It was 2007 when my fourth novel, The House by the River, was published. No one, not even I, could have imagined how many thousands of readers this meandering river would touch, how many people it would wash away in its path, how many would come to love it and hold it so close in their hearts. I could never have believed just how much my heroines and their lives would draw people in.
I have had to answer the same question many times: what is it that inspires me, and I have never been able to find a perfect answer, because essentially there isn’t one. I never know what it is that, like a little flame, will light up in my mind and create a novel. Anything around me, anything that reacts with me, may be a new novel in the making. The people who surround me, at any given moment, may unknowingly give me a new idea. Emotions that I have experienced can also spark an inspiration.
It may perhaps be difficult for others to understand it but, as an author, I have a different perspective of things. I can see things that others may simply pass by, I comprehend things that happen differently, I choose an unexpected point of view.
It may also seem, at times, that my reactions are subdued in response to a sad or a happy event, yet when I write these into a novel, all the energy and tension that I had at the time is perfectly transferred. In addition, my coexistence in a space with many people puts a lot of stress on me and makes me feel lost since there are too many images coming at me from all directions, too much information, and I need to separate them and pull them apart in order to process them.
For me, writing is a very lonely journey, but it is also such a magical one that, when I am writing, I almost feel as if I am not on earth at all. I find myself, body and soul, within my story. I can almost hear the characters talking to me. I feel their pain and their joy – their every sentiment. At the same time, it helps me distance myself from the things that hurt me. It helps me wind down. It is a journey of mind and spirit. I always say that I write because I can’t do any differently!
I started writing as a child. First I wrote small stories, then short stories, followed by novellas. At the same time I read a lot of different genres of literature but I especially loved romantic novels. As a teenager I read Jane Eyre, and it became my favorite – a book that I read over and over many times and I still do – although I think that when Gone With the Wind fell into my hands I held on to it so tight and I still haven’t let it go!
The time of the year when I prefer to write is always the winter and, however cold it gets, I always have my office window open. I need the cool air, to be able to smell nature outside, and rainy days are always the most productive! The cloudy sky is the most beautiful view on which I like to rest my eyes and that is why my office window is the largest of all!
At the same time, in addition to the endless hours that I spend in front of my computer, there is another part of my life which I must and owe to harmoniously combine with my work. I have a family, a husband and two children who demand my presence in their lives. My children may be adults now and have begun their own lives, however their mother is their most stable point of reference. Having chosen to create a traditional family, I share my time fairly between all of its members. This, at many times, can be difficult and exhausting, yet I wouldn’t change a single thing. They respect the hours that I close myself in my office and they have, after so many years, realized just how much I love what I do, how much it relaxes me, and how much I need these hours of solitude.
It was difficult in the beginning. Especially in 2007, when the success of my book, The House by the River, brought a completely different dynamic into our lives. My children were teenagers when the recognition began, and the interviews and the invitations to television programs started. Together with my husband, we made sure that they didn’t think that anything had changed for us. I was always their mother, doing what I had always done before.
I waited for them to return from school, we always ate lunch together. I made their favorite dessert on Sundays and, in general, our everyday routine didn’t change one bit. In this way, it was easier for them to deal with the fact that people would stop me in the street to congratulate me, their friends’ mothers asked about me, or sometimes, journalists and television crews came to our house to interview me.
Ten years have now passed since then and I still continue to be the same as I had first began. I share my time between the loves of my life: my husband, my son, my daughter, and every new story that is born in my mind. I write whatever I like to read and, with every new novel, I experience ultimate love anew. I thank God for everything that he gave me and I wouldn’t change a single thing. I have made it just as I had dreamed it as a child… Like a river that flows, only that I am the one holding the oars of the boat…
Lena Manta was born in Istanbul, Turkey, to Greek parents. She moved to Greece at a very young age and now lives with her husband and two children on the outskirts of Athens. Although she studied to be a nursery school teacher, Lena instead directed her own puppet theater before writing articles for local newspapers and working as a director for a local radio station. Mantawas proclaimed Author of the Year in both 2009 and 2011 by Greek Life & Style magazine. She has written thirteen books, all of them published by Psichogios Publications, including the bestselling The House by the River, which has sold almost 250,000 copies and is the first of her books to be translated into English. Hers is a voice to be reckoned with, and each new book is a tour de force in the Greek publishing world.
The first novel by acclaimed Greek writer Lena Manta to appear in English translation, The House by the River is an intimate, emotionally powerful saga following five young women as they realize that no matter the men they choose, the careers they pursue, or the children they raise, the only constant is home.
Theodora knows she can’t keep her five beautiful daughters at home forever—they’re too curious, too free spirited, too like their late father. And so, before each girl leaves the small house on the riverside at the foot of Mount Olympus, Theodora makes sure they know they are always welcome to return.
A devoted and resilient mother, Theodora has lived through World War II, through the Nazi occupation of Greece, and through her husband’s death, and now she endures the twenty-year-long silence of her daughters’ absence. Her children have their own lives—they’ve married, traveled the world, and courted romance, fame, and even tragedy. But as they become modern, independent women in pursuit of their dreams, Theodora knows they need her—and each other—more than ever. Have they grown so far apart that they’ve forgotten their childhood house in its tiny village, or will their broken hearts finally lead them home?