Monday, February 1, 2016

Interview with Effie Kammenou, author of 'Evanthia's Gift'





Effie Kammenou is a first generation Greek-American who lives on Long Island with her husband and two daughters. When she’s not writing, or posting recipes on her food blog, cheffieskitchen.wordpress.com, you can find her cooking for her family and friends.

Her debut novel, EVANTHIA’S GIFT, is a women’s fiction multigenerational love story and family saga, influenced by her Greek heritage, and the many real life accounts that have been passed down. She continues to pick her father’s brain for stories of his family’s life in Lesvos, Greece, and their journey to America. Her recent interview with him was published in a nationally circulated magazine.

As an avid cook and baker, a skill she learned from watching her Athenian mother, she incorporated traditional Greek family recipes throughout the book.  

She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Theater Arts from Hofstra University.

For updates on the release of Book Two of The Gift Saga 
Follow Effie on Twitter @EffieKammenou, 
Contact Effie at effiekammenou@gmail.com
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About the Book

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. 

Praise for EVANTHIA’S GIFT:
Magnificent 5 Stars
Exceptional, outstanding and award worthy were the first words that popped into my mind after I finished reading this book. A surface description of this story could be easily stated by saying; it’s a 50 year generational Greek family saga that’s filled with multiple love stories, devastating betrayals and heart breaking secrets. That depiction alone would be enough for anyone to be drawn to this book. But the essence of “Evanthia’s Gift” is held within each character created in this masterpiece; that is the true heart and soul of this book. I could feel the struggles within each to come to terms with their past mistakes, recognizing their self-worth, all the while staying steadfast to their beliefs and for some, finding inner peace. I started reading this book late one evening with the intent of reading a few chapters and then going to bed. I found myself incapable of putting the book down… several hours later I was wiping away the tears to get through the last chapter.
This superbly written emotional story comes full circle in the end, which reminds us all just how precious love and family really is.

--Stephanie Lasley, from The Kindle Book Review

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Thanks for this interview, Effie. Can we begin by having you tell us about yourself from a writer’s standpoint?

Evanthia’s Gift is my first novel. Before that, I had contributed articles, reviews, and recipes in a regional magazine. I’ve also been writing a food blog for the last five years, where I not only share recipes, but also stories and traditions.

When not writing, what do you like to do for relaxation and/or fun?

I love to cook and bake. When I get home from my day job, I kick off my high heels and cook a nice meal. I find it relaxing.
I also love to entertain. I do most of my entertaining in the summer, where I can have crowds gathering by the pool in our backyard. But a cozy winter dinner party is nice also.
I also attempt to play tennis with my family. I’m the weak link in that group, but I try. And let’s not forget reading! I always have a book by my bedside, a kindle in my bag and an audiobook playing in the car.

Do you have a day job? Or a night one?

I do have a day job. I have worked in the optical industry for well over thirty years. I actually majored in theatre in college, but somehow ended up making eyeglasses for a living. My night job is writing. I often stay up until 2 am tapping away on the computer.

Would you say it’s been a rocky road for you in regards to getting your book written and published or pretty much smooth sailing?  Can you tell us about your journey?

I wouldn’t say it’s been smooth sailing, but I wouldn’t say it’s been a rocky road either. More than anything it has been the most fascinating time of my life. I learn something new each day about the process, the industry and promotion.
I really went into this knowing nothing. I had a story to tell and I sat down one night and began to write it. Almost three years later, I had the finished product. But it was a huge learning curve. When I wrote the first draft, I thought I was done. Little did I know how many revisions it took to perfect it. Not to mention the help of beta readers, a critique partner and finally, a professional editor.

What is it about the women’s fiction genre that appeals more than any other genre you would choose to write?

Women’s fiction is the genre I read more than any other. I knew that my basic story was a love story, but I wanted it to have substance. With women’s fiction, I was able to combine a love story, a family saga and the real life struggles women encounter. The splashes of history, culture and heritage make it more interesting, as well as relatable to many readers.

If you had to summarize your book in one sentence, what would that be?

 A love story spanning decades - deepened by tradition, heritage, loss, struggle, perseverance and loyalty.

What makes your book stand out from the rest?

The characters in Evanthia’s Gift are well developed, realistic and relatable. The backdrop of the locales in Greece, New York City and Long Island are as important as the characters themselves. The Greek reader will relate on a personal level to the traditions and the situations. The non-Greek reader will feel as though they have become part of the family, and will feel included in their holidays and gatherings. For this reason, I’ve included recipes between some of the chapters so that the reader can enjoy the full experience.

If your book was put in the holiday section of the store, what holiday would that be and why?
Many holidays are mentioned in Evanthia’s Gift, but I would have to say that the predominant one in the story is Greek Orthodox Easter.
There are quit a few chapters that revolve around the preparation for this holiday or a pivotal moment takes place during the Easter season. As a matter of fact, one of the main characters, Anastacia, celebrates her name day or feast day on Easter. The name comes from the Greek work Anastasi, which means resurrection.

Would you consider turning your book into a series or has that already been done?

Evanthia’s Gift is Book One in The Gift Saga. I am currently working on Book Two, which will be different thematically than Evanthia’s Gift. The story continues, but the focus will be on the five lifelong friends in Book One. Although their lives have moved in different directions, they come together to support one another in a time of despair.

Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?

I started writing the novel as a way of working through my grief when I lost my mom. She was an amazing woman of inner strength. She fought pancreatic cancer for two and a half years. Through her surgeries and chemo treatments, she spent time with everyone in the family, soaking up every last minute she had on earth. She was the inspiration for the character of Anastacia.
My mom talked of her childhood in Greece often, and I used what she told me to create a fictional story, but one that was based on true events. Her accounts of WWII, her journey to America, and the history of her family all came into play.
My dad had his own stories, at ninety-three years old, he is still feeding me family history and memories from his childhood.
The story itself just developed as I wrote it, and the basic story I had in my mind, flourished into a story more detailed than I had expected.

What’s next for you?

I’m writing Book Two, and I continue to write my food blog. The Saga is a trilogy, and I might consider writing a companion cookbook to complete the series.