We put Nicholas Gage, renowned author of Eleni, in the Author Spotlight. Find out how he got started, and more.
Award-winning Reporter & Author Nicholas Gage
Our Founder & Editor Maria A. Karamitsos has had the privilege to meet and interview Author Nicholas Gage. Here she shares an interview she had with the author of the award-winning book, Eleni. Read on to find out about his writing career, how he got started, and his connection to The Godfather.
Q&A with Nicholas Gage
Maria A. Karamitsos: When did you decide to become a writer and why?
Nicholas Gage: When a teacher in the seventh grade noticed that I had writing ability and encouraged me, even though I was still struggling with the English language. I knew I wanted to be a reporter and writer to find out what happened to my mother and tell her story. I studied journalism in college and graduate school and won a prize for the best published writing by a college student, which was presented by President John F. Kennedy at the White House in May of 1963, a big thrill for an immigrant kid.
MAK: What was your first job as a writer?
NG: My first job was for the local paper in my hometown, Worcester, MA, the summer I finished high school. It was there I decided I wanted to be an investigative reporter to develop the skills to ferret out documents and get people to divulge information they really don’t want to talk about so I would be well-equipped to search out my mother’s story when the time came. I honed those skills later at the Associated Press and The Wall Street Journal, and by the time I was 30, I was the chief investigative reporter for The New York Times.
Nicholas Gage was born in 1938 in the village of Lia in Filiates, Thesprotia, Epirus, Greece. His family’s incredible story is chronicled in his two memoirs. Eleni, which was adapted as a film in 1995 starring John Malkovich, and A Place for Us. File photo
MAK: You obtained the first Nixon tapes in the Watergate Scandal. That makes you part of history. Briefly tell us about that.
NG: The Times was being beaten badly by the Washington Post on the Watergate story, so the executive editor, Abe Rosenthal, sent me to Washington to beef up the efforts of our bureau there, and within a week I got the first Nixon tape from a source I still can’t reveal.
MAK: You have received 6 Pulitzer Prize nominations and numerous awards. What accolade has been the most meaningful to you?
NG: The first prize of the Royal Society of Literature of Great Britain for my book, Eleni, because I prevailed against some of the best writers in the English language when I didn’t know a word of the language until I was 10.
MAK: World War II, the German occupation, your mother’s story, the Greek Civil War, the Pontian Genocide, etc.—all of these things happened in the last 100 years. The wounds are still fresh, yet these events are little known to those outside of Greece and the Diaspora. Why do you think that is, and what in your opinion, can we do about it? Why is it so important to tell these stories?
NG: I think there is a tendency in the West to dismiss the struggles of the Greek people in modern times and the way to fight against it is to write about those struggles, as I and other writers like Elia Kazan and Harry Mark Petrakis have done.
MAK: How did you become part of The Godfather III production?
NG: As an investigative reporter in New York, where there are 5 Mafia families, I wrote a lot about the Mob. Executives at Paramount Pictures, who were having trouble finding a way to finish the saga of Michael Corleone, were impressed with my articles and asked me to write a proposal on how I would tell it. I did. They liked it and hired me to develop and help produce the picture.
MAK: Will you be producing or co-producing any other films?
NG: I’m currently working on some potential films, but until the cameras roll, I don’t like to talk about my projects.
MAK: Tell us about the scholarship at Boston University.
NG: Some 25 years ago I established a scholarship for students of Greek ancestry at BU, where I went as an undergraduate, in memory of my mother. I’ve contributed my lecture earnings to it; now the fund has nearly a million dollars in it. Each year the fund awards several scholarships to deserving students, some of whom have gone on to distinguished careers.
MAK: Describe some of your other philanthropic endeavors.
NG: I have raised funds to help ethnic Greeks in Northern Epiros; to support the work of Archbishop Anastasios of Albania; and of course to help my native village, Lia, where I built an inn, roads, and other projects. I’ve also used my pen to bring attention to the plight of the Patriarch of Constantinople, and Greek and Orthodox communities in the Balkans and the Middle East.
MAK: The younger generation of Greek Americans is quickly losing interest in syllogi and other Greek organizations. I’m sure you are dealing with this in your work at the Panepirotic Federation. How, in your opinion, can we re-engage them, and keep them engaged?
NG: Although American-born Greeks don’t feel the pull of the regions their fathers come from, these places are part of their identity and if they take the time to learn about their history, culture, and traditions, they will be greatly enriched. The leaders of the syllogi need to do a better job to reach out to younger people.
MAK: You’ve written much about Greece. Any thoughts you’d like to share about Greece today?
NG: Greeks are going through hard times but they are known for their resilience and will recover if they stay the course and reject irresponsible demagogues.
MAK: What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?
NG: My advice to young writers has been offered by many before me — read good writers and write about what you know.
Nicholas Gage & Eleni Gage in Chicago
The Greek American Rehabilitation & Care Centre will present a special event featuring the award-winning author and his daughter, fellow author Eleni Gage, in Chicago on March 3, 2018 at Chevy chase Country Club in Wheeling, IL. Event begins at 11:00 am, and includes lunch. For more information, call 847.465.1323.
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