Our guest today is Effie Kammenou, author of the women’s fiction/contemporary romance, Evanthia’s Gift. Effie 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, 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.
Evanthia’s Gift is a love story spanning decades deepened by tradition, heritage, loss, struggle, perseverance and loyalty. 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.
Dorothy Thompson: Thank you for this interview, Effie. Can you tell us a little about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?
Effie Kammenou: I started writing Evanthia’s Gift in 2012, a few months after my mother passed away. Before that, I occasionally contributed to a regional boating magazine, as well as posting recipes and stories on my food blog. I hold a Bachelors Degree in Theatre Arts, but I’ve been working in the optical field for well over thirty years. Writing has brought me back to the world of creativity that I’d missed.
D.T.: Can you tell us briefly what your book is about?
E.K.: Evanthia’s Gift is a saga that follows the lives of two Greek – American families, particularly Anastacia and her daughter, Sophia. Through their struggles and heartbreaks, as well as their triumphs and joys, these two passionate women strive to create the life they’d dreamed of.
A love story spanning decades, Evanthia’s Gift is deepened by tradition and heritage.
D.T.: Why did you choose your particular genre?
E.K.: I didn’t really choose the genre. The story that took life as I wrote, determined the genre. I wrote a story with a character inspired by my mother, and it grew into a saga with several themes that women would relate to.
Women’s fiction, love stories and family sagas are what I mostly read. Evanthia’s Gift is all of these.
D.T.: What was your greatest challenge writing this book?
E.K.: Knowing what to expand on and what to delete was challenging. Deleting was the most difficult. My editor wanted certain sections of the book omitted, and it pained me to part with any of the words. But I had to defer to her experience.
D.T.: Are you published by a traditional house, small press or are you self-published?
E.K.: I am self-published.
D.T.: Was it the right choice for you?
E.K.: That is a good question. I’m not so sure it was a choice. I did query agents with no success. Knowing how many books each agent receives in the course of a month, I wasn’t surprised.
I think most authors want to be picked up by one of the traditional houses, but fortunately, we live at a time when self-publishing is possible. Twenty years ago, it was unheard of.
I’m not sure how I would have felt being told that I had no control over the book and it turned out to be edited in a way I wasn’t happy with. With self-publishing, I could keep my manuscript the way I wanted it. The book is very personal to me, so by self-publishing, I kept control, and for me, that was important.
D.T.: How are you promoting your book thus far?
E.K.: I have been running ads on Amazon, Goodreads, promotional book sites, blogs and Facebook pages. I did a blog tour and I’m currently doing another. I post on my Facebook page, twitter and instagram, and I cross promote my book on my food blog. Between some of the chapters in my book, I’ve included recipes that are mentioned in the story. I’ve added these recipes on my blog along with excerpts from the book. I’ve also done a couple of book signings, and I plan to arrange more in the coming months.
D.T.: How is that going for you?
E.K.: I think it is going well. I’m getting more exposure. People are starting to message me to tell me how much they loved the book. I was at a school volunteering for a reading program last month. I gave the teacher my card, and when she saw the name of the book on it, she told me she downloaded it on her kindle. That was very exciting for me.
D.T.: Can you tell us one thing you have done that actually resulted in one or more sales?
E.K.: I have a niche audience. Because the book is entrenched in Greek heritage and culture, the Greek community has been very receptive to the book. I have connected with people on Greek Facebook groups and they have been my biggest cheerleaders. Not only have they bought the book, but they also have been recommending it to their family and friends.
D.T.: Do you have another job besides writing?
E.K.: Yes, I do. I work in the optical industry at a small private office.
D.T.: If you could give one book promotion tip to new authors, what would that be?
E.K.: I would say to leave no stone unturned. Take every opportunity you can think of to connect with readers. Social media seems to be very powerful in reaching out to thousands.
D.T.: What’s next for you?
E.K.: I am writing Book Two in The Gift Saga. This one is a little different in that it will concentrate on Sophia and her four lifelong friends. Though life has pulled them in different directions, when tragedy strikes, these loyal friends pull together.
D.T.: Thank you for this interview, Effie. Can you tell us where we can find you on the web?
E.K.: Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads,or my food blog.