Evanthia’s Gift by Effie Kammenou

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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.

Interview with Effie:

1. What made you decide to become an author?

There is no simple answer o the question as to why I decided to become an author. Let me start by revealing that I am a very young fifty-eight year old woman. I attended Hofstra University and graduated with a Degree in Theater Arts. In many of my classes we analyzed plays line by line, or were assigned to write our own original dialogue. Years later, I wrote a few children’s plays for the church Christmas pageants, and another for my daughter’s elementary school class.

My day job over the last thirty-five years has not been in a creative field, but I’ve always found a way to fill that void. Either by working on the children’s plays, getting involved in some type of craft or by cooking and baking. Without realizing it, I ended up running a small side business, making decorative cookie favors for special occasions. I made them for my daughter’s class, and before I knew it, people were ordering them from me.
I started writing a food blog a few years ago, sharing not only my recipes, but also the traditions behind the food. Most of the recipes were handed down from my grandmother to my mother and now to me.

When my mother got terminally ill with pancreatic cancer, the memories of growing up with the foods from our Greek heritage became even more important to preserve, as well as the recipes she now entrusted in my hands.

I’d always had a story in my head. I would sometimes daydream, and being the actress that I was, create scenes in my head, and develop characters. I thought that someday I might write it all down, but I wasn’t sure where to start. Then my mother passed away. I started to write in order to work through my grief. I came up with a character that was inspired by her. It was a way for me to honor her, and the heritage she cherished. I combined the story that I’d developed over the years with the one I created inspired by my mother. The result was a beautiful love story and family saga.

2. What is your favorite genre to write about and why?

My favorite genre to write about is women’s fiction/romance. Not the sappy fluff romance, but the genre where you really understand the characters. I like to learn something new when I read. A new culture, or religion. An industry I had no experience with. Maybe an understanding of a mental or physical affliction. Evanthia’s Gift is rooted in Greek heritage and history. To understand these characters, you must understand their customs and the struggle their people endured in their homeland. But ultimately, it’s what I love most – a love story.

3. Tell us what books you enjoy reading and why?

My tastes in books are very eclectic. I am just as likely to read East of Eden or any Jane Austen novel (I’ve read Pride and Prejudice many times), as I am to read Twilight or an erotic fiction. I love trilogies, mainly because I hate the idea of giving up my book friends. Nora Roberts and Jude Deveraux are masters at the love story trilogy. But I must say Sylvain Reynard has captured my attention to the point of obsession. His use of language, his knowledge of art and literature and his sense of romance are unsurpassed. The latest book I’ve read is darker, sadder, and in no way a love story. The Goldfinch took me on an unexpected journey.

4. What are your favorite foods, color, activities and places?

My favorite food is something most people will not be familiar with. It’s an aged and spiced, thinly sliced meat called bastruma. I mainly buy it at the holidays at the Greek grocery store. I am a cheesaholic. I always say, “Give me cheese and bastruma and I could live on those two things for the rest of my life.”

My favorite color depends on what I’m using the color for. I love to wear white. Several of my friends have made fun of me, commenting that my whole closet has nothing but white clothing for the summer. The walls in my home are mostly sage green. If I had a summer home I would decorate it in Caribbean blue and white.

I love to dance. I met my husband at a disco back in the 70’s. He asked me to dance. We still do the hustle on occasion. My children were competitive dancers in contemporary and jazz, and I loved watching them on stage. I miss that. They also played tennis in college. Our whole family plays. I try to play, that is. I cannot live up to the standard and skill of the rest of my family. But it is the only sport I watch and the only one I attempt to play. I also like to swim.

In the summer, I spend a good part of the time on the East End of Long Island. I live relatively close to the Hamptons, and I enjoy going to lunch and shopping there with my daughters. There are over fifty wineries on the East End, mostly on the North Fork, and each year I explore new ones. I write feature article and restaurant reviews for Boating Times Long Island Magazine, so I am always on the lookout for the next great place to dine. My other favorite place is, don’t laugh, Disneyworld. Our family visits Disney like other people travel to the next town. We have annual passes, and quite honestly, the plane ride takes the same amount of time as my husband’s commute into NYC. The EPCOT Food and wine Festival is one of our favorite events to attend.

5. What inspires you to write?

As I mentioned, my mother’s death inspired me to write Evanthia’s Gift. When you read it, you will understand whom she was. Although the book is not her biography, the essence of her shines through – her love, her strength and her determination.

My need to be creative inspires me to write. Whether I’m cooking, acting, or writing, I crave the creative process, and the ability to express myself.

6. What would you like your readers to remember about you?

I would like people to remember that I have a deep soul and that I feel emotions strongly. I want to be remembered as a kind person, who was always willing to help people as much as they have reached out and helped me. I want to be remembered as a good mother, daughter, sister and friend. And of course, I would like for them to think, she wrote that book that I can’t get out of my head.

7. If you could give me one piece of advice, what would it be?

Just one piece of advice? That’s a tough one. I’ve leaned so much in the last three years during this process. Let’s see…Maybe, when you get down on yourself and think all this work and nothing will come of it. That no one will like it, and what am I putting myself through this for….When you say that to yourself, remember that you are doing it for your satisfaction. That you finished it and gave it your full effort. You did something meaningful, something that enhanced and possibly transformed your life. And sometimes that’s all you need.

Visit Effie here:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/effiekammenou
Twitter: https://twitter.com/EffieKammenou
Effie’s Food Blog: https://cheffieskitchen.wordpress.com/

You can buy Evanthia’s Gift here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0692471839/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_CwX3vb1KS8FQ3