Interview with grand prize winner Hardy Griffin

Hardy Griffin, author of Broken Kismet – Grand Prize winner on Eyelands Book Awards 2022, kindly answers to our questions about the prize, his writing career and future plans his memories from Greece and a lot more!

How does it feel to be the grand prize winner of an international books contest, especially when this contest is based in a country far far away from yours?
It feels incredible, and I’m so honored and humbled to have had Broken Kismet chosen. This also motivated me to submit my unpublished novel to literary agents—I’ve already had two ask to read the full manuscript in just one month, which is amazing. I’m deeply thankful to the Eyelands Book Awards, the judges, Strange Days Press, and the translator, Gregory Papadoyiannis!

How did you hear about the contest?
Through the newsletter—the Eyelands Book Awards were a featured contest in October, 2022.

When did you start writing?
My mother is a poet and as far back as I can remember we played with writing. It’s funny how my big protest move was to become a fiction writer.

You wrote a brilliant book. What was the inspiration for ‘’Broken Kismet’’?
Thank you for saying that! My wife, our two children, and I were living in Istanbul in 2010, and I had a health scare, and as I was recovering, scenes from the novel came to me—in many ways, the conversations between the two main characters, Eser and her mother Sara, were based on conversations between my wife, Banu, and our daughter.

If your book will be adapted for a movie script, what kind of film do you think it would be?
I’d hope it would be a very novelistic film that might be a kind of cross between The Joy Luck Club and Girl on a Train. Many of the New York City scenes are set at dusk or at night, while I tried to have many of the Istanbul ones flooded with beautiful Mediterranean light, and I think that would carry over well in a film. Last but not least, there’s a lot of kindness and warmth in intimate spaces in Istanbul—whether that’s Eser and her mother and grandmother at home or a hardware store owner who takes in someone who clearly needs help—and this can contrast quite starkly with the sense one gets in public spaces. There’s an idiom in Istanbul that ‘the person who honks and gestures at you in traffic would hug you and feed you full at their house,’ and I’d want some of that to be captured in a film along with the beautiful light and incredible architecture of this ancient city.

Can you tell us more about another award winning book of yours, that is ‘’Ermeniler’’, book on the lives of Armenians in contemporary Turkey?
This is a photography book with an extended introduction by an amazingly talented artist, Nuran Akkaya, about Armenians living in contemporary Turkey. These are photos of triumph, loss, bravery, kindness, and persistence coming through such events as annual ceremonies, Armenian artisans and performers, the destruction of a famous Armenian hospital, and the hundreds of thousands of Armenians/Greeks/Turks who marched in the streets to protest the senseless killing of Armenian journalist Hrant Dink in 2007. Here is a sample of these powerful photos.

Have you ever been in Greece?
Yes, I was so lucky to go to Greece when I was young, to see Athens, Thrace, and a number of islands including Santorini, Mykonos, and Corfu. But I ran out of money there and actually worked as a waiter on the island of Zakynthos, where I worked for the last two months of the tourist season as a waiter. The couple that owned the restaurant were welcoming and thoughtful, and were always happy to teach me little bits of Greek. The other waiters were Greeks born in Albania and two Australians, and in the kitchen were the couple who owned the restaurant and an Egyptian chef. At the close of the season, I had saved enough drachma to buy a ticket back to the US—but I have to say I missed Greece so much immediately afterwards, and I’ve often thought I should have stayed and learned much more Greek.

What are your plans as a writer for the future?
One of the many things I loved about writing Broken Kismet was setting up the complex plot elements in both the past and present to weave together much like a mystery that slowly comes into focus. Currently, I’m about halfway through the first draft of a mystery a bit in the vein of Orhan Pamuk’s My Name is Red. It’s quite complex, setting up something like that, but I’m having a lot of fun—like putting together a literary puzzle.

How do you feel with the idea you will be the judge for the novels category in the Eyelands Books Awards 2023?
I’m wildly excited—this whole experience has been such an honor and pleasure and I can’t wait to read the many novel manuscripts later this year! It’s always a delight to discover new and interesting novels in bookstores and libraries, and this is that much more exciting.

How do you feel that your book will be translated into Greek?
Φανταστικός! It’s fantastic because so much of the novel is set in Istanbul, and of course so much of this ancient city’s architecture and culture comes from Greek culture and civilization. For instance, there’s an ancient stone wall in front of Sara and Eser’s apartment building that I imagine could well have been a divider between Greek farmers’ fields some 600 years ago. At the same time, much of the complex plot of the novel actually comes through everyday experiences and I’d bet these are not so different between families living in Athens and Istanbul. Last but far from least, I love the sound and look of Greek, so seeing Broken Kismet in this fantastic language will be such a thrill and honor.

Hardy Griffin has published writing in Aesthetica Magazine,, New Flash Fiction, Alimentum, Assisi, The Washington Post, American Letters & Commentary, and a chapter in The Gotham Writer’s Guide to Writing Fiction (Bloomsbury). His translations can be found in Words Without Borders, The Istanbul Biennial, and for Ermeniler, an award-winning book on the lives of Armenians in contemporary Turkey. He is the founding editor of Novel Slices, a publication dedicated solely to novel excerpts.

Broken Kismet will be translated into Greek by Gregory Papadoyiannis and is scheduled to be released in Greece on September 2023


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