Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Interview 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,, 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
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About the Book:

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

For More Information

1. Would you share a little bit about yourself with us today?

My debut novel, Evanthia’s Gift, is a women’s fiction multigenerational love story and family saga, influenced by my Greek heritage, and the many real life accounts that have been passed down. I continue to pick my ninety-three year old father’s brain for stories of his family’s life in Lesvos, Greece, and their journey to America. My recent interview with him was published in a nationally circulated magazine.

As an avid cook and baker, a skill I learned from watching my Athenian mother, I incorporated traditional Greek family recipes throughout the book.  

I hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Theater Arts from Hofstra University, but I’ve worked in the optical field for well over thirty years. Writing has brought me back the creative world I love.

2. Do you have a favorite scene you would like to share with us?

I have several favorite scenes. It’s hard to choose just one. Some of scenes that I love have a touch of humor, and others heartbreak, but my absolute favorites are the truly romantic ones.
Alexandros asks Anastacia to marry him, professing his love to her in the most unlikely and unromantic setting, yet it is absolutely perfect.
The other scene you will have to figure out for yourself as you read. If I tell you, I will reveal a spoiler. All I can say is that it takes place in the last quarter of the book and I believe it’s what the readers where waiting for.

3. Where did you come up with the idea for your latest release?

I started writing the novel as a way of working through my grief when I lost my mom. She was an amazing woman of inner strength. She fought pancreatic cancer for two and a half years. Through her surgeries and chemo treatments, she spent time with everyone in the family, soaking up every last minute she had on earth. She was the inspiration for the character of Anastacia.
My mom talked of her childhood in Greece often, and I used what she told me to create a fictional story, but one that was based on true events. Her accounts of WWII, her journey to America, and the history of her family all came into play.
My dad had his own stories, and at ninety-three years old, he is still feeding me family history and memories from his childhood.
The story itself just developed as I wrote it, and the basic story I had in my mind, flourished into a story more detailed than I had expected.

4. What are you currently working on?

I’ve been busy at my computer writing Book Two in The Gift Saga. Currently untitled, this story will be a little different thematically than the first one. The story continues chronologically, but the focus will be on Sophia, who is the main character in Evanthia’s Gift, and her four lifelong friends. Although life has taken them in different directions, the women will prove their love and loyally to one another, pulling together through difficult times.

5. Do you have any special routine that you follow when you are writing? 

Sure! I pray that I will have an uninterrupted day to write. The truth is I have no routine. I have a day job, so I tend to write very late into the evening, or wee hours of the morning.

6. Did you have to do a lot of research for this book or any other? If so do you have a fascinating fact that you have learned you would like to share with us?

Evanthia’s Gift is broken into two parts. The first part is Anastacia’s story, and it begins in 1956, but memories and shared stories take Anatascia and Alexandros back to World War II. The ideas for these plotlines came from stories I grew up hearing, but the timelines and facts had to be validated through research.
I came up with a background for Alexandros—one that was both honorable and tragic. His family was part of the resistance that fought the Nazis during the German occupation in Greece. I painted an account of what his parents sacrificed to save innocent people, as well as the story of some of the survivors they’d helped to escape.
After I had completed the storyline, I had been invited to see a film at a Greek synagogue in lower Manhattan, the only one of its kind in the United States. Vassilis Loules, the producer/director, called the documentary Kisses To The Children. As I sat and listened to five elderly people recall the circumstances of their childhood, I was amazed at how close their stories were to the one I had written. I felt a great sense of accomplishment, knowing that I’d done justice to the children who survived the atrocities and to the wonderful people who had save the children.

7. Who are some of your favorite authors that you like to read?

I have a background in theatre and studied all the classic playwrights from ancient Greece to modern day, but Shakespeare still holds my heart. As for fiction, I love the classics there as well. Jane Austen and John Steinbeck are my two favorite classic authors. I enjoy women’s fiction and contemporary romances. Nora Roberts, Jude Deveraux, Sophie Kinsilla, Adriana Trigiani, and Sylvia Day are among the novelists I read most often. But the one contemporary author who has captured my attention more than any other is Sylvain Reynard who wrote the Gabriel series. His beautiful use of language is breathtaking, and he keeps me intrigued with his knowledge of literature, religion, art, history, and culture.


8. Is there a genre you haven't written that you would like to try? 

I definitely enjoy writing fiction, but at some point, I may try another genre. I am being encouraged to write a companion cookbook to The Gift Saga, and I am strongly considering it.
Between some of the chapters in Evanthia’s Gift, I’ve included recipes for the foods that are mentioned in the story. I did this for two reasons. First, being a food blogger, I couldn’t resist. But the main reason was that I think it enhances the Greek experience for the non-Greek reader, giving them a better sense of the foods that are a staple in the lives of the characters.
I may also, one day, write a memoir or the true story of my family. For this reason, most of the locations in Greece that I speak of in the book were not the places my family came from.

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