Thank you, Katrina for taking the time out to interview me. I live on Long Island, NY with my husband and daughters. Originally, many years ago, I studied theatre in college, but I abandoned my dreams of being an actor. I ended up doing something vastly different—working in the optical industry. When I turned fifty, I decided that I would do something that defined me and drew me back into a creative world. I wasn’t sure what that was going to be. It took a few years to figure it out, but once I began writing Evanthia’s Gift I knew I would never stop writing.
What inspired you to create Evanthia’s Gift and Waiting for Aegina?
My mother passed away in 2012 and I needed an outlet for my grief. My mother was an incredible woman who had a great capacity for love—especially where her family was concerned. I developed a fictional character based on her many wonderful attributes. It was my way of honoring her memory and sharing some of her experiences as well as her culture and heritage.
Waiting For Aegina is the continuation of the saga but the focus is completely different. The inspiration for that storyline came from the many friendships I’ve shared, both old and new. It’s about the bond that keeps women together from the carefree days of childhood to the more challenging years as they go through adulthood.
What is your writing routine? Are you a pantster or planner?
I’m a daydreamer! Many of my storylines come to me when my mind drifts off. I don’t outline, but I do keep a timeline of each character’s life as I go along. I usually have a basic idea where I want to go with a plot and how I’d like it to end, but the details come to me as I write.
Did you have a favourite place you like to write, while you were creating your novel?
I write in my computer room at home. Usually, I stay up very late into the night since I have a day job. Plus, I like to write when the house is quiet. In my fantasy, the ideal place for me to write would be at a little house by the water on a Greek island, with absolutely no distractions.
Describe what your Muse looks like to you in three words.
Elegant, classy, feminine.
What part of writing your novel did you most enjoy? E.g. First draft, research, editing…
There was a sense of satisfaction when I finished the first draft. Getting the entire story out of my head and in writing felt wonderful. I equally enjoyed refining it, making it more descriptive and adding interesting elements to the final manuscript that wasn’t there in the first draft.
If you could be one of your characters, which one would you be and why?
The character of Sophia lives in my timeline and grew up in the same town that I grew up in. I like to think of Sophia as a better version of me. She was more mature, levelheaded and driven at a much younger age than I was. In that respect, she is a lot like my daughter. I identify with Sophia because some of our experiences were similar, although what actually happens in the course of our lives does not parallel at all.
Which character did you like writing about the most? Why?
I liked writing all of them. The two antagonists were pure fun to develop. It was interesting to get inside the head of the despicable personalities. Naturally, I loved writing about Anastacia because she was modelled after my mother. But it was two of the men that I enjoyed writing about the most. Oddly enough I thought it would be Dean because he is Sophia’s love interest, but it was Alexandros and Father Vasili who I fell in love with.
Alexandros is Anastacia’s love interest. He would lay down his life for her. He had a tragic youth, but instead of that past making him a bitter man, he had a beautiful, giving heart. Every woman deserves an Alexandros in her life.
Father Vasili is his uncle and the only living relative Alexandros has left. He plays a small role in Evanthia’s Gift, but an important one. It’s clear that he is a good and kind man who had risked his life during the German Occupation to save lives. I use him as a vehicle to inform readers of important past events, but I felt there was so much more to this man’s story. In Waiting For Aegina, the reader gets a glimpse of Vasili’s life before he became a priest. There is also a lovely tie-in to a storyline from Evanthia’s Gift where Father Vasili plays an integral role.
There’s nothing I enjoy more than a good love story—two people discovering their feelings for one another and exploring how they handle it. But love comes in many forms. Romantic love, true friendships, love for family, culture and heritage. Both Evanthia’s Gift & Waiting For Aegina deal with all of these types of loves. I find exploring human relationships interesting.
If you could describe your main character in three words what would they be?
Since the book is split into two parts, I’ll answer for both of the main characters.
Anastacia : Compassionate, strong-willed, elegant
Sophia : Loyal, stubborn, optimistic
What is the darkest thing any of your characters have ever done?
Irini is one of the protagonists. She is actually based on a real person. My editor told me to be careful and not paint a character as all bad or all good. But when I told her some of the things the real person had done she was a bit speechless. Some people truly have no conscience. In Waiting For Aegina, Sophia tells her friend a story that her mother had told her regarding Irini. She’d made a young man fall hopelessly in love with her only to torment him to the point of no return. To make a long story short, she’d driven the young man to suicide.
What is the nicest thing your character has ever done?
Father Vasili and Alexandros’ parents were part of the resistance during World War II. Father Vasili hid children in the crypt below the church until his sister could arrange to have them transported to safety. There is no kinder act that any human being can do than to risk your own life for another.
Does any of your characters have any strong beliefs or fears if so what are they?
The characters in the story have very strong beliefs. Both of the families in the book are Greek Orthodox and follow their faith. It’s important to them to not only carry on their Greek heritage but also to make sure the next generation takes the religion seriously. Naturally, Father Vasili is strong in his faith as a Greek Orthodox priest, but so are Anastacia and Sophia. Dean’s parents Soula and Stavros are also very strong in their faith.
Who are your favourite Authors?
I have several. It depends on if you are asking about contemporary authors or the classic writers. Since I was a theatre major, I studied hundreds of plays from the ancient Greek classics to Chekhov and Eugene O’Neil. I have a soft spot for Shakespeare, though.
In books, I love Austen. I’ve read every one of her books. East of Eden is my absolute favorite classic, so I need to include Steinbeck, although there are novels of his that I am not fond of at all.
The authors I read most often in contemporary literature are Adriana Trigiani, Elin Hilerbrand, Jude Devereaux, Sara Alexi, Kristin Hannah and Sylvain Reynard.
What was the best advice you’ve ever had while writing your novels?
Since Evanthia’s Gift was my first attempt at writing a work of that length I had a huge learning curve. After many drafts and revisions I thought I was ready to publish. No, no, no. I was told to have the manuscript professionally edited. That was the best advice and made all the difference!
What projects are you working on next?
I am working on the third and what should be the last book in the saga.
Do you have any advice for fellow writers who maybe undertaking creating their first novel at this very moment?
Yes, I do. As a matter of fact, recently, a young woman emailed me and asked me for advice. She told me she had a story to tell and she wanted to write a novel, but she didn’t know where to begin. My advice was simple. Get the story out of your head and in writing. Don’t worry if it’s rough, grammatically incorrect or not descriptive enough. Then, after it’s all written down, go back and start at the beginning. Fine-tune it. Keep revising until the story is where you want it. Then get a professional editor to work with you. But first things first….
Any final words you would like to add?
I must say that this has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Knowing that so many readers have enjoyed the books, and have written to me to express how the story touched them, is wonderfully overwhelming.
Thank you Effie for taking time to do this blog interview, it has been a real pleasure to hear about your novel, I wish you well with your novel and all other writing projects you may undertake in the future.
Thank you, Katrina
If you’d like to find out more about Effie Kammenou and her books Evanthia’s Gift and Waiting for Aegina. Check out the links below.
Amazon author page
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