Hi all and welcome to my stop on Effie Kammenou’s Waiting For Aegina blog tour 🙂
Many thanks to Effie Kammenou and to Kelly @ Love Books Group Tours
Interview with Effie Kammenou…..
For those who don’t know already, could you tell us about yourself and your book(s) please?
To start with, I live in New York with my husband and two daughters. I originally went to university to study theatre, but alas, an Oscar was not in my future. I ended up earning a living in the optical industry and raising a family. Once they’d grown and entered into careers of their own, I craved delving into something creative once again. I thought about going back and taking acting classes, but once I began writing, I knew I had found my new passion.
Waiting For Aegina is the second book in The Gift Saga. The focus changes a bit in this instalment, though. Evanthia’s Gift was a two-part love story and family saga. Anastacia and her daughter, Sophia, were the main characters. Throughout the book we get glimpses of Sophia’s lifelong and most trusted friends. Waiting For Aegina explores the relationship between all five of these girls/women and their individual stories, heartbreaks and triumphs. This is a story of friendship, loyalty and expectations. Teenage ideals are sometimes shattered and other times realized, even if not in the way it was planned.
Where did/do you get your ideas from?
I get my ideas from many sources—family history, personal experience and even dreams. I’m a people watcher and even the smallest, seemingly insignificant moments can be the most inspirational of all. Each year my family and I attend the EPCOT Food and Wine Festival. It’s a crowded park at that time of the year. Actually, it’s always pretty crowded, but during the festival there are lines of people waiting to sample food & alcoholic beverages from kiosks that represent dozens of countries. I was sitting on a bench waiting for my family and I noticed a young couple sampling some of the offerings. It was apparent that the young man was enjoying what he’d just sampled and he brought the wax paper clad pastry up to his girlfriend’s lips. He watched her eagerly, hoping she would enjoy it as much as he did and smiled when her reaction was the same as his. He then sweetly brushed off a flake of pastry from her bottom lip, allowing his finger to linger long enough to caress her mouth before lowering his head to gently kiss her. The whole exchange couldn’t have been more than fifteen seconds but it stayed with me. There was so much love in the young man’s gesture. I could see from that tiny slice of their life that he cared deeply for her and it moved me. I decided I would write a similar sweet moment into one of my stories. (Hint – It’s in Waiting For Aegina)
Are any of your characters based (however loosely) on anyone you know?
Anastacia, Sophia’s mother, who was the main character of part 1 in Evanthia’s Gift, was based on my mother. In Waiting For Aegina, she is significant in some of the flashbacks going back to when the girls were in their teens and through their college years.
Two of the friends are very loosely based on my own childhood friends. I had some thoughts about what I had expected them to do with their lives. One, I was certain, would become a fashion designer. She made many of her own clothing and always had a sketchpad in her hands. The other, I was convinced, would become a prominent politician. Neither of these careers materialized, although they are both successful in their chosen careers. I decided to do a ‘what if,’ and base their characters on what I thought they would become. Career-wise only, though. The personalities and the family lives of the characters are nothing like my real friends.
There are other characters also, who have bits and pieces of people I know and love.
How do you pick your characters’ names?
Some of the names I choose are chosen for a purpose. Anastacia’s favorite holiday is Easter. In all three of the books in The Gift Saga, Easter has a special significance. It is the most important holiday in the Greek Orthodox calendar and the Greeks make a huge celebration of it after the strict fast during the Lenten period. Anastasi is the resurrection service and that is where Anastacia gets her name.
Sophia means wisdom in Greek. Sophia is mature and wise for her age during her teen years. She’s often idealistic, but level-headed, and reels Dean, her love interest, in from his rebellious ways.
The other names were chosen to fit the characters’ personalities or ethnic backgrounds.
Can you share your writing process with us, in a nutshell?
I basically have a story plotted in my head and my mind never seems to rest. I often jot down notes throughout the day. I’ve even been known to pull my car to the side of the road and enter notes in my phone, and I’ve woken up in the middle of the night to do the same. I don’t outline. I simply begin writing and let the story flow organically. I keep an index card for each character as a reference. Once the story is out of my head and on paper (computer actually), I start my rewrites – many, many rewrites. Then I work with a critique partner and beta readers. I learned that recording the chapters also helps me. It’s a great way to pick up errors, pacing awkwardness and dialogue that doesn’t sound quite right. Finally, I put it in the hands of a professional editor, take her suggestions, rewrite again and submit it back for a final copyedit.
Who are your top 5 favourite authors?
Ugh! Just five? Current or classic? I’ll give you both.
Bear in mind that I was a theatre major and much of my reading literature was in the form of plays.
William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, John Steinbeck, George Bernard Shaw
Sylvain Reynard, Deborah Harkness, Colleen Hoover, Adriana Trigiani, Kristin Hannah
If you could meet any author, who would it be and what would you ask them?
That’s a tough one because I would want to meet Sylvain Reynard, however, he guards his privacy and I would never want to see that compromised by anyone. I would love to know more about his educational background. I have my theories, as all his fans do, but it would be interesting to learn more about him. He writes like a master and I want to know where his inspiration and thought process comes from.
Were you a big reader as a child?
Not really, although my parents exposed me to the classics from a young age. I remember my father reading to me every night. Mostly Grimms’ Fairy Tales and Aesop’s Fables. Later, my mother introduced me to Les Miserables, Rebecca, Lady Chatterly’s Lover, and East of Eden. But I never read much for pleasure as a child. It wasn’t until my late teens that I got hooked onto contemporary fiction.
When did you start to write?
My quick answer to that question is 2012, about six months after my mother passed away. But that’s not accurate. I’d been writing a food blog for several years before that, not only sharing recipes but also the stories that went along with the food—a tradition, custom or a memory. Each of the books in The Gift Saga contains recipes that coincide with the storylines. I just couldn’t help myself, and as it turns out, the readers love it! Before I published my first novel, I’d also contributed to a regional magazine, writing restaurant and book reviews and an occasional feature article.
I remember as a young girl in junior high school, writing a play with a friend of mine. It was a memory I’d forgotten about until recently. It seems the passion was simmering below the surfaced the whole time.
If you could re-write the ending to any book what would it be and what would you change?
All these questions I’d never thought about before! I’m a sucker for a happy ending. Jenny doesn’t die in Love Story. She’s miraculously cured, and she and Oliver live to be old and gray together. Or, Scarlett runs after Rhett in Gone With The Wind, and after a lot of grovelling and promising to change and redeem herself to everyone she’s wronged, he takes her back.
Is there a book you wish you had written?
No. When an author writes it comes from the soul. It’s personal and everyone’s perspective is his own. I don’t wish to write what was in someone else’s heart or experience. I do occasionally read a passage and think to myself, ‘Why can’t I express myself as eloquently?’
If you wrote an autobiography, what would your title be?
Living with Keffie. I need to explain that. My name is Effie. Actually, it’s Efthemia, but that’s another story. Kefi is a Greek word that evokes the joy and love of life and a spirit unique to the Greeks. I love life and have a positive attitude. If you put my name together with kefi, you get Keffie.
If you could invite any fictional character for coffee who would it be and where would you take them?
That’s a dangerous question since I really like sensual love stories and I happen to be quite enamoured with a certain professor immortalized by the Canadian bestselling author, Sylvain Reynard in the Gabriel Series. However, Gabriel is now happily married to the lovely Julia, so it would be quite nice to meet with both of them for an espresso in Florence. Afterward, I’d ask the Dante specialist to kindly escort me to view the Botticelli drawings he’s loaned the Uffizi Gallery.
What are you working on right now?
I just finished writing and publishing The Gift Saga, a bittersweet time for me. It’s going to be hard to say goodbye to these characters. I just had the entire saga formed into a box set and book three is now being produced in audio for Audible.
I’m taking a tiny break and spending the summer on promotion and making appearances at book events and book clubs. I already have the next series plotted in my mind and I’m anxious to get started.
Tell us about your last release?
Chasing Petalouthes: Book Three in The Gift Saga was released on June 3, 2018. Petalouthes is the Greek word for butterflies. In this book, I go back to the core families, focusing on the current generation of young people as they go from their turbulent teens and into adulthood. The five friends from Waiting For Aegina are still featured and vital to the story, so you will be seeing more of these women who call themselves ‘The Honey Hill Girls.’ This book has been drawing in a younger demographic as mothers have contacted me to say they have passed to book to their daughters.
All of the books are generational and there is something in each of them that women of all ages can relate to.
Do you have a new release due?
Chasing Petalouthes was recently released, but it is now being produced on audio and should be released by the end of the summer.
What do you generally do to celebrate on publication day?
Nothing really. I’m just happy! But with this last release, we did open a bottle of champagne. I went to the Champagne region in France to do research for a section of Chasing Petalouthes. I came back with bottles that could only be purchased there from small boutique champagne houses. We popped the cork on one of those!
How can readers keep in touch with you?
I am very available and happy to connect with readers. I’m so thankful for all the comments, emails, reviews, messages and photos readers send me of themselves reading my books.
Social media links
Newsletter signup page
Fan contact e-mail
Is there anything else you would like us to know?
Yes. Although The Gift Saga centers around two Greek-American families, you do not have to be Greek in order to understand or enjoy it. I do have a loyal following in the Greek community, but the larger percentage of my readers come from various backgrounds. In essence, this is a love story, a friendship story, a generational story that is relatable to most of us.
I think that’s it! I’m pretty much an open book. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, Effie 🙂
You’re very welcome and thank you for this interview.
It’s a pleasure!
Buy Link: https://amzn.to/2z3CsFl
In 1961, five little girls moved into a suburban neighborhood and became inseparable, lifelong friends. They called themselves the ‘Honey Hill Girls,’ named after the street on which they lived. As teenagers they shared one another’s ambitions and dreams, secrets and heartaches. Now, more than thirty years later, they remain devoted and loyal, supporting each other through triumphs and sorrows.
Evanthia’s Gift follows the life of Sophia Giannakos. In Waiting for Aegina the saga continues from the perspectives of Sophia and her friends as the story drifts back and forth in time, filling in the gaps as the women grow to adulthood.
Naive teenage ideals are later challenged by harsh realities, as each of their lives takes unexpected turns. Now nearing their fiftieth year, Sophia, Demi, Amy, Mindy and Donna stand together through life-altering obstacles while they try to regain the lighthearted optimism of their youth.
Can be read as a standalone. For the full emotional impact on the character’s live and histories, read Evanthia’s Gift.
Effie Kammenou is a believer that it is never too late to chase your dreams, follow your heart or change your career. She is proof of that. At one time, long ago, she’d thought that, by her age, she would have had an Oscar in her hand after a successful career as an actor. Instead, she worked in the optical field for 40 years and is the proud mother of two accomplished young women.
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 interview with him was published in a nationally circulated magazine.
Evanthia’s Gift: Book One in The Gift Saga was a 2016 award finalist in the Readers Favorite Awards in the Women’s Fiction category. Waiting for Aegina is Book Two in The Gift Saga and Chasing Petalouthes is Kammenou’s latest release, completing the series.
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 entertaining family and friends or traveling for ‘research.’
As an avid cook and baker, a skill she learned from watching her Athenian mother, she incorporated traditional Greek family recipes throughout the books.
She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Theater Arts from Hofstra University.