Hi, I have the pleasure of welcoming Effie Kammenou to Chat About Books today 🙂
For those who don’t know already, could you tell us about yourself and your book(s) please?
Evanthia’s Gift is a multigenerational love story and family saga. The story begins in 1956 and continues through the 1990s. I split the book into two parts, and by doing so, the reader not only experiences life through the mind of Anastacia and her daughter, Sophia individually, they also move through time with the characters during decades that were ever-changing in lifestyle and tone.
Where did/do you get your ideas from?
I’ve always been a people watcher. I think it must have been somehow linked to my training as a drama major in college. I can develop a character or a storyline from observing nuances and brief exchanges.
For Evanthia’s Gift it was far more personal, though. When my mother passed away from pancreatic cancer, I needed an outlet for my grief. Writing this story was a way to honor my mother’s beautiful spirit and our heritage, which she was so proud of.
Are any of your characters based (however loosely) on anyone you know?
Many of the characters are based on people I know. Anastacia is based loosely on my mother. They both leave Athens to come and study at NYU, get married and stay in the States. I have to remind readers who know my family that the similarity in the plot begins and ends there. Anastacia finds her husband in bed with another woman and divorces him. That was not the case in reality, yet people ask me about it as if it were. However, what is true and portrayed throughout the story is my mother’s strong will, affection for her family and her grace.
People I’m acquainted with have inspired many of the characters in this book. My own personality traits, habits or interests also came through in several characters.
The most common question I’m asked about a character, other than if Alexandros and Dean are based on real men, is about Irini. She is the antagonist in the story and often, readers assume she’s been created as an extreme personality to spice up the story. The truth is that she is real. I actually had to tone her down a bit to make her believable.
Readers will get a better sense of how much evil she’s capable of in the second book in the saga, Waiting For Aegina.
How do you pick your characters names?
Most of the characters in my books are Greek, so I chose ones that were definitively Greek. There were various reasons for the different names I chose. Some were random. Some names sounded pleasant to the ear and others had special meaning for the character. Anastacia was chosen because Easter was her favorite holiday and quite a few chapters revolve around this religious period. Her name comes from the Greek word Anastasi, which means resurrection. Alexandros was my grandfather’s name. It was a way to remember him, and it happens to be one of my favorite masculine names. Sophia means wisdom in Greek. I thought it was fitting for this young girl. She was idealistic and in love, yet levelheaded, mature and sensible. Dean is a nickname for Konstantinos. Dean has so many names in this book – Konstantinos, Kostas, Dean, and Dino. In a sense all his name changes represented the turmoil in his head and the struggle he had with his heritage.
Can you share your writing process with us, in a nutshell?
I basically have a story in my head and my mind never seems to rest. I often jot down notes throughout the day. I’ve even pulled my car to the side of the road to enter notes in my phone, and I’ve woken up in the middle of the night to do the same. I don’t outline. I simply begin writing. I keep an index card for each character for reference. Once the story is out of my head and on paper (computer actually), I start my rewrites – many, many rewrites. Then I work with a critique partner, beta readers and finally a professional editor.
Who are your top 5 favourite authors?
You ask tough questions. Classic or contemporary?
Classic – Jane Austen, John Steinbeck, William Shakespeare, George Bernard Shaw, Victor Hugo
Contemporary – Sylvain Reynard, Adriana Trigiani, Deborah Harkness, Kristin
Hannah, Colleen Hoover
If you could meet any author, who would it be and what would you ask them?
I don’t know. I never thought about it. Maybe Sophocles? It’s quite a bizarre story he came up with in the Oedipus Plays.
Were you a big reader as a child?
I was not a big reader as a child, which was odd because my mother was. She loved the classics and was the one who exposed me to them. My appreciation for reading didn’t come until I was in my teens. I had a good friend growing up who lived next door and she loved to read. She was a good influence on me and recommended books she knew I’d like.
When did you start to write?
My quick answer to that question is 2012, about six months after my mother passed away. But that’s not accurate. I’d been writing a food blog for several years before that. But I didn’t simply share recipes because food is so much more to me than that. I wrote about a tradition, story or memory that went along with the food. Each of the books in The Gift Saga contains recipes that coincide with the storylines. I just couldn’t help myself, and as it turns out, readers love it! Before I published my first novel, I’d also contributed to a regional magazine, writing restaurant and book reviews and an occasional feature article.
I remember as a young girl in junior high school, writing a play with a friend of mine. It was a memory I’d forgotten until recently. Maybe the passion was there all the time.
If you could re-write the ending to any book what would it be and what would you change?
All these questions I never though about! I’m a sucker for a happy ending. Jenny doesn’t die in Love Story. She’s miraculously cured and she and Oliver live to be old and gray together. Or, Scarlett runs after Rhett in Gone With The Wind, and after a lot of groveling and promising to change and redeem herself to everyone she’s wronged, he takes her back.
Is there a book you wish you had written?
No. When an author writes it comes from his soul. It’s personal and everyone’s perspective is his own. I don’t wish to write what is in someone else’s heart or experience. I do occasionally read a passage and think to myself, ‘Why can’t I express myself as eloquently?’
If you wrote an autobiography, what would your title be?
Living with Keffie. It’s a play on words. Kefi is the joy of life particular to the Greek spirit. Living with Kefi is to enjoy each day and relish each moment. Anyone who has been to Greece would understand what I mean. I’ve always been a positive person. I smile, laugh, joke and have fun. I enjoy my family, friends, entertaining, dancing and anything that brings joy to my day.
If you could invite any fictional character for coffee who would it be and where would you take them?
That’s a dangerous question since I really like sensual love stories and I happen to be quite enamored with a certain professor immortalized by the Canadian bestselling author, Sylvain Reynard In the Gabriel Series. However, Gabriel is now a happily married man to the lovely Julia, so it would be quite nice to meet with both of them for an espresso in Florence. Afterward, I’d ask the Dante specialist to kindly escort me to view the Botticelli drawings he’s loaned the Uffizi Gallery.
What are you working on right now?
I am working on book three in The Gift Saga. This will conclude the series. I’m hoping for a summer release for this currently untitled book. I’m anxious to begin the new project I have in mind, but I’m sad to say goodbye to these characters who have become an extension of me.
Tell us about your last release?
Waiting for Aegina is book two in The Gift Saga. Evanthia’s Gift focuses on the core families and their love stories, but Waiting for Aegina touches on different themes. Life’s expectations verses reality for five young women is the center of the story, but the heart and soul is the friendship and loyalty they share. Sophia is the character in the forefront of the action along with the four close friends readers met in Evanthia’s Gift.
Do you have a new release due?
I’m hoping for a June release date. But if it takes longer, then so be it. I want to give my readers a conclusion to this saga they’ll remember.
What do you generally do to celebrate on publication day?
Nothing, really. I’m pretty low-key about this, which is surprising because I make a big deal of everything. At least when it comes to my daughters I do!
How can readers keep in touch with you?
I’m very easy to contact and I enjoy engaging with my readers. I can be contacted through social media or email.
Food blog https://cheffieskitchen.wordpress.com
Fan contact e-mail email@example.com
Newsletter signup page http://eepurl.com/bIoJl1
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, Effie 🙂
Thank you for this interview!
Many thanks to Kelly Lacey for arranging the interview and for the opportunity to join in with Effie’s blog tour!
This Greek American family saga follows a multigenerational story of love, loyalty, and culture. An emotional novel about family bonds and the difficult pull between home and heritage.
In the year 1956, Anastacia Fotopoulos finds herself pregnant and betrayed, fleeing from a bad marriage. With the love and support of her dear friends Stavros and Soula Papadakis, Ana is able to face the challenges of single motherhood. Left with emotional wounds, she resists her growing affection for Alexandros Giannakos, an old acquaintance. But his persistence and unconditional love for Ana and her child is eventually rewarded and his love is returned. In a misguided, but well-intentioned effort to protect the ones they love, both Ana and Alex keep secrets – ones that could threaten the delicate balance of their family.
The story continues in the 1970’s as Dean and Demi Papadakis, and Sophia Giannakos attempt to negotiate between two cultures. Now Greek-American teenagers, Sophia and Dean,
who have shared a special connection since childhood, become lovers. Sophia is shattered when Dean rebels against the pressure his father places on him to uphold his Greek heritage and hides his feelings for her. When he pulls away from his family, culture and ultimately his love for her, Sophia is left with no choice but to find a life different from the one she’d hoped for.
EVANTHIA’S GIFT is a multigenerational love story spanning fifty years and crossing two continents, chronicling the lives that unify two families.
Check out the rest of the blog tour for reviews, and more, with these awesome book bloggers…..