Interview with Nick Katsoris: Author and Founder of Loukoumi Books

Nick Katsoris photo courtesy of Jillian Nelson

Mr. Nick Katsoris, acclaimed author and founder of Loukoumi Books, opens up about his Greek heritage, his educational background, as well as his inspirations for writing his children’s books in the Loukoumi book series; moreover, he offers advice for the Greek-American youth who wish to get their big break in book publishing, and shares his thoughts about the Greek-American community.

According to Mr. Nick Katsoris, “I am a second generation Greek-American. It was very important for us to grow up as Greek-Americans. I speak Greek and grew up with a lot of the Greek customs and Greek dancing and I enjoy celebrating the holidays with all the Greek traditions. I’ve been to Greece about eight or nine times. I have two young children with my wife and we instill the Greek culture and traditions with them as well. My daughter is two, and my son is six and he’s learning how to speak Greek. We took both of our kids to Greece this past summer.  Continuing our Greek traditions and values is a very important part of our lives.”

“I am an attorney by day. I graduated from Fordham University and Fordham Law School. I am the General Counsel of the Red Apple Group in New York, but I’ve always had a passion for writing, and that’s why I write these children’s books for charities.”

On his biggest influences in life, Katsoris remarks “I’ve always been influenced by Fox news anchor Ernie Anastos. Ernie is the godfather of my daughter. When I first met Ernie it was over twenty years ago when I was the editor of my college newspaper. I interviewed Ernie for the paper, when he was working for Eyewitness News. He answered every question perfectly and at the end of the interview we had to take a picture of him, but we were unable to. The photographer that came to the interview with me could not figure out how to use the camera and neither did I. What I respected the most is that Ernie asked us to come back the next day, which was Super Tuesday of the 1988 Presidential Election, when Michael Dukakis was running. He invited us to come back on one of the busiest days of the year, and took time from his hectic schedule to pose for a picture for our article. That’s something that left an impact on me; how someone in his position was kind enough to give the respect to us young reporters.”

In addition to Ernie Anastos, Katsoris states “when I first got out of college I worked as a law clerk for judge Nick Tsoucalas, who was a major influence on me. He taught me to be good to others and to respect other people. My parents were influences too. Lastly, John and Margo Catsimatidis. I am the General Counsel for John Catsimatidis’ company. They had faith in me at a young age to help start the Hellenic Times Scholarship Fund with them. Now we have celebrated the 20th Anniversary of the Hellenic Times Scholarship Fund with a Gala that took place last month, and encourage the next generation of students, to be an influence in their lives.”

“I’ve always liked to write from a young age. One day I was in the kitchen with my wife and somebody had brought us a box of loukoumi candy. I asked my wife whether she could hand me the box of loukoumi, loukoumi. I accidentally called her ‘loukoumi,’ and we looked at each other, and thought that it was would make a cute name for a children’s book character. I just kept that thought in the back of my mind and I started jotting some notes down. Then, five or six years later, when our son was born, I realized that it was something I wanted to do not only for myself, but for my son as well.  The first book is a story about a Greek lamb who goes to Greece on a summer vacation, like so many of us have done, and Loukoumi gets lost at the airport coming home back to America. She goes to Morocco, Italy and France and sooner or later her friends help her find the way back home. I always try to have lessons in my books. In this book, the lesson was to never wander off alone again.”

Katsoris states “I got so caught up with the Loukoumi book series. I love interacting with the children and I wanted to do something more. The second book I decided to have narrated on CD. I was so fortunate to meet some wonderful people through the Scholarship Fund and asked if they were interested in narrating the voices of my characters in the book. In the second book called ‘Growing up with Loukoumi,’ we had Academy-Award winning actress Olympia Dukakis be the voice of Marika the monkey, and Grammy-winning singer Gloria Gaynor be the voice of Fistiki the cat, and Alexis Christoforous from CBS News be the voice of ‘Loukoumi,’ Constantine Maroulis from American Idol be the voice of the Gus the Bear, and Frank Dicopoulos, veteran actor of Guiding Light, be the voice of Dean the Dog. Then with the following two books, ‘Loukoumi’s Good Deeds’ and ‘Loukoumi’s Gift,’ Jennifer Aniston and her father John Aniston joined the cast, which was amazing!”

On having all of these distinguished celebrities narrate his Loukoumi books, Katsoris remarks “it was a dream come true. The book ‘Growing up with Loukoumi’ is about teaching kids to believe in themselves, and when they do, their dreams will come true. This was my dream come true to have these people bring my stories to life. The main narrator in that book is Olympia Dukakis. To hear her voice making my words come to life was unforgettable. I got a chill when I first heard it. The fact that she and the rest of  the cast would take a chance to do this for me meant a great deal. We did it to raise money for the ‘Make a Wish Foundation,’ and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. It was an incredible experience.”

 On balancing fatherhood with a full-time job, Katsoris remarks “it is not easy. You do not sleep that much, but you make the best of it. I spend as much time as I can with my family because they are the most important people to me. In some respects doing these children’s books are for them. It’s great to see the stories and the lessons through their eyes as well.”

Katsoris’ future plans include “working on the fifth book in the Loukoumi series which will be out right before the holidays of 2011. It will be part Loukoumi storybook and part cookbook and will feature many other celebrities, Greek and non-Greek, who will be participating, so I’m very excited about that. I am still a practicing attorney which I enjoy very much. I am President and Chairman of the Hellenic Times Scholarship Fund, which I founded with John and Margot Catsimatidis.

Katsoris further adds that in the summer he enjoys visiting Greece. “There is not a more relaxing or more therapeutic vacation than visiting the Greek islands. They are something that I love. What is also wonderful is that the Loukoumi books are being translated in Greek. The first book is already translated and the second book is going to be translated, and we have a CD narration done by Anna Vissi and her daughter Sofia.”

For Greek-American youth who wish to pursue careers in book publishing, Mr. Katsoris recommends they “work hard and never give up. Do not let anybody tell you that you cannot do something. If they do, that should make you want to work twice as hard. It is very easy to give up. If you continue and you believe in yourself and you keep working at it, and with a little luck, you will get there. If it’s something that you want, you should never give up on your dream!”

“As I continue to write these books, I realize that this is really something I was always meant to do. These books are more than just children’s books. They all carry a message in them. Whether it’s to follow their dreams or believing in themselves, you can teach kids that they can make a difference in other people’s lives, even by doing the littlest things,” Katsoris adds.

Mr. Katsoris concludes, “the Greek-American community is a very close and tight knit group. One thing that I’ve noticed over the last twenty years through the Scholarship Fund is that twenty years ago I found the Greek-American community a much more vibrant landscape. Now unfortunately, I see the generations are becoming more diluted as time goes on. Keeping the Greek-American community together is more important and more valuable than ever. We need to preserve the Greek-American community in this country through newspapers, language, scholarships funds, and Greek events because we do not want it to disappear. If we do not take a stand and try to unite it, twenty or thirty years from now it’s going to be even more diluted.  That is why we need to preserve our culture so that it can be enjoyed and appreciated by generations of Greek-Americans to come.”