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the expat novelist

I HAVE been caught in the middle of a protest and a riot. I have faced culture clashes, language barriers and have been surrounded by a headlining economic crisis and social unrest. Thanks to Greece, I also discovered a creative side to myself, inspired by the beauty of the country, a beauty that requires living here to be discovered. It all started with a move across the Atlantic. BY MARISSA TEJADA

I had followed my husband from San Francisco to Athens, Greece. A New Yorker, born in Brooklyn, raised on Long Island, I graduated from a college in Upstate New York and then followed my television, journalism and PR career to cities in Washington State, Florida and then California. While I was used to making a new start, I never had to do it in a foreign country.

I quit my job. Left my friends and family and I was set on discovering, understanding and finding the best in the experiences that would come my way. One experience ended up being my marriage, which was falling apart. I had to make the decision whether or not I should stay on in Greece. I wanted to make it work although many factors were influencing me otherwise, including going through a divorce – that was tough.

Tejada, who is a huge fan of travel, in Prague.

Tejada, who is a huge fan of travel, in Prague.

With my old and new support networks, I picked myself up and decided to stay. Divorce or not, I loved my experience living abroad, and could not leave. I continued to find joy in writing. Living in Europe seemed to fit me. I combined my love of travel and reporting skills to pursue travel writing which enabled me to discover the beauty of places and people in a whole new way.

The journalist in me had me mentally keeping note of the experiences and changes that surrounded me. The creative writer within me wanted to express the emotions that came along with that. That was how my move into novel writing came about.

Tejada at a book Reading at Art Links Athens 2014.

Tejada at a book Reading at Art Links Athens 2014. Her novel Chashing Athens reached the top 10 Best Seller Ranked lists on It has also been listed as a Wanderlust Booklust 2014 Best of Expat Books selection.

Living in Greece inspired the idea behind my debut novel, Chasing Athens. It’s a romantic comedy that revolves around a character named Ava Martin, a heartbroken American expat who who uncovers the true importance of place and how it changes you. Chasing Athens is about discovering yourself abroad – unexpectedly. It’s a story about realizing what you want out of life and going for it.

Since my novel came out in last year, I’m proud to say I’ve reached the top 10 Best Seller Ranked lists on Chasing Athens has also been listed as a Wanderlust Booklust 2014 Best of Expat Books selection. Finally, I’ve gotten great reviews from the industry including the Five Star Readers’ Favorite Award.

Tejada kimolos travel

Tejada on Kimolos island, just one of her many destinations she has visited as a travel journalist.

There are a couple of themes from family to friendships and relationships in Chasing Athens, and I found they all affect readers in different ways. I was stopped by one reader who had tears in her eyes talking to me about one scene I wrote. Seeing her emotional brought me to tears. There we were, practically crying in the street. I’ll never forget that moment.

Great reviews have come from those who’ve lived abroad, who love to travel, who love Greece, who adore romantic comedies or contemporary fiction.

The newfound feeling of actually touching people through my writing is humbling and now something I hold dear to my heart. After all, my novel came from my life’s inspirations and future stories will too. They always will.

My journey has lead me to Greece. Because of Greece I learned tough lessons, lessons that were unique experiences. Experiences that made me grow, change, appreciate and discover. It is because of Greece I cannot say I know what the next move is yet or where I’ll be in the future. I know among other things, if I have the inspiration to do what I love whether its travel writing and blogging or writing book number two, I’m doing well.

Originally from New York, Marissa Tejada is author, freelance journalist and travel writer loving expat life in Greece.  She’s also a travel blogger and loves discovering Europe and its diverse history, cultures and languages. Connect with her through Twitter, Facebook and all sorts of social media. Visit her website at: or blog at:

Excerpt from Chasing Athens, by Marissa Tejada

Within a minute, I found myself face-to-face with the Greek police. I raised an eyebrow noticing that they also happened to be three handsome twenty-something rookies, each sporting the typical young Greek masculine look: short, dark brown hair, and scruffy, day-old facial hair. Dressed alike in crisp, navy blue uniforms and black combat boots, they stood up at the sight of us. Two had stopped swinging their koumbolois, a string of rosary- like beads that Greek men carry around, oftentimes clicking and petting out of habit. The third police officer put down his iced coffee, which Greeks called a frappe.
The officers eyed me up and down as the ticket officer caught them up on the story of my transgressions. I yearned to catch some meaning, but the Greek sounded like Greek to me and too fast.
“Mr. Panos say you left your wallet at home,” one officer said in perfectly clear English. Finally, there was someone who spoke my language well. Perhaps, there was hope. “You walk in Greece with no diavatirio.” He cleared his throat before he corrected himself. “Passport?”
“All of my ID cards were in my wallet and I was in a rush,” I said, wide- eyed. “Besides, I’ve been living here for seven months now.”
He looked unimpressed. “Name?”
“Ava Martin.”
“Um, thirty.” I bit my lip wondering why that mattered.
“Really?” He narrowed his eyes at me. In my rush out the door, I threw on a pair of baggy jeans, a green T-shirt, and my blue Converse. I looked like a college student; adults my age usually dressed to impress. But I hadn’t been feeling very adult lately, to be honest. It was clear that this officer thought I was a complete liar. My hopes sank.
“Thirty, yes,” I confirmed.
The officer glanced at his two co-workers who gave him a look I didn’t understand. He composed himself to return his attention to me.
“Married?” he asked quite professionally.
Silly question but it was a common inquiry even among Greek strangers, so why not from a police officer?
“Yes, my husband isn’t in Athens this week.” I resisted the urge to add something about the fact that Greg was never home lately. But I had enough sense to realize that airing my marriage’s dirty laundry probably wasn’t going to make the situation any better.
The officer lifted his dark brows with interest. “He is a Greek?” “No, we’re both American. I’m from New York and I’m here with Greg Brown, my husband.” The officer shot me a glance, his lips pressed flat. Did he not believe me?
Then it came to me. “Oh, I never changed my last name. He’s Brown and I’m Martin, but we’re together…together forever,” I heard myself say in a singsongy voice.
He looked at the bus officer then back at me, his face emotionless. I cupped my hands together in front of me. “He’s in Rome, I think.” My voice began to crack. Why did I have to say his name? Why did I have to talk about us? Maybe, I just gave up too much information. I talked too much sometimes. In any case, Greg and I had hardly talked, Skyped, Facebooked, Vibered, Whatsapped, or even e-mailed for the past two weeks. I wished he could’ve helped me but he wouldn’t have even answered his phone if I had called.
“How we know you say the truth?” The officer’s blunt question jolted me back to reality. “I promise,” I said, realizing that it sounded entirely lame. “I swear. I’m American, and lately, I’m behaving like a total moron.” As if promising and swearing to be an American moron could be a legitimate argument. I flinched. Gosh, I’d put me in jail.


  1. Oh dear…never leave home without your passport in another country…my husband almost was deported to god-knows-where…until Americans walked by and were able to verify his truth. Ahh…Southern Europe…so lovely yet so scary at times. I feel like I have been Chasing Athens all my life.


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