A Bookish Conversation 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:

Title: Evanthia’s Gift
Author: Effie Kammenou
Pages: 548
Genre: Women’s Fiction/Contemporary Romance


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. 

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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Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life!  Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process.  Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning?  Where did you come up with the idea to write your book?

The idea 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 the first place.

In 2012 my mother passed away after battling pancreatic cancer for two and a half years. Attempting to be the strong older sister, a compassionate mother and aunt, and a supportive daughter to my grieving father, I never really let myself crack. One night I sat down 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 began to write a story inspired by my mother’s life and turned it into a saga when I combined it with my original plotline.

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 recollections growing up in NYC, his tales of how his family came to America and for what reason, plus his own experiences as a flyer in WWII. I took all those stories and gave life to several characters.
Although the story is fictional, pulling from true stories was my inspiration, as well as a legion of emotions running through me. There were some vey difficult chapters where I sobbed every time I wrote, revised, or edited them. But I honored my mother, and our Greek heritage that she was so proud of.

Q: How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?

Writing the actual story was not difficult at all. It seemed to flow out of me. I had a basic plotline, but I remember thinking to myself that I would never get a full book out of it. Five hundred-forty eight pages later, I not only had a nice little romance, but also a family saga with substance.

As a writer, I had so much to learn. I wrote the story and thought I was finished. I told the story I wanted to and it was all down in black and white. I started submitting to agents. Was I ever naive! Little did I know that I had many revisions to go before the story was told properly.

I found beta readers to give me feedback, as well as a critique partner. I connected with other authors, who were all generous with their advice. And after may rewrites, I hired a professional editor, and that made a world of difference. It was a long process, but it took patience and perseverance.

Q: Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?

I self-published Evanthia’s Gift. I tried to get an agent, but other than being an unknown in the publishing world, I had other strikes against me. My book is long—much longer than any agent or publisher would take a chance on with an unknown author. I was advised to split the book into two books. I believed in the story the way it was, and although the book is written in two parts, I don’t believe the book could be split and make the same impact. Part one supports part two and the whole story comes full circle in the end.

I’d known other authors who self-published successfully, so why not me? And how does one measure success? For me, completing it, being happy with the final product, and seeing it in print meant success. I feel a great sense of accomplishment when readers contact me to tell me how much they loved the book, and that they related to one or more characters. The positive feedback is my reward.

Q: Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?

Yes. How much I had to learn! The steps to get the work published, and then getting it noticed by the women’s fiction loving population, was more work than writing the book. I had never even heard of a blog tour before I published Evanthia’s Gift.

Q: What other books (if any) are you working on and when will they be published?

Evanthia’s Gift is the first book in a trilogy. I am currently working on Book Two in The Gift Saga. I would like to aim for the fall to publish the second one, but if the process takes longer, so be it. I will not rush to get the book on the market before it is exactly where I want it to be. I love the characters too much not to give them a continuing story, which is true to who they are.

Q: What’s your favorite place to hang out online?

I joined a Greek facebook group over a year ago. I came upon it accidently, and through it I’ve met many wonderful people from around the world. The Group is named Greeklish, and the members are all of Greek heritage who can converse in English. On any given day I can speak to Greeks all over the US and Canada, as well as the UK, Australia, Germany, and Greece. It’s been quite an amazing experience to compare stories and traditions with other Greeks who live all over the globe.

Q: What’s your nightly ritual before retiring for the night?

I write mostly at night because I have a day job. I’m a night owl and I often stay up until two in the morning, writing. I get so energized that I can’t possible go to sleep, so I sit on the couch and watch a little television. That puts me to sleep, and I wake up a couple of hours later and drag myself to bed. My neighbors think I’m a vampire because my lights are on all night and they ask if I ever sleep at all.

Q: Finally, what message (if any) are you trying to get across with your book?

There are so many messages in the saga, including the importance of tradition and the love for where you come from. Family dynamics and how parents must toe the line between what they want for their children and what their children want for themselves is another theme. In the subplots, there are messages of morality, humanity, and the ability to distinguish right from wrong. Ultimately, the message is of love, in every context of the word.
Q: Thank you again for this interview!  Do you have any final words?

It was my pleasure. Yes. The Greek community has embraced Evanthia’s Gift, and I am so grateful for that, and elated that I was able to share our heritage with those who know little about us. But this is not a book geared only to the Greek reader. The themes are universal. The Greek history and backdrop simply make the story more interesting.

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