The Greek version of your novel was recently released by Radamanthis Publications. What is the theme of your book?
Cressida is a young woman who visits the beautiful Greek Island of Crete to escape her troubled past, but her life takes an unexpected turn when she discovers she is pregnant. Cressida fears that her father’s abusive traits and her mother’s dismissive, uncaring nature will pass down to her child. However, in her quest for answers and meaning, she uncovers the history of the Minoans —the most advanced civilization from the Bronze Age. Through this hidden history of Europe, she unveils ancient traditions and the shift from matriarchy to a patriarchal society. Learning from the wisdom of these women of the past and ingraining changes in her current life is the only way forward for Cressida.
How did your interest in Crete and the ancient matriarchal society come about?
It was serendipity that brought me to Crete. When I was 14 years old I decided that one day I would go and live on a Greek Island. I didn’t know where and I didnt know when. About 15 years ago in a small rural town in a Greek restaurant, the waiter told us we had to go to Loutro, Crete. So we did. Up until then I never knew of the Minoans, but their history was the perfect context for my novel. Infact, Dancing the Labyrinth could never have been written anywhere else.
In Greece lately, female homicides and domestic violence have increased significantly. What is the situation in Australia in this area?
Domestic Violence against women is a growing probelm in Austrlaia. It was these alarming numbers that caused me to reflect on my accountability as a mother raising a son. How could I, while living in a patriarchal society ensure that he would be raised to be a decent, non violent, young man.
Does your novel touch on such aspects? And what is your opinion, as a woman and as a writer about these phenomena?
So the novel was borne through this inquiry. How do we raise our sons to be good people, all the whilst living in a society that devalues women? In the novel, Pythia has to leave her community and establish another to address this. The novel also touches upon women survivors of domestic violence and the healing process they undertake to regain / re-affirm their self respect and sense of self-worth.
What does Crete mean to you?
A few lines from the Irish poet John O’Donohue best sums this up:
When you travel, you find yourself
Alone in a different way,
More attentive now
To the self you bring along,
Your more subtle eye watching
You abroad; and how what meets you
Touches that part of the heart
That lies low at home:
The parts of me that lie sleeping at home blossom in Crete. I love who I am, who this island expects me to be and embraces. Crete is the best part of me.
What’s the response of people in Australia to your book? What do the people who read it think?
The response in Australia has been fantastic. The english version was a Best seller on Amazon (Aust) Kindle and the greek version has a growing readership through distribution from the Bilingual Bookshop in Sydney. Feedback includes:
“I believe Its power dwells in the past world it portrays and the bridge between the worlds it builds … This is the kind of book that finds you where you’re at. So if it finds you, answer its call.”
“Dancing the Labyrinth is a powerful and profound celebration of women’s resilience, courage and indomitability.” Neos Kosmos
«Excellent story! Totally engrossing! Looking forward to reading more by this author! Could not put this down!»
«Today’s generation has much to learn from the current and ancient meanings of belonging and femininity and Karen Martin brings this message to readers with superior writing and storytelling that is not just strong but fascinating. She creates a protagonist that readers will love; she is genuinely flawed, resilient, and an embodiment of the frustrations and pains that most women have carried with them over centuries. The deeply rooted problems of the current dynamics are explored through a painful journey of the leading and secondary characters that are fully drawn and unforgettable.»
What was the reaction of the Greeks of Australia to your book?
The novel has found its home among the Greek diaspora in Australia. It was highly praised in our national Greek paper – Neos Kosmos https://neoskosmos.com/en/2021/07/12/dialogue/opinion/karen-martins-dancing-the-labyrinth-a-bilingual-approach/
And lauded by Dr Vasilis Adrahtas who launched it in Sydney: Dancing the Labyrinth is a prime example of Karen’s ability to present human connection to place and broader environmental sensities. Situated in present-day Crete, but with an existential access to Minoan times, Karen’s novel weaves skillfully together ancient notions of matriarchy, the sacredness of place, historical details, modern village life and contemporary issues regarding gender, human realisation and climate change. It’s about an incredible story that manages to immerse the reader into a life trajectory that feels like their own.«
When do you think you will visit Greece again and what are your next plans? Can we wait for a new version?
I have plans to return in June 2022, now that the Australian border has opened for international travel. Part of this visit will be used as a writing retreat. My third novel in the series, Women Unveiled, is the sequel to Dancing the Labyrinth. It follows Cressida as she returns to Delphi seeking answers.