald and Panio Gianopoulos Talk New Books While Vacationing in Greece

Molly Ringwald and Panio Gianopoulos are somewhere in Greece enjoying the blue skies, Mediterranean cuisine, and maybe a frappe or two. The couple, who have been married since 2007, are taking a vacation before they head back to the States to prepare for the release of their new books – Ringwald’s first dive into fiction, When It Happens to You, on August 14, and Gianopoulos’ novella, A Familiar Beast, out in November.
Many know Molly Ringwald as a Hollywood actress, but she’s close to being able to say she does it all. In addition to starring in movies and currently appearing on the television show “The Secret Life of the American Teenager,” she is also a writer, musician, mother, wife, 1980s teen idol and possible soon-to-be-director. Her successful career is a result of not only hard work, but natural talent. The transition into publishing came with her first book, a bestselling memoir titled Getting the Pretty Back, in which she drew from her own life experiences, including clashing with Greek in-laws over traditional ideas, like baby names. Everything worked out just fine to yia yia’s content, with Molly and Panio naming their eldest daughter Ereni (after her grandmother), and the twins Roman Stylianos (his middle name comes from his grandpa) and Adele Georgiana (her middle name stems from her great grandmother). Panio, whose father is from Megalopolis
and mother from the nearby village of Ellinitsa, was born and raised in the U.S., although he spent most of his summers in Greece, “both in Athens and the horio.” Since attending college in Massachusetts and getting his MBA from Stanford, he’s gone on to write for numerous publications and has worked as an editor and publisher.
Ringwald’s new book, When It Happens to You, is a far cry from giving fashion advice or learning new customs. It’s based on fictional stories set in Los Angeles and follows a group of family and friends as they deal with deception and heartbreak. Gianopoulos’ book, A Familiar Beast, delves into drama and mystery, and takes place in North Carolina.
While Molly and Panio seem to be quite busy right now, they took time out of their summer vacation in and around Athens to talk to Greek Reporter about managing work with three kids (while somehow teaching them Greek, and even French!), who’s the faster writer, and what’s in store for the future.
Molly, you have three children, star on a TV show and have a jazz album coming out next year – plus you’ve now written a book. How?

Molly: It involves a certain amount of tricky planning and a supportive husband. The biggest hurdle for me was to actually view writing as work. My parents raised me with a very strong work ethic, so I would never show up for an acting project late. I would never just stay home because I didn’t feel like it. It was a psychological hurdle for me to get over – this idea that writing is work and that it demands the same level of concentration and dedication that my other work demands. I am a supporting character on the TV show, which means that I have a lot of free time to do other things, and the jazz is just fun! I recorded the album while I was pregnant with the twins and it is going to be released next spring.
Now that the children are getting older, are they learning any other languages besides English?
Molly: We are trying to get them to learn both Greek and French.
How fluent are you in Greek?
Molly: I am sorry to say that I am not very fluent at all. “Kialo tzatziki parakalo.”
When It Happens To You is your second book, but your first fiction. Did you find it more challenging than writing Getting the Pretty Back? How so?
Molly: Actually for me fiction comes easier. My first book was part memoir and part style-guide and finding the right tone was more challenging than I expected! There is a lot of style advice in the book, but I found myself questioning why I should be an authority. But the book was always intended to have an intimate between us girl-friends kind of feel, and I feel that I achieved that in the end.
Were the stories in When It Happens To You based on actual people you’ve met?
Molly: They are all invented characters, but as with all fiction, I’m sure that parts of real people have inspired various elements.
Do you prefer fiction over non-fiction?
Molly: For the moment, I am very happy writing fiction. The next book that I am constructing in my head now is fiction, so most likely I will stick with that for a while. But I’m happy to write both.
If When It Happens To You were to be adapted for the screen, do you have a cast in mind? Who would you choose to direct?
Molly: The one person I have given it to and who is interested in playing the role of Peter, I’m happy to say is another Greek-American—Demetri Martin! I would like to play the role of Marina and I would also like to write and direct.
You have always had a connection to the teen crowd, from your roles in “Sixteen Candles,” “Pretty in Pink” and other films, and now on “The Secret Life of the American Teenager.” Is it something you particularly look for in a project, or does it happen to fall into your lap that way?
Molly: Happenstance.
Panio, your book, A Familiar Beast, is being released a few months after your wife’s book. Did you both start writing them at the same time? Was there a healthy competition happening to finish the books?
Panio: My book is a novella, so it’s much shorter than Molly’s novel-in-stories; had it been a competition it wouldn’t have been a fair one (although, Molly is a faster writer). Luckily, we are very supportive of each other’s writing, motivating each other to hit deadlines and discussing the stories when we hit snags in the narrative. The only thing we ever get competitive about is when we both see something interesting, or hear a great anecdote from a mutual friend – then it’s a race to see who gets to use it first!
What is the book about?
Panio: The story is about a man’s search for redemption. It’s set against the backdrop of a deer hunt in North Carolina. Two old school friends come together, each with their mysterious and adult sorrows, and they end up pushing each other into unnerving, revealing situations.
How did you become involved with the two media companies you worked for – Backlit Fiction and Palindrome?
Panio: Palindrome Media is a company I co-founded a year and a half ago with a Stanford University classmate, Daniel Kessler, that focuses on digital storytelling, specifically on mobile platforms. Backlit Fiction is the young adult imprint that specializes in serialized fiction. We (jokingly) call it Dickens 2.0 – short, compelling episodes intended to be e-released on a regular schedule. I recently left both companies to focus on my writing full-time.
With the popularity of e-books, where do you see the future of printed books going?
Panio: It’s hard to forecast long-term with much confidence – after all, twenty years ago who saw the dominance of smartphones, or search engines, or social media? But a possible future, if the technology gets fully incorporated and adopted among readers before digital eats up the publishing world, is print-on-demand replacing traditional print publishing. It might prove an interesting and exciting twist to the industry. I believe that people still want and will continue to want physical printed books, but how big this market will remain is unknown. There is a chance that in the long term printed books will simply end up as a kind of artisanal product, like vinyl records are now. I hope not. Whatever happens, though, I’m not worried. As a writer, I think the industry-wide disruption will lead to some exciting innovations in form.
What has been the most challenging for you: writer, editor or publisher? Is there one you particularly enjoy?
Panio: I found being a publisher more challenging than I’d anticipated. There is just so much that you cannot control – however much you innovate, ultimately you’re at the mercy of the market. That said, writing fiction has its own urgency and seriousness that is equally challenging, although on a more personal level of course.
Finally, Molly, you’ve also had quite a few titles under your belt: actress, novelist, musician, to name a few. Is there another area of the creative world you’d like to tackle?
Molly: Yes. I would like to write and direct for the screen.
For more information on Molly and Panio, and their projects, visit their websites:

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