1: What inspired the story? Did you base certain characters after friends or family?
The inspiration to write this story came from a couple of sources, but it was my mother’s passing that put me on the path to writing.
In 2012 my mother passed away after battling pancreatic cancer for two and a half years. I was so busy being the strong older sister, the compassionate mother and aunt, and a supportive daughter to my grieving father. I never really let myself crack. One night I sat at the computer and just started writing. It was my way of working through my grief.
I’d had a story in my head for a long time, one I kept developing over the years. I took that story and combined it with a story inspired by my mother’s life and wrote a saga. The novel is a work of fiction, but there are elements in it that are true. Personality traits, events and circumstances may be recognizable to all that knew my mother, but the story is in no way her biography. There were some difficult chapters where I sobbed every time I wrote, rewrote, or edited them. But I honored her, and our Greek heritage that she was so proud of.
Several characters are loosely based on family and friends. As I mentioned, my mother’s life inspired parts of the story. The character of Anastacia is based on my mother in many ways. They both came to the US for the same reason and were both sweet, loving women. Their love for their family is the same and they both had a sister who was less than honorable. I’d heard stories all my life of my mother’s childhood in Athens, and her experiences during WWII as a child. My father had his own stories growing up in NYC, his tales of how his family came to America and for what reason, and his own experiences as a flyer in WWII. I took all those stories and gave life to several characters.
The second part of the book is Anastacia’s daughter, Sophia’s story, and she lives in my timeline. Sophia grows up in my town, is the same age as me, and has many of the emotions I had growing up. But she has more of my daughter’s personality—focused, smart, levelheaded and talented. Sophia has a group of close girlfriends who play an important role in her life. These girls are based on a combination of people I’ve known, and from them I formed new characters that are not based on any one person.
2: What is your favorite part of the writing process during Evanthia’s Gift?
My favorite part of the writing process was simply getting the story on paper in its raw form. I wrote and wrote. The words and ideas, the emotions and character development seemed to flow through me. It felt so good to get it all out. Then, the hard part came. The rewrites. Perfecting it. Learning how to make it better. But I enjoyed that as well. I’ve enjoyed every aspect of this creative project.
3: Who inspired your writing style/genre?
I don’t think anyone inspired my writing style. I admire many writers, but I wrote from my soul—what I felt in my heart, and I didn’t try to emulate anyone. My tastes in genres and authors have quite a range. I’m as likely to read Jane Austen as I am to read Sylvia Day. Or read East Of Eden once again. Or sink my teeth into a Sookie Stackhouse book. I was a theater major in college and I am partial to Shakespeare and Shaw, Williams and Hellman.
4: Do you have new ideas for book two in the Gift Saga?
I’ve already begun working on Book Two. I’m only in the beginning stages, but I’ve always known the basic plot ideas for both Book Two and Book Three. Sophia’s story will pick up where EVANTHIA’S GIFT left off. Whereas Book One was rooted in Anastacia and Sophia’s families, Book Two will explore the relationships and lives of Sophia’s lifelong friends as they support each other through some unexpected struggles.
However, this does not mean readers will not be seeing the rest of the families they have come to love and care about. They will still be an integral part of the story. The comments I’ve received from readers state that they love the family history and the Greek heritage. In their opinion, it made this book a rich and unique read. It’s been made clear to me that they are hoping for more of this in book two.
5: What are you working on now? Do you have any more book ideas that you plan to write?
I am working on Book Two in the Gift Saga, which remains untitled at this time. I also continue to post recipes and stories on my food blog, cheffieskitchen.wordpress.com. EVANTHIA’S GIFT contains several recipes between some of the chapters. These recipes are all of foods that are mentioned in the book and enrich the experience for the reader. After Book Three is completed, I am strongly considering writing a companion cookbook to go along with the series. This should keep me busy for a while. After that? I have a couple ideas swirling around.
6: Do you have any advice for new writers?
I am still taking all the advice my fellow authors are willing to share with me. But I will say this. I have never met a community of professionals so willing to help each other. Every author I have reached out to has responded, and was more than willing to help and steer me in the right direction.
My advice? Reach out to other authors. They will help you. But the biggest piece of advice I can give anyone looking to publish or self-publish, is not to rush. Take your time and do everything as it should be done. Make sure your manuscript is ready for publication. It took me almost three years to write EVANTHIA’S GIFT. It’s a long book – 548 pages. Get a critique partner and beta readers. Their suggestions will improve your work. When you think you are done, and you think you have tightened your manuscript as much as you can, get a professional editor. And don’t skimp on the cover. Get a professional whose work you admire. That first impression will make a huge difference.