Meet Author John Manuel

Meet Author John Manuel

Brit Author John Manuel lives in Greece and writes both fiction and nonfiction books set in Greece. Keep reading to learn about him and his work.




Q&A with John Manuel

I love supporting other authors! From time to time, I’ll feature an author in this space. This month, meet John Manuel, who like me, is a Brit married to a Greek!



Image of a man and woman at a seaside restaurant_Yvonne and John Manuel
Yvonne and John Manuel




Where are you from?

I was born in Bath, UK way back in the 1950’s.


When did you first go to Greece? Why?

I met the girl (who I eventually married) in a bar one night, and it turned out that her mother was Greek, and had married an English serviceman in Athens just after the war. Owing to the civil war going on in Greece at the time, they decided to relocate to the UK, although my father-in-law very much would have liked to settle in Greece, had things been different.

We were married in 1974, and a couple of years later my mother-in-law Lela wanted us to go to Athens so I could meet the family. So, in 1977 my wife Yvonne, her mother, ,stepdad , and I went to visit the family in Athens for three weeks. As soon as I got off the plane I was smitten.


How did you meet your Greek wife?

Well, I mentioned it above, and if anyone wants the full story of how we actually met for the very first time, then the scenario in which I placed my main two characters, Dean and Alyson, in the first novel, The View From Kleoboulos is completely autobiographical. In Chapter two, if you change ‘Dean’ to John,’ and Alyson to ‘Yvonne,’ the rest is pretty much what happened, apart from it having taken place a couple of decades earlier, that is. It was in the same city too, Bath.


Book cover for Panayiota by John Manuel. Image of two young women in front of the Nazi flag and the Acropolis
Panayiota by John Manuel, was published in 2019. The novel follows two sisters during the Nazi Occupation in Athens.




When did you move to Greece?

Yvonne and I moved from the UK to Greece in August 2005.


You’ve lived in several different places in Greece. Where?

Well, apart from spending a few weeks with friends when we moved from Rhodes to Crete in 2019, we’ve lived in two houses. The first was in Kiotari, Rhodes, where we lived from 2005 – September 2019, and from then on we’ve been in our house here in Makrylia (Not Makry Gialos, by the way, as some people get the two confused), Lasithi, Crete. In Rhodes we were caretakers for UK friends who owned the property. Here on Crete the house is ours.


Tell us about your intro to Greek life.

I suppose it began in Ringswell Gardens, Grosvenor, Bath, where my then girlfriend lived with her mother (divorced) and three siblings. After we’d been going out for a while, my future mother-in-law suggested that I go with her, Yvonne, and a few other Greeks to a Greek club in Bristol. I used to think that we young hippies knew a thing or two about all night parties, until I entered the Famagusta club in Bristol in 1972. There was a live band and the action got under way well after midnight. We got home to our beds as the sun was coming over the horizon one bleary Sunday morning. I’ve never looked back since. Plus, most Sunday evenings my girlfriend’s house would be full of Greeks, all smoking filterless cigarettes, reading coffee cups and dancing to bouzouki music.


Do you live in Greece full time now?

Oh yes, right back when we moved out to Rhodes it was always our intention to try and make a go of staying for the duration. So far so good.


Does Greece feel like home?

Absolutely, although it’s been a rocky road bureaucracy-wise but I’ve learnt that you have to stick at it, and it all comes good in the end. The idea of living back in the UK horrifies both of us now. It’s not just the climate, it’s, as the Greeks call it, the ‘notropia,’ the mindset of the people.


You live on Crete now. 

After 14 years on the island of Rhodes, we ended up having to find a new home. Being pushed into having to look around at our options, we decided that, even though we’d made some very good friends on the island, there was nothing really keeping us from looking further afield for a new home. Property on Rhodes is more expensive that in this part of Crete anyway, but we had, funnily enough, already arranged to come to Ierapetra to spend a few days with some good Greek friends who had also moved from Rhodes to Crete some years earlier. Most of this story is told in the new book, Moving Islands, but, cutting to the quick, we found a wonderful modest little house in the hills above Ierapetra, bought it, and here we are.


Do you live in a tourist area?

What’s truly special about this area is that tourism is not the main industry, it’s agriculture. Of course, everywhere’s changing, and there are development projects going on along the coast between Ierapetra and Makry Gialos, but these are some distance from our sleepy village of around 125 inhabitants, so we’ve bought ourselves some time, so to speak. It’s like living in a small community, even in Ierapetra, which is a modestly sized town anyway, and has a very homey feel. What we absolutely love too, is the fact that when we go out for coffee, or to a restaurant—even in the tourist season— the majority of voices we hear around us are local Greeks. Only half an hour’s drive to the north of us, on the other coast, we’ve been to tavernas and coffee bars where we’ve been surrounded by tourists. I sound like a ‘tourist snob,’ don’t I? Sorry, but when it comes to quality of life, such things matter when you live here all year round. Boy, do I go on a bit sometimes. Sorry about that!




When did you know you had to write about your experiences?

Well, although my main ‘talent,’ if you could call it that, was always art, my second was writing. A year or so before we moved to Greece I began to think that I had sufficient material from my Greek ‘experience’ to think about turning it into a book, after I’d read Peter Mayle’s ‘Provence’ books and a few by Bill Bryson. Rather immodestly, I remember thinking, ‘I could do that!’ So I guess we’re talking about 2004, or thereabouts.


When did you publish your first book? Tell us about it.

I’d only half written the first one when we moved out to Rhodes. Until about four months before the move I’d simply been too busy to devote enough time to it. Once we got settled in Kiotari, I was finally able to review what I’d written and press on to the finish with what eventually became Feta Compli!, my first memoir. I’d read an article in the UK Sunday papers about a new venture in digital publishing, Lulu Press, in the US, and decided that was the way I’d go forward. I did send a few submissions to a few agents and publishers, but found the whole process too involved, frustrating, and disappointing, to be honest. I’d read too of other authors who’d become household names who’d suffered multiple rejections before getting a deal, so I had enough faith in my work to still believe it was worth putting out there. Feta Compli! Is primarily about my whole Greek experience, from meeting Yvonne through to moving out to Rhodes, hence it covers around 35 years of my life, gulp!


You write memoirs and novels. Do you have a preference?

I don’t think I do really. Memoirs are a little easier, always assuming that you can remember things, that is. I say that because when you write fiction you have to get any references to real timelines and events completely accurate, or you risk losing the reader, who’ll spot inconsistencies in a trice. Fiction writing involves a lot more research. I thought that I could never write a novel, because I couldn’t think up a credible plot and had immense admiration for novelists who had a string of works to their names. My first, ‘Kleoboulos,’ was the result of reflecting over a true-life experience of a young couple we’d known when we’d lived in South Wales. Even then, when I’d completed it, I truly believed that I’d never write another work of fiction.


How many books have you published so far?

I can hardly believe this myself, but so far the tally of my books is nine novels, seven memoirs, and a dystopian short story which is set here in Crete.


Tell us about your latest book.

The most recent is a memoir, Moving Islands. It’s basically the warts-and-all tale of our totally unexpected move from a rented bungalow on Rhodes to our own little house on a hillside here in Crete. We spent 14 years on Rhodes and the need for us to relocate came as quite an unexpected shock when we were told sin summer 2019 that the owner house where we lived wanted to sell it. Looking back now, it was not only a watershed, but an opportunity. I talked about the whole thing on the blogs (I started a new one when we relocated) and quite a few correspondents told me that I should consider turning it into a book. I eventually did so, because it may well serve, not simply as a hopefully entertaining and informative read, but as a handbook for others who are faced with similar situations.


Book Cover for Greek Oddities 2 by John Manuel. Image of a pier on the sea with two people looking out to the sea.
This is the 2nd in the Greek Oddities series by John Manuel, featuring stories about the colorful characters he’s met while living in Greece.





You’re an avid blogger. 

Before I started my first blog, ‘Ramblings From Rhodes’, I really had no idea what a blog was. I began the Rhodes blog in December 2008 and I have an old friend from South Wales, UK to thank for that. Kevin Day had been asking me about his ideas for his own books. In the process of those exchanges, I bemoaned the fact that it was difficult getting the word out about my first books, and Kevin replied that I should start a blog.

So I began with the Rhodes blog and, since I was then working part-time as an excursion escort on Rhodes, I got a few t-shirts printed with ‘Ramblings From Rhodes – Google it!’ on the front of them, and began wearing them during my excursions. Not only did most of my guests on the excursions see the message, but I even had people stop me in Rhodes town to ask me what it meant. That blog quickly grew to have quite a large following, most of whom (I think!) followed too when I switched to the current one, ‘Accretions,’ about life here in Lasithi.

I’m not a daily blogger. I truly believe that it’s a bit too demanding of one’s readers to post every day. So I tend to post about once a week, when I really believe that the readers will be ready for another installment and that I actually have something of value to write about, rather than going on about cleaning my teeth and what time I ate my breakfast.


Tell us about A Good Greek Read.

I only signed up to Facebook on the advice of Eddie Yates, a truly larger than life rock fan who used to run a Pink Floyd influenced rock festival at Lindos on Rhodes. Eddie told me that Facebook was another way to expand my audience. After I’d been on Facebook for a few years and was getting the hang of looking for various groups that centred on specific interests, I ended up one night looking for a group that might give me ideas about what books to read with a mainly Greek theme, be it fiction of factual. I couldn’t find one, so I started my own, and that was ‘A Good Greek Read.’

The premise is simple: members are encouraged not to write long posts, but to simply post a URL to a book, a blog, or any website or magazine article where the subject is primarily based around all things Greek. Other members can click the link to get either instant access to the article, or to a page where a book can be purchased. The group has grown to have several thousand members from around the world, and many of those are authors who write primarily (although not exclusively in some cases) on a Greek theme.


What would you say to someone who is considering a move to Greece?

Well, to some degree it depends on where they’re moving from. If it’s from the US then there’s a much bigger journey involved, and as for the bureaucracy, I’m in no position to comment. Moving from the UK isn’t quite as straightforward as it was when the UK was still in the European Union, but then, it wasn’t all that straightforward back then either! I’m always of the opinion that, if you really think you want do something, then you’ll only regret it in the future if you don’t at least give it a go. But you have to be ready to roll with the punches, and the paperwork involved in becoming a permanent resident of Greece is by no means straightforward.

There are only two pieces of advice that I feel I’m qualified to give: 1. If you do move here, forget trying to start a business. 2. Please, please do make the effort to learn the language. Speaking Greek will totally transform not only your day-to-day experience of life, but it will also move mountains when it comes to acceptance in the local community. Despite what a lot of ex-pats who’ve moved here may think, they are sometimes resented for colonising villages and areas where they tend to form a ‘society within a society’ by primarily socialising mainly with their compatriots and, sadly, earning unsavoury reputations for their conduct too. Of course it’s not right to generalise, but I have too many negative memories of folks I’ve known over the almost two decades during which I’ve now lived in this country not to mention it.


A gray haired man with glasses, wearing a blue shirt raises his glass at a restaurant in Greece.
Author John Manuel




What’s next for you?

Yvonne and I have immense gratitude for the lovely little lifestyle that living where we now do has given us. As regards writing, each time I finish a new work I tell myself, ‘That’s it, no more.’ It’s emotionally taxing to write a book and also takes a huge amount of time. Then, a few weeks pass and ideas start to spring into my mind. Next thing, I’m tapping away at the keyboard. I’m currently working on a new book tentatively titled Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Greece But Were too Embarrassed to Ask. This time it’s very definitely tongue-in-cheek and I’ll be tackling all aspects of Greece and Greek culture from a firmly humorous angle.


Anything else you want to share?

You know, I’m nowhere near the most travelled of people, yet I have done my fair share of gallivanting around the planet. I have no explanation for why this is, but Greece does have something that we haven’t ever found elsewhere. Plus, I continue to meet or hear from people who come here for the first time and then find that they can’t stay away. I consider myself greatly privileged to live where I do. If someone had told me just 25 years ago that I’d be living in my own little house on a hillside in southern Crete, whilst still enjoying good health, and alongside the woman who’s been my constant pillar of strength for many decades, I’d have told them to stop being so silly.

Funny how life can sometimes tell you how wrong you’ve been.


Q&A with John Manuel

Hope you enjoyed learning more about Author John Manuel as much as I did!


Connect with John:

website, ‘Accretions’ blog,‘Ramblings From Rhodes’ blog, Amazon Author Page


Facebook: Author Page, ‘A Good Greek Read’ group



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