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Michalis Neokleous: From Investigating Crimes to Crafting Alternate Realities
Michalis Neokleous:
From Investigating Crimes to Crafting Alternate Realities
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Daria Saulskaia
Author: Daria Saulskaia
Translation: Daria Saulskaia
Photo: Daria Saulskaia
05.06.2023

Our guest today is obsessed with creating extraordinary worlds and telling spectacular stories. This bright representative of modern Cypriot society, a former police investigator turned sci-fi author, has recently released a thrilling novel that pushes the boundaries of the genre and showcases their remarkable talent for storytelling. Please meet Michalis Neokleous. 

Country of origin: Cyprus (Limassol)

I spent 10 years of my life working as a police investigator, 2 years in Pafos and the rest, almost 8 years, in Limassol. 

The day I had finished the Police Academy I decided that police was over for me and I felt the urge to move on to something better. So I started my studying at UCL, got my degree, and left the police. Now I’m a lawyer, I have my own firm, specializing in criminal law mostly, due to the fact I was investigating in the past.

I was born and raised in Cyprus, in Limassol actually, in Kato Polemidia. It’s a rural area full of people and noise.

I can say my childhood was happy and careless! Life was so simple, it was so easy to create things, and the environment was much safer than it is nowadays. Imagine, we were sleeping with the doors open, we had the neighbors coming into our house taking whatever they wanted, and we did the same. There were no fights, no criminality, and it was so easy to buy something, like, our parents all had properties, yet non of them were rich. It was just easier, one had their job and they had a good life for the family, compared to today it’s unbelievable! 

My first ever writing was very spontaneous, I just took a piece of paper and started, there always were stories I needed to tell. I began my literature journey a while ago, but I have never actually finished a book in the past.  

You know, life doesn’t come as you wish sometimes, you start a book, some other things come over, you just let it on the side, and not feeling inspired to finish, you forget about it. The moment that changed things for me happened in November 2021.  I had surgery on my nose, it was like 4,5 hours operation, and I had to sit at home for 1 month after that. As I had nothing else to do, I commenced writing, deciding this time I will write in English. When G.O.D. was halfway done, I sent it to my brother, who lives and works in London, asking for his opinion about the book. “Go for it why not”, he said, so I finished it, sent it to some publishers,  and got 2 positive replies! I was surprised actually, because before that writing was just for the fun of it. 

Now my freshly published novel can be bought from Olympia Publishers at https://olympiapublishers.com/book/god 

and is also available on Goodreads and Amazon.

“G.O.D.” novel’s events take place in 1986 when one of the worst catastrophes in recent history was catalyzed by something

unexplainable: two infants, origins unknown, both with immeasurable powers. From this happening, Project G.O.D was born: a top-secret laboratory experiment, created to incubate, monitor, and advance the abilities of one of these superhuman beings. Nova, one of the main characters, has just woken up after thirty-five years, and he has a lot to learn - about the world, himself, and those he is connected to. It is the job of the project leader, Dr. Stan, to help Nova assimilate and grow, but as he combats his own demons, could his humanity become his - and Nova's - greatest weakness? The powers at play are creating a dangerous game, but Project G.O.D has only scratched the surface. When the second long-lost infant returns, bringing with him the key to unlocking unimaginable powers and secrets, the game really begins.

I have no idea what inspired G.O.D, because usually, my writing process is more of an improvisation. I just sat there with my PC and it came, the idea of the plot just showed up. Commonly, when I write, I have no concept of how the story would go, one can compare it to reading something for the first time, it just comes along, your characters are born, they develop, and sometimes die when they were not expected to, so you can say I have no plot at all in my mind when I start.

I think my work in the police helped me with my writing in various aspects, as first of all things I did were not only investigating. You know, people often think it’s like in the movies, the detective goes here, there… No! it actually has a lot of epistolary work, and it helped me on mastering the way to put my thoughts and the facts together so that it all would make sense. Also, my second book is a thriller with murders plus some science fiction, and in this case, having the eyes of an investigator on the crimes that happened, and how somebody could have come to that was a great experience. Still, overall I cannot say that police work helped me more. Life is a row of experiences, whichever job you do, as a writer, you’ll want to take some experience out of it, you’ll want to integrate that something into your character, their life, good or bad, what would they do or what would not, you’ll find something! Also, I can not say that 10 years in the police didn’t influence my nature,  you can say it gave me the way I think today,  and, of course, I have some extra attention to the details, as they say, “the Devil is in the details”, and that was my job for many years. 

I believe that superpowers are something that treats all people, something we have the urge to have as children when our imagination is not limited to reality and physical forces. We dream of being this, doing that, and the reason why block basters often deal with this specific thing about superheroes, take Marvel or DC, is because we still have that kid inside us who wants those superpowers. But indeed, who knows the limits of human beings? It is proven that we use only the fracture of our mind, not the full capacity. There were people who were charismatic, extra smart, and supposedly had psychic powers, in the history of humanity, so it seems that something is there, but what is that something? I believe that one-day science will release now blocked parts of our minds or finds a way to get the restriction out of it.  I don’t think it will be as extreme as in my book, but I’m sure we will have capabilities we still don’t know about, like super vision, which is within the normal limits, but much better than yours and mine, for example.

If you compare the contemporary world to the world we had 100 years ago, we’ll be a bit like superhumans too! Just imagine a person coming here from 200 years ago and seeing a bodybuilder, they’ll probably assume that’s not a human at all! With the help of technology we have blind people seeing now and deaf hearing, so why not expect that someday they will start to put microchips in human brains to download our existence? Do you remember Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea & the Mysterious Island? That was fiction 100 years ago, but it’s an easy reality today. I think science fiction is like the mirror of human desire and, as humans, if we desire something and there’s a way to do it, we will do it. Flying cars - I’ve heard they’re willing to release one in 2024, and that was a fiction 50 years ago! It’s a wonderful time we live in when we can see how imaginative fiction becomes reality with the help of science!

If to speak on the writer that influenced me the most, it’s Clive Barker, yet I discovered his books long after I started writing. He is a horror writer, one can say he’s like Stephen King on steroids! 

All my books, finished or not, are in the horror or sci-fi genre, actually, nothing based on the real life as I find reality boring.

You know, sometimes I can not sleep at night because my mind is overloaded with thoughts and ideas, of work, if it’s not work it’s family, if not family, it’s my books! And if not books I’m thinking about the cat I saw in the street the other day, it just does not stop! So I guess I found my way to express everything, it’s like psychotherapy for me.

G.O.D is my first published book and the shortest one, but another one called Deep Acting is gonna be published by Olympia Publishers as well and will be out in June 2023. It’s about an actor who manages to get very deep into the role, inventing a technique, where actually before going to the set to film anything, he lives the life of the character he’s about to play. The first role that brings him the Oskar is about  H.H. Holmes, an American con artist, and serial killer, the subject of more than 50 lawsuits in Chicago alone.  In this technique, the protagonist invented, he gets himself isolated from people, makes research on the character he’s going to act upon, travels to see the places he lived in, and copies his eating and dressing habits. But a weird thing happens on the night after he wins the Oskar. He sees his reflection looking like H.H. Holmes in the mirror talking to him, and that character seems to be so incorporated, he can not get rid of it. One by one new and dangerous characters he plays get incorporated into his personality and starts to control his body whenever he sees a mirror. Later some issues from his childhood come back in his dreams and he’s got a long journey to go to realize that now all this trauma is coming out of him to life in the form of these characters.

I have one book from before which I would like to finish, it’s now in the very beginning. I found it in my archive maybe a week ago, but most of my older writings are lost, I have no idea where they are, the process was so random, and I didn’t actually believe they are worth publishing, I just did it for myself. Yet I hope to have the inspiration and time to revisit this gem. 

Right now I’m focused on some other books. The one which is my favorite is a small book of short stories, called Nicole, which is based on my hairdresser and her life. You know, hairdresser’s is a place, as I understand it, where each of us has to feel good and relaxed because it’s not that easy to allow a stranger to touch your head. There should be a connection between the customer and the hairdresser, some level of trust, and usually, as you go there for some time, you end up talking about your life, and I find that people are much easier to talk to when you’re in the position to control and when you actually touch them. Each character in every short story of this series has their own secrets, they tell Nicole stories that are hard to believe are true. Some have something to do with murders and the paranormal, it’s like a puzzle, which seems irrelevant but will make sense in the very end. Another one I’m writing now, called Carriers, takes place in a parallel universe. There’re gods, demons, and earth, and these gods and demons take their strength from humans. There’s a war between them, and they’re not allowed to breed with humans, but still, as ancient Greek gods, they do. The mothers do not remember it, and when the child is born they have a part of a paradise or hell, and each kingdom sends their soldiers to assasin these kids, capture the power and return it. 

You know, in this industry the economic profit almost does not exist. I don’t have any illusions that it could be my main income, as it’s a very competitive environment, as it’s not a big deal to publish a book nowadays. There’re thousands of writers out there! If some money comes out of it - they’re welcome of course, yet that’s not my goal actually. 

It would be nice, first of all, to become a recognized person, appreciated for what I do. Whoever’s saying they’re doing this to help the public etc is a cheater,  the desire for appreciation is human nature! What I would like to see myself 5 years from now is to have the time as I have the time now to write, and to know that this will be read by people and there’s an audience waiting for my new book to be published. I believe that in each book that I write, I become better, more experienced, and find and fix my previous mistakes, and I have plenty of books in the process that will be out within the next 2 years.

My advice to someone who’s just starting their writer's journey - be persistent! Do finish a book, ask for the honest opinion of someone who’s been honest with you in the past, and strict, like my brother was to me. Go for it, you have nothing to lose! Do not fall into the trap of following what other writers did, every person is different, and every person has their own experiences, and their own way of seeing things, so put your own nature in your book, don’t follow the road that everybody follows. This field is so competitive you have to give something that others can not give, and that’s, basically, yourself.

I have recently moved to Pissouri village and find it a very charming place! The older I become, the more I don’t need a place crowded with people and crave peace and quietness, and Pissouri is so isolated. Unfortunately, Limassol the way it’s made now, is like Monaco, too overpriced, 5 % of residents of Limassol are millionaires, and the rest 95% have to adjust to that. Also, especially in the last 10-15 years because of migration, it started to feel more like a big city, where people do not talk to each other anymore, lost in their thoughts and daily routine. Compared to that Pissouri is so different! People are friendlier here than in Limassol, more relaxed, and easier to talk to. We go for a walk and people we don’t know to talk to us, that’s something I really like and I didn’t expect to find in Cyprus anymore. It seems that it’s one of the most convenient villages for many reasons, I think it’s underappreciated by people, that’s why it’s not too inhabited, but I don’t have any complaints about that! 

I go to the gym to relax, spending there around 1 hour every day. When I was younger I was obsessed with these 2 or 3 hours a day, but now I just go there to get some stress out.  I enjoy walking with my dog in the Pissouri forest, playing with my cat while chilling on the couch, and spending time with my kids of course, they are 8 and 9 years old.

For me, Cyprus is not only beaches. Maybe because I was born here and I consider it granted, I prefer other areas. If you’re a tourist or someone who just moved here, I would suggest renting a car and going up to Troodos, passing Trimiklini, Silikou, Lofou, some wine villages there, you’ll find friendly people and plenty of fresh verdure all around. Trooditissa monastery is a must. Troodos itself, as I see it, has nothing to offer actually, as it’s a very tourist area now, yet the landscape is spectacular. And if you wanna go to the beach and visit someplace that is worth the trouble, it’s Agia Napa, Cavo Greko area, the water is great there and the prices are like a half price from what we have in Limassol. And don’t hesitate to visit Pissouri! 

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