a few questions for Dorrie Papademetriou...
Why is this your favorite illustration from Sweet Song?
I think my favorite illustration is when Romanos opens the door to the Hagia Sophia. He is so small and the church is so great. To be in that space as the first ray of light appears is truly special.
You have a son named, Roman, did you name him after Saint Romanos?
Yes, my son Roman is named after Saint Romanos. He is also named Roman after the Greek Orthodox Christians of the Eastern Mediterranean. In Byzantium, the Greeks were called “Rum,” or “Romioi.” They are still called Rum today, even though there are very few Greeks remaining.
You lived in Constantinople! What was it like?
Constantinople is an amazing place. It is at the crossroads of East and West, Asia and Europe, so full of history, incredible art and architecture. As the capital in the heart of Byzantium, it is where so many important events in the history of Christianity took place.
What do you most like about drawing and painting?
I love the creative process. I love starting with an idea, and turning it into reality. To create illustrations that are true to a particular time and place, I must do a lot of research. In doing so, there is much discovery! It’s so wonderful to learn about history and culture that is meaningful to me while painting and designing the pages of a book. In this book, even the artifacts, like the key, and the candlesticks, are representative of pieces that you would find in Asia Minor in the 5th century. I love color, design and pattern, all of which are plentiful in Byzantium.
Tell us about the other books you’ve written and illustrated for children?
I have written and illustrated 3 other books for children. The first isCelebrate the Earth, which is based on Psalm 104 and tells how God created everything on this great earth. It encourages us all to take care of the earth that God gave us. The second is The Story of Mary, the Mother of God, which tells the story of the Virgin Mary from the time she was a little girl. The story was inspired from the spectacular 14th century mosaics from the church of Chora in Constantinople. The third is called North Star, St. Herman of Alaska. It tells of a wonderful saint who lived in Alaska and protected and helped the native people through his many miracles. He taught them many things and most of all, he taught them about God’s love.
What do you most like about Sweet Song?
I love the personal connections that I have to the story. My son’s name, the fact that we lived in Constantinople and that I have been to the places where St. Romanos lived. I even climbed on the marble ambo, likely the same ambo that St. Romanos sang from! My husband, Tom, is a professor of Byzantine/Ottoman history. I have many wonderful memories of walking the streets of Constantinople and seeing its magnificent churches. So when I see the images in the book, I can really feel them come alive. Also, Sweet Song is extra special to me because my son, Roman, became the model for the main character in the book.