An Interview with Jean Menzies



How did your love of Greek Mythology first come about? 

It was a mixture of pop-culture and my dad’s own love of history, which he shared with me. I basically watched a lot of Xena Warrior Princess, read a lot of Asterix comic books, and took a tonne of trips to the museum with my dad. There was also this fantastic series of eyewitness books, also by DK, that I would collect, exploring everything from the Pyramids to the Greeks. It’s kind of surreal that I’ve now written my own nonfiction book on a similar subject for DK twenty years on.


What made you want to retell Greek myths for children? 

My own exposure to the topic was through media, whether it be TV or books, as a child and even as a teenager in Greek myth retellings like The Penelopiad, as opposed to any formal education. There is no right way to learn about mythology or history and I value accessibility of information. That was how I ended up studying the subject at university. I’d love to think helping create this book will introduce new generations to what I personally think is a fascinating topic, whether they pick up a copy in a bookshop or in their library.


There are a lot of Greek myths/anthologies/collections/stories for children already in the market. What sets Greek Myths apart from the rest? 

I like to think it doesn’t patronise the reader or make stylistic changes to the source material. It is hopefully accessible and appropriate for children but it’s also all entirely based on the ancient sources so it really is a great introduction to both Greek mythology and their history for those who want to learn more. There are also lots of opportunities to contextualise the myths within the book that help the reader truly understand the significance of these myths and what they meant for the Ancient Greeks themselves. At the end of the day I’m not sure there can be too many books on Greek mythology for any age, however.


What do you hope young readers take away from reading Greek Myths? Are there any wise lessons to be learned from the great Gods? 

A passion for mythology and history whether it be a recreational hobby or a desire to pursue further study. Or even just a new or continued enthusiasm for reading and learning. That’s what books are all about. In terms of lessons, I really hope we all learn how NOT to behave from the gods’ examples in most cases…


Favourite Greek myth and why? 

I think Atalanta’s story is one of my favourites. She was a woman deemed a hero on the same terms as men and defied anyone who tried to put her in a box because of it.

Dionysus – God of Wine!


If you could be any Greek God/Goddess/Hero for a day, who would you be and why? 

Dionysus, he seems to have a good time.


What’s next for your writing journey? 

I currently have an adult fantasy novel in a few agents’ inboxes so fingers crossed, but I would love to work on more children’s nonfiction books in the future as well.


This question is about your favourite children’s/YA books. What’s a book you loved as a child, a book you love now, and a book you can’t wait to read?

Michael Rosen’s Book of Nonsense, Bloom by Nicola Skinner, and The Unmapped Sea by Maryrose Wood.


As it’s Bookshop Day on Saturday 3rd October, what are you top five UK bookshops? 

This question is HARD. If I HAVE to choose then Gay’s the Word (London), Houseman’s (London), Transreal Fiction (Edinburgh), The Portobello Bookshop (Edinburgh) and Armchair Books (Edinburgh).


Favourite travel destination? 

Greece… Athens or Crete!


If you could invite any five people – past and present, real or fictional – to a dinner party, who would you invite and why? 

Angela Davis, Sappho, Terry Pratchett, Michael Rosen and Zaphod Beeblebrox

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