On Wednesday night the Miles Franklin Literary Awards named its six finalists and among them was Greek-Australian author Andrew Pippos with his debut novel Lucky’s.
The novel was inspired by his own upbringing in his yiayia’s café in Bernawinna, learning about his heritage, the island of Ithaca and listening to migration stories.
Speaking to Neos Kosmos back in March, Mr Pippos said his book follows how people respond to failure or success.
“About people chasing the life they most want -an artistic life, love, family, or healing,” he said.
Eight years in the making, the novel evolved with him until it found its final form and was published towards the end of 2020.
In light of the recent award announcement, Mr Pippos spoke to Neos Kosmos about life since the release.
“It’s been a really good ride since then…The Miles Franklin shortlisting has been a highlight,” he said.
“You spend years writing this book and you don’t know if it’ll even be published or if people will even like it and to have these conversations about this imaginary world you’ve created, this piece of art, is amazing. You publish books for readers, for people who will like it, or get something out of it. To see that effect is extraordinary and it’s something you can never take for granted. It’s very difficult to prepare for.”
Mr Pippos received the final six nomination news as he was sitting in his office and whilst he was happy to join the ranks of some Australia’s most prolific writers, the magnitude of what it meant did not hit him until later on.
“I just got the message on my phone and picked it up and thought ‘oh okay, that’s pretty good’. It was a nice moment but I don’t think it really hit me…it didn’t really hit me until it became public,” he said.
The Sydney based author joins Aravind Adiga nominated for his own immigrant story Amnesty, Tasmania based Robbie Arnott for The Rain Heron, UK-based Daniel Davis Wood for At the Edge of the Solid World, second time nominated Amanda Lohrey for The Labyrinth and fellow debut author Madeleine Watts for The Inland Sea.
Looking over the nominated pieces, judging panel chair Richard Neville notes the common thread throughout the novels is “destructive loss”.
“There is beauty and joy to be found, and decency and hope, largely through the embrace of community but, as the shortlist reminds us, often community is no match for more powerful forces,” he said.
Lucky’s was also shortlisted for the 2021 Mud literary prize and longlisted for the Matt Richell New Writer of the Year for 2021.
Whilst Mr Pippos is overjoyed with all the nominations, he expresses that accolades are not at the forefront of his literary motivations.
“It’s not about money or notoriety, but more of the realisation of this long project and seeing it come to fruition in various ways, like seeing the book in bookstores, knowing that I did this thing that could’ve gone either way,” he said.
More touching perhaps may be the way in which reader’s have responded to Mr Pippos’ work overall and the way each of them have their own unique interpretations that they share with him.
“There was someone who wrote me an email and spoke to me about certain themes in the book that I thought were quite hidden, they were important to me but I thought they were under the surface somewhat and that was amazing that someone had seen this part of the book that I felt was almost a secret coded part of it.”
Above all, when Mr Pippos closes the final chapters of his own life, he hopes that it is full of the memories he can pass down to his own line of successors.
“I was shooting a segment for an ABC television show two days ago at a Greek restaurant. The chef was a 71-year-old man and he said to me ‘enjoy your family’. Make sure you don’t lose yourself in work and other things…I hope when I’m that age I’ll be able to say I enjoyed my friends and family and that I wrote some good books.”