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Stella Tarakson Talks About Laughter and the Greek Myths in Hopeless Heroes

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Australian children’s author Stella Tarakson has over 30 successful children’s titles to her name, with plenty more on the way, and her series Aliens, Ghosts and Vanishings was listed as one of the most notable books of 2017 by the Children’s Book Council of Australia. Tarakson is based in Sydney and is happiest when reading, writing or drinking coffee – or all three at the same time.

She’s one of those storytellers that can make you giggle and learn at the same time. As the author of Hopeless Heroes, Stella’s naturally a fan of Greek mythology and when she brings them into present day, or sends a kid from today back in time, you never know what’s going to happen.

Can You Laugh Whilst Decapitating a Snake-Haired Gorgon?

Growing up with Greek parents has given me a life-long passion for Greek mythology. Stories of brave heroes, ancient landscapes, weird monsters and even weirder gods – what’s not to love? These stories have been told for centuries – no, millennia – which gives me a delicious tingling sort of feeling whenever I think about it. As a child, the labours of Hercules and the journeys of Odysseus were as familiar to me as Winnie the Pooh and Alice in Wonderland. There weren’t as many laughs in them, though, which was a shame…

The thing is, I’ve always loved the British sense of humour. I enjoy clever and quirky and witty. Greek myths, while enthralling, aren’t known for their giggles. Fair enough, when you’re decapitating a snake-haired gorgon or tackling a three-headed hell hound with your bare hands. But surely there’s room for a little chuckle sometimes? After a particularly grim life-or-death struggle, perhaps? Just to lighten things up a bit.

I started off my writing career writing law books for adults. Yeah, I know. Yawn. But I was a lawyer, and it seemed the obvious thing to do. And it was satisfying, in a geeky sort of way. Deep down, however, I had a craving. To write something different. Something I could share with kids. Something fun. Something… Greek?

I tried writing a children’s adventure story based on Greek mythology. I wasn’t trying to be funny, not at first. It just happened. I re-read my first few chapters and chuckled. I’ve always found it amusing when people take themselves – or anything, for that matter – too seriously. Life’s too short, right? So I started looking for the humorous side of mythology. I didn’t have to look far! Most mythical heroes have flaws which, if taken to the extreme, are hilarious. The idea for the Hopeless Heroes series evolved, and I had so much fun writing it.

It’s been great working with Sweet Cherry Publishing. They’re such a talented team and their suggestions for improvement are spot on. It’s exciting seeing them bring Tim Baker, Zoe and all the other characters to life. I simply love the illustrations. Nick Roberts is so clever in the way he makes the mythical figures look like the drawings on Greek vases.

When I was a kid, I was a serial bookworm (I still am). As blue-collar immigrants, my parents didn’t have much money to spare. They never said no when I asked for a book, though. They valued knowledge and education very highly. It means a lot to me that my first kids’ fiction series is honouring their memory and their culture. While still having a giggle, of course!

Hopeless Heroes is published by Sweet Cherry. You can follow Stella @StellaTarakson and Sweet Cherry at @SweetCherryPub on twitter and instagram. Visit their Facebook here and website here.