Many tuning in are likely to know Stavros Yiannoukas from his career with Sydney group Bluejuice. A beloved part of our music scene until they parted ways in 2014, the next creative venture had already begun for Stav. That venture was not in music, but as an author.
Meet Elliot Foxley – the title character of Stav’s debut children’s book of the same name. As we find out, Foxley’s creation ties in with Stav’s personal life strongly and the way the character has developed since 2009 has been a vessel for personal healing as well as being an exciting new creative opportunity to be exploring.
“In 2009 my nephew was born,” he explains, over a coffee in Sydney recently. “His name is Elliot Foxley. I thought he might have sounded like an author, but what eventually came out of me was, ‘Oh, now that’s the name of a little fox and he’ll be the protagonist of this story or this poem that I write for my nephew as the first of a new generation of us’.”
“A month later, my father passed away and that’s where the narrative is driven [from]. It’s a great deal less about my nephew, it’s much more about losing my father which for me, was reaching adulthood. There’s a sort of irony about that; now I feel like my dad never got to see me as an adult. What I realised for myself was me becoming a man.”
The story of Elliot Foxley, a little fox who lost his home, would then come to represent this journey of having to grow up and find your way into a role within your family you might not have thought you were ready for. In Stav’s case, the loss of his father meant that not only was an integral part of his family no longer present, but it was up to his younger generation to carry on. As he explains, Elliot Foxley helped him through the process.
“I needed something good to come from my grief and the things that came from it were this book, some songs, re-establishing a relationship I had with a cousin I hadn’t seen in 20 years.”
“The book is about helping kids, feel emotional intelligence, learning about loss. A fox has lost his home and home isn’t quite the same, which is exactly what happened in my circumstance. He goes on a series of adventures and it’s fun and it’s entertaining, but essentially that’s the through line. He’s lost, he goes home, it’s not quite the same.”
The Story of a Little Fox Who Lost His Home is just the start of the Elliot Foxley journey, as Stav explains. While the first book in the series deals with loss and emotional growth, themes of diversity and acceptance are still very much in the pipeline to be explored.
“The book is all about helping kids build themselves towards independence, towards adulthood, towards the time when they are alone, which is what happened for me. Being ready for that time, for adulthood when you’re not totally alone but you’re pretty much the most senior in the generation or you’re leading it. You’re the one helping your mum do things now because she’s not the one helping you. The roles get reversed.”
“I do want to write a second book that relates to a period where he meets a group of circus cats,” Stav muses. “[He’s] seeing the skills and talents of a variety of others that may not extensively seem as ‘talent’. So there are things that I’ll do that will maybe relate to the story.”
Since the break up of the band, the growth of his own young family and then the passing of his father, Stav admits he found himself at a bit of a crossroads. What never faltered though, was his decision to see this project to full fruition.
“I absolutely had to complete it,” he says of Elliot Foxley. “Otherwise that would have been a failure. That would have been far worse; to have failed at that and not have a sense of solace in its completion. I’m fortunate that my wife was extremely supportive because anyone else would have looked at that and said ‘Okay dude, you’ve gotta stop, you’re spending all this money and time and it’s mental’. She was supportive both creatively and in letting me breathe and get it out.”
“Before my father passed,” he remembers. “The last thing I remember him saying to me – this was before “Broken Leg” came out, so he had seen some growth of the band, some success but he could see that things were bubbling – was ‘Son, you don’t want too much money.’ It really stuck with me because I know he was saying that money is a drug that we’re all addicted to and it’s extremely poisonous at a certain part; it ruins you and it ruins relationships. Obviously I can’t totally escape it, but it’s pervasive in lots of the decisions that I make that are not necessarily financially prudent. I don’t really care to get to the end of my life and know that there’s some big number there. Who cares?”
“I’ll make other decisions that relate to money, but I had to get this out of my body and it’s good for me. The reason I don’t go see a therapist is because I can do this instead.”
In terms of what Elliot Foxley has meant for Stav now, some years on and in seeing his work properly realised with the release of the e-Book online, there’s a certain satisfaction that has come with going through the bad to get to the good again.
“I think mostly what’s occurred was the healing in relation to dad and, possibly even to a lesser degree, in relation to the band and finding out what the hell I’m going to do with my life.” he admits. “I don’t think being an author is going to be my career path, it will be the thing that I do to satisfy a certain part of me. I don’t think music will be my career path but I might do it sometimes to satisfy me.”
“As I said before, the creation of wealth doesn’t interest me a great deal, though I have to be conscious of it and I do make lots of decisions based on that, but I need to make shit and I’m not good with my hands so I can’t make furniture!” he laughs. “Certainly, in coming to understand what appraises a life’s value, I certainly think that an element of that is what you create. What do leave behind you? And that’s important to me.”
Elliot Foxley is available as an enhanced e-Book now. For more information, visit http://elliotfoxley.com.