Loukas Mexis acts like a ten year old boy, when he notices a Darth Vader mask left in the room. An experienced and wicked lifestyle journalist, he spent much of his time on earth between long legged models, super bikes and epic parties. And then he goes and publishes a book. His second one, in fact. And it’s called “Shoot Me”. I’d love to, Louk. I’d love to, just hand me over the God damn P38.
It’s true. I cannot seem to remember exactly when and how we met, about three years ago. But I am almost certain there were alcohol and turntables involved. We were both working for men magazines back then. He was the enemy, in a way. I had to find the next scoop, person or secret faster than him, and it was not easy. He was younger, I was a woman. But I liked him from the first moment I laid eyes on him.
Later I found out that Loukas can also be a drama queen. Difficult. He is a real Scorpio, starting every second phrase with “I”. Simply has to live everything to the full. It’s either “great” or “shitty”. Nothing in between. And he loves women. Boy, I have no idea how many girls came and then took off within these years. And the weird thing is, he truly was in love every single time.
When I heard of his first book, “Shoebox”, I laughed my ass off. I could not imagine him, being patient enough to just sit down and write something big, which would include a normal beginning and an end. And then I read it. Admittedly, it was not a Hunter S. Thompson masterpiece, no, but it had something. It was fast, furious, big. I got jeallous. For the first time. Thinking, why the fuck does he get to write a book and publish it and I don’t. It was later, when he formally handed me the signed copy on the book signing day, that I noticed what he had written for me on page 1: “Just sit down and write, damn it”.
Now that’s Louk alright. The eternal optimist, the crazy person that usually says the glass is half empty and then suddenly sees opportunity in a bucket full of shit. And he has no idea he is one. So I am wondering why the hell it took me so long to write about him. Maybe because it gets so bloody hard, when you know the person behind the writer. Anyway, his second book, “Shoot Me”, is out now. And he is about to go down undah. So it was about time I did shoot him. With questions. Here goes.
Have you always wanted to write? Even as a kiddo?
Quite frankly, the one thing I sincerely wanted to do is actually write the stories behind videogames. That evolved into comic book writing, because at the time that was all a ten year old could do: draw and write. My first “work” is a made up sequel for the Sonic the Hedgehog video game, I had on my Sega, back in the day. Still have that comic and always return to it for inspiration.
Do you miss writing within editorial teams as u successfully did for the last years? Would u do it again, without a second thought?
I am not that much of a team player. It was fun and I obviously learned a ton, but I prefer personal pieces with an ongoing research and depth, familiar to what journalism used to be back in the ’60s and ’70s where a journalist was a writer (above all) and had a follow because of his life – there used to be a time magazines where not about the ads and what’s hot, but about the influence the people who wrote them had on the reader. Eventually I will return to the editorial workplace, I think. Hopefully somewhere better tuned.
What’s gonna happen to the common life&style magazines? Will they survive? Is this the Titanic?
It’s not. Everything evolves, hell, if it did not, then that would be a problem. I think, from the actual journalist’s point of view, the problem lies within availability. I mean, ok, you have the internet and this gives people daily a vast amount of information. It’s also easy for everyone from whatever background, to actually write. This is, by no means, actual journalism and that is what killed it all together. We need to separate the actual journalistic work from blogging, tweeting, mumbling, ranting and then understand what really is worth writing about. No one cares about celebrities anymore, there are none, we are all levelled by the economic situation of Europe anyway. It’s a back to the basics situation. Lifestyle magazines should once again have “exposés” and small literature works that will inspire people to read, not rant.
Your first book, “Shoebox” was a surprise. It was huge, smart, fast and furious. Similar to a movie script. But u had written it at a much younger age. Weren’t there any chapters or pages in the book that you would today write in a whole different way? Would the end be the same, were u to write it now from scratch?
It would be totally different and, to be honest, much worse. I can’t imagine myself writing it again, from scratch. I wcouldn’t and I wouldn’t. And come to think of it, I have not read it ever since it got published. I do open it sometimes and pick a random page and read it, only to say “damn, did I really write this?”. Some words or even sentences, are not even me. Weird. I think I wouldn’t change a thing, but as I get older, I am trying to dense up my writing, so I would cut out some parts, to make it even faster and more solid. Then again, some people would say the opposite. I am trying to get into the whole “less is more” technique.
Were you scared or intimidated to write a second book?
I think the second book has a curse. And a pretty long one. I started writing it the moment I signed the contract of the first, although it was back then just an idea inside my mind that remained so for quite some time. It is basically split into two parts, and the first one was written after endless typing for about five months. The second part took quite some time, because I was actually trying to figure out where the story was actually going. It was in a way autobiographical, so there were things in my everyday life that had a significant impact on the actual story. After I finished, that was when the intimidation started. I had problems with correcting, it was too long, and then the rejections started coming to my mail. It’s too big, it’s too far out, it’s too hardcore, it doesn’t really go with the other works our publisher holds etc.. Terrible. I actually believed the book is a piece of crap and needs to be burned. Of course I was hard on myself, because I did not take into consideration that there is a crisis, which devastated most major (and all small) publishing houses. Plus, my stories are not really written for the average middle aged woman who likes to read about slow burning cigarettes on ashtrays, while waiting for love, before menopause. As for the success, I don’t really think it qualifies as a success. It just had an unexpected turn out and people liked it – I am wondering what they will say, after they have read “Shoot Me”, since it is completely different.
What is “Shoot me” about? And what is it with u and the filmesque titles anyway?
It just sounds cool, right? I like titles with a bang, they remind me of the old Hollywood glory days. I mean, back then you had a movie called “Bullit” and that was it. The title is pretty catchy and does say a lot about the story, since it is about a photographer. Actually, a wanna-be photographer who returns home only to find that he is in ground zero, with no friends, no money, no nothing. Only thing he does have is his motorbike, his camera and a goal to finish a personal photographic album. Well, that is only the beginning, since he actually ends up becoming an editorial photographer, a reporter, a character of the city he once hated and therefore left.
How long did it take you to finish it?
I think it took around two years, but the editing part was the hard one. I re-read it a million times, re-wrote a million parts and edited out a ton of pages. Original first draft was 540 pages long. Seriously. You get the picture if you see that the final one consists of 380 pages.
When did you know, deep inside, that you were ready to come out with it?
With “Shoot Me”? I think I always am, the moment I finish and feel confident about it. if you forget the fact that after the first rejections, you do NOT feel particularly confident and want to bury your work beneath the ground and hope no one ever finds it again.
You have had one hell of a year. There was a terrible motorcycle accident that pretty much messed with your life and habits. How did it affect you? And the book?
The accident happened one day after my birthday, on October 28th. I had plans to go to California much earlier, around January to watch the opening Supercross Championship round. Obviously, it did not happen, since I was still with crouches, until late January. There were a number of things that were good during my three month sit in the solitude fortress. You do focus. I did send a TON of emails about the 2nd book, decided to give it all my attention. And it was then that I started to write again, the 4th novel – directly in English. I wrote the first part and feel quite happy about it, but it will take a few years before it finally turns into a complete story. Also, thanks to that accident, I decided to apply for universities in Australia and the US. I looked for the best journalism universities, the best creative writing ones, everything. I chose three and applied. Well, one actually paid off great. Then, this is crazy talk but bear with me: there is a band, my favourite band called “At The Drive-in”. They actually broke up around 2001, and I have been wishing and praying for a reunion ever since then. On the 22nd of January, they announced a reunion and the first concert would be Coachella. Had I not crashed my leg, I would have missed them. In a weird, karmic way, I did fulfill a lifelong dream with the help of an accident.
What was the biggest lesson learned so far?
Patience. Yoda knew what he was talking about. Oh, and do, or do not. There is no try. Wise words.
According to your plans, you are about to leave for Australia real soon, within next month. Right, Crocodile Dundee?
I am going to Perth, to study at Murdoch University. I got the Discoverer’s Scholarship, and that is great, because it does help a lot with the costs of studying and living down under. Thing is, I will have to study my ass off in order to maintain everything and have the ability to also work and make money on my own. You know, I have worked as a journalist here in Greece, but my degree is that of IT from the University of Piraeus. I do not think people abroad care much about your previous work, they want to see some proof of what you can now do. So, I said to myself, I will either apply for a great Journalism Masters (it’s a MA of Arts in Communication Management) or a great creative writing degree. I got rejected by Washington DC, but accepted to the Melbourne creative arts one, but it was a whopping 50000$ course. And then came the scholarship from Murdoch. So what the hell, it’s a sign. And by the way, I have an uncle who has been living there for the past 22 years.
And you were in California, this last spring. What were you doing there? Coachella? May I fantasize about u talking to producers about the “Shoebox”? Or is it too soon yet?
I actually did. This is pretty crazy, but I met a great guy, called Niko, classic American-greek dude with heaps of talent. We hang out at Vesuvio beneath Jack Kerouac posters and talked about the Alien movies. He has a small indie company, called Graphi films, and is currently shooting a movie split in Athens and Egypt. He came here and we eventually ended up making the “Shoot Me” book trailer, which went great. Well, he already is working with numerous directors here and is already making a name for himself. But he does want to shoot the “Shoebox” epic, around next summer, and we are about to start making the storyboard for it. Who knows, this might actually work. As for Coachella and California, what is there to be said? It’s amazing, everybody has to visit California at least once in his/her life.
This escape of yours, why now? Did the economic situation play a role? Or is it a coincidence? Is it easy to leave all habits, friends and family behind?
I am already gone. Since May of 2011. I quit my job right before the big trouble came (economic crisis), and went to Indonesia. I regretted returning, since last September in Athens was a living hell. The economic situation is surely a reason to leave, I mean, I live here alone, I did have some support from my mother, but she is living on pension and that’s that. While I worked and we use to earn quite enough, we could keep on going, having some fun, planning the future. Now what? What happens if, God forbid, I end up alone having to survive by myself, without a medical plan or anything? What happens if I want to have kids, how the hell will I make money to feed them? That is why leaving everything behind seems easy right now, because living here is not.
Are you already thinking of your next book?
I have already finished my third book and it will hopefully be out next summer. As for the next, yes, I am already on it, yet I have put it on hold, waiting to finish with my relocation. Australia will definitely fuel it up, since the story will take a lot of inspiration from the Western Australian desert.
Where and how do you imagine urself in ten years from now?
Ten years, huh? So I’d be in my late 30s, close to 40. I do hope I would still have hair. And all my body parts intact. I wish I could be living decently somewhere, able to enjoy the sea and my motorbikes and my family. I am quite certain that I would also have kids, yesterday I paid a visit to a friend who became a father recently and his wife told me, I would make a great dad. I think I would and will. Imagine all the Star Wars toys they will inherit, what’s there not to love?
If you had only one wish, what would it be?
I just wish that the day comes that I would just pick up the phone, call my agent and say “dude, I just finished my new book”. And he would then reply “finally, we can’t wait, send it over”. Writing is the easy part, the rest is not. With that out of the way, imagine all the amazing time I would be able to spend with what I love the most, with the people I love the most. I think that every person has the same dream. At least, I hope so.
Loukas Mexis’ book “Shoot Me” is out NOW. Go get it.
Loukas Mexis was shot by Alex Ioannides (first image only) and Thodoris Markou.