When you visit the town of Agios Nikolaos in July, there is an annual spectacle known locally as Cliff Diving. When lots of fit young men in tight speedos dive off the cliffs into Lake Voulismeni. It is quite a show, especially as it is filmed at night with lights, a big screen, music and dancing. Followed by an extravagant fireworks display.
The lake is one of the most important landmarks of the town, and it has many legends. According to mythology, the goddesses Athena and Artemis refreshed themselves in Lake Voulismeni. The locals thought the lake was bottomless, right up to the 19th century. They believed that it communicated with evil spirits, and linked it to many strange legends and superstitions.
It is said that when the German Army left Crete at the end of World War II, they sank guns and armoured vehicles in the lake, but these disappeared and have never been found. Another strange event took place in 1956, when dead fish suddenly rose to the surface of the lake after an eruption of the Santorini volcano. This led to theories that the lake somehow communicated with Santorini.
The myth that the lake was bottomless was disproved in 1853, when the British Admiral Spratt took soundings and discovered that it was 210 feet (64 m) deep at its centre. Still that is pretty deep to be diving into at night, almost naked, in the dark, from the edge of a craggy, volcanic cliff. With hundreds of people watching you.
So why is writing like cliff diving? When you write a book, you are diving headlong into the unknown. You are exposed, naked and vulnerable. It feels like everyone is watching you… and maybe some people are willing you to fail. You don’t know if you will make a graceful splash when you land – or sink without trace. Or make a giant fool of yourself and have everyone laugh at you. Whatever happens, you know you have to do this thing, it is in your blood. You just hope that you come out alive at the end…