Author Interview: Apollo Papafrangou

The Writing Life is pleased to welcome Apollo Papafrangou, author of the upcoming novel, Wings of Wax.

Apollo Papafrangou is a writer from Oakland, California, where he pens novels, short stories, and, occasionally, poems. He is a 2010 graduate of the Mills College Creative Writing MFA program, and the author of “Concrete Candy,” a short story collection published by Anchor Books in 1996 when he was just 15 years old.

His debut novel WINGS OF WAX, the story of a shy, young artist seeking to reconnect with his ladies’ man father in Greece, will be published in March, 2016 by Booktrope.

HBO Films optioned the movie rights to his story “The Fence” from 2000-2004, and his fiction has appeared in the 1998 Simon & Schuster anthology entitled “Trapped. Apollo’s work has appeared in “Voices,” a collection of works by Greek writers published in 2013 by Nine Muses Press, Quiet Lightning, among other publications.

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Welcome, Apollo.

WingsofWaxcoverWhat is your book’s genre/category?

Wings of Wax is literary/contemporary fiction.

Please describe what the story/book is about.

Wings of Wax is the story of Angelo, a shy, young artist seeking to reunite with his estranged father in Greece and to learn the mysterious ways of the kamaki: the classic Mediterranean ladies’ man.

The novel takes place in both the San Francisco Bay Area and in Greece. In many ways, it’s a travel narrative, an odyssey of sorts, both in respect to Angelo’s physical journey, and his interior transformation.

 Apollo, how did you come up with the title?

Wings of Wax is a nod toward the Greek myth of Icarus–the boy who gained flight via mechanical wings attached with wax, but, in failing to heed his father’s advice, flew too close to the sun. Icarus serves as a metaphor in the book as flight is a central theme, as is the often tumultuous relationship between fathers and sons. 

What inspired you to write Wings of Wax?

Many things, but perhaps above all else, the desire to join the ranks of Greek-American writers who are mining the terrain of our collective experience through their fiction. I feel that the Greek-American experience–in all its complexity and variation–has been largely unexplored in contemporary fiction. Of course we have Jeffrey Eugenides, one of my literary heroes, but we need more voices.

My heritage is pretty important to me. Through my stories I want to share its richness with others.

What is your favorite part of writing?

My favorite part of writing is the process itself. It’s tedious at times, but I imagine building a story is like crafting a sculpture–you chipaway long enough, and you’ve got something. I also like exploring the interior experience of my characters. Fiction is the only artistic medium through which we get into other people’s heads. Stories show us we’re not alone in the world.

What is the most challenging aspect of writing?

Starting, whether it be a new project or a continuation of yesterday’s work. When I sit down to write each day, I spend a lot of time looking over what I wrote over previous days to get back into the flow. There’s a lot of staring at the white space, but then something inevitably clicks, and I’m able to find that groove again.

I write five days a week, generally, Monday through Friday. I try to get five-hundred words a day; sometimes I write more, sometimes less, but consistency is the key. I put in the time five days a week because I treat writing like a job. 

Who are some of your favorite authors? 

There are so many. Of the classic writers I like Steinbeck, Faulkner, Baldwin, Nabokov, Tolstoy. In grad school I was introduced to some fantastically underrated writers like Bruno Schultz, Italo Calvino, Fernando Pessoa, and Anne Carson. Favorite contemporary authors include Jennifer Egan, Victor Lavalle, Sherman Alexie, Junot Diaz, Susan Straight, Paul Auster, Jonathan Lethem, Cormack McCarthy, George Pelecanos, and many more.

What authors or person(s) have influenced you?

Other than the writers I’ve already named, Nikos Kazantzakis has been a big influence, of course. He is the quintessential Greek writer. His prose is so lyrical and rich without being flowery. I’m also influenced by the great contemporary Greek poets, as Greece is a land of poetry–George Seferis, Yannis Ritsos, Odysseas Elytis.

Do you have a favorite place to write?

I write on a desktop Mac in my bedroom. I can’t get with the writing in a coffee shop thing. Too many distractions. I’d like to have a little writing studio someday. 

Tell us something personal about you people may be surprised to know? 

It’s not so “personal,” but an interesting fact is that I had my first short story published in Zyzzyva magazine, a pretty well known journal here on the west coast, at the age of thirteen. Another bit of trivia: before committing to English as my major back in college, I thought I would earn a degree in Child Development. I’ve always been interested in the way children learn and adapt. I work with kids now at an after-school program as my “day job.”

What surprises or learning experiences did you have during the publishing process?

One big lesson I gained from this process is that next time around I need to send out blurb requests much further in advance! It takes a while to corral those endorsements from other writers and public figures.

Looking back, what did you do right that helped you with this book?

Going to grad school for creative writing at Mills College was a great experience. I grew so much as a writer, and I began this novel during my second semester in the program. Soon after graduation I had a completed draft and now, several years and drafts later, I’ve got a published book! 

Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

Not much beyond the old cliches of keep writing and pushing your work out there. When you’re tired of pushing, push some more. It’s standard advice, but I’ve found it to be solid.

Website?

http://www.apollopapafrangou.wordpress.com

www.twitter.com/Apo_Papafrangou.

You can find me on Facebook, too.

Where can we find your book?

Wings of Wax will be released in March, 2016 from Booktrope, and will be available via local bookstores, Amazon, and other major retailers.

What’s next for you?

I’m almost finished with a first draft of my next book, a currently untitled novel-in-short-stories about twenty-somethings in the Oakland art scene trying to make a living outside of a traditional nine-to-five. The stories feature Greek-American characters, as the Greek community has a lengthy history in the Bay Area, and the culture is obviously my point of reference. It’s an interesting time to be in Oakland, with all the gentrification going on, and I hope, this book reflects that.

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Thanks for chatting with us, Apollo. I enjoyed getting to know more about you. Happy writing!

About Eleanor Parker Sapia

 

elliePuerto Rican-born novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s careers as an artist, counselor, alternative health practitioner, Spanish language family support worker, and a refugee case worker inspire her stories. She is a member of Las Comadres Para Las Americas, PEN America, and Historical Novel Society. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, reads, and tells herself she is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

A Decent Woman, Eleanor’s debut historical novel, set in turn of the nineteenth century Puerto Rico, was selected as 2015 July Book of the Month for Las Comadres & Friends Latino Book Club. Book club members across the United States have enjoyed the story, as well. Eleanor is featured in the newly published anthology, Latino Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani. She is the mother of two awesome adult children and currently lives in West Virginia, where she is writing her second novel, The Island of Goats.

Author Interview with Yvonne Payne

yvonne payneToday I have the great pleasure of welcoming author, Yvonne Payne to The Writing Life. Our mutual friend, author Kathryn Gauci introduced us, and it turns out Yvonne and I share a common love–Greece.

Yvonne Payne enjoys a duel life between Wiltshire, UK and Kritsa, a village in Crete, Greece. Since 2001, short-term Human Resources (HR) contracts funded long breaks in the sun that inspired her to write creatively instead of redundancy letters.

Secondary school streaming meant English literature classes did not feature on Yvonne’s timetable despite her being an avid reader, and author of eagerly awaited, hand written serialised stories for classmates. Leaving school at sixteen Yvonne worked in retailing, a move that eventually led to her writing company newsletters and training materials to launch her successful HR career.

As a regular contributor to Crete related forums, which included sharing children’s stories based on observations of Cretan village life, Yvonne finally decided time was right to tackle a novel, so she started to investigate the true story of a Kritsa lass who, in 1823, participated in a fierce battle against Ottoman oppression. Research into tales of Kritsotopoula (Girl of Kritsa), plus firsthand experience of Cretan food, customs, mountain hiking, and donkey trekking, delivered the inspiration for Yvonne’s first novel, Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa.

Welcome, Yvonne!

What is your book’s genre/category?

The right answer is historical fiction, but for me that conjures up a vision of men in doublet and hose, with women in low cut gowns and bonnets. Whereas Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa, is an historical adventure set on the Greek island of Crete in 1800s, during the rebellion against Ottoman oppression.

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Please describe what the story/book is about.

The novel is based on the true story of a young village lass, Rodanthe, who was abducted from her home in Kritsa on the orders of a ruling Turk, who intended to make her his bride. However, feisty Rodanthe was having none of that! Rodanthe tricked her captor, and then fled to the mountains dressed as a young man. After joining rebels as Spanomanolis (Beardless Manolis), she drew on her unusual experiences and rare education to maintain her disguise throughout daring raids. Infused with myths and local flavour this novel also gives insight to customs that still shape many lives in Kritsa today. Perhaps I should add a warning here that the content does reflect those bloody times, and although the ending does mirror the legend, I’ve given it a unique twist.

How did you come up with the title?

Kritsa villagers still commemorate the legendary exploits of Rodanthe annually with a special parade and service, although she now known by the honorific title, Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa. In light of this, it seemed an obvious title for the book.

What is the reason you wrote this book?

I live a duel life split between Wiltshire in the UK and Kritsa in Crete, and after first learning about ‘our’ local heroine I was disappointed not to find any text in English to tell me more about her. Then a few years later, I watched in awe as fellow Brit villager, Nigel Ratcliffe sculpted the wonderful memorial to Kritsotopoula, now placed at the site of her last battle. This piqued my interest in the story again, so I decided to write a pamphlet to allow summer visitors to Kritsa to learn more about her amazing story. When I found nothing to explain how a young girl could maintain such an amazing disguise my imagination took over, and the pamphlet grew into a novel.

What is your favorite part of writing?

I love writing what I experience, in the way that other people might take photographs. For example, I wrote the description of a spectacular sunrise as it happened, and I’ve completed every walk that I attribute to Rodanthe so that I could write about it from first hand experience. I even rode a donkey as that was the mode of transport in Rodanthe’s day, and for part of the story I cast her in the role of a drover, so I had to know something about the care of these beautiful animals.

What is the most challenging aspect of writing?

I love big fat novels and wrote one of 150,000 words. Then I had to face up to the fact that as an independent author paying production costs myself, I needed to aim for 80,000 words, ouch! Without doubt, it was hard to cut characters and dispense with big chunks of storyline. However, I think that writing so much before pruning meant that I gained great understanding of my Rodanthe.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

I find that a difficult question as I’ve read and enjoyed so many over the years. Sharon Penman – The Sunne in Spendour, Mary Stewart – The Crystal Cave, Jean M Aual – The Clan of the Cave Bear, Wilbur Smith – When the Lion Feeds, and Ken Follett – Pillars of the Earth have all met my preference for meaty tales that whet my appetite for the next book in a series. Since living in Crete, I’ve sought out books set in Greece and Crete and while I thoroughly enjoyed the deservedly acclaimed Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, by Louis de Bernieres I found his Birds Without Wings a compelling read.

What authors or person(s) have influenced you?

As a child I devoured Enid Blyton books, she sowed the seeds for a lifetime of reading pleasure. That might not be a very sophisticated answer but I think once a child is hooked they’ll treasure reading forever.

Favorite place to write?

Under a shady tree on a quiet Cretan beach, where surf crunches the pebbles.  As well as being a scene in the story, it’s a fabulous place for creative phases as I can gaze at my beautiful surroundings when I’m stuck for inspiration.

Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

I can’t speak Greek. I’m ashamed that after spending so much time out there, my skills remain at the same level as a three year old. This means I won’t starve! One reason is that as my husband is now very deaf, so I don’t have someone I can practice with, and English is the second language. I have many Greek language books and CDs so perhaps one day…

Any surprises or learning experiences with the publishing process?

My own patience surprised me, as I’m usually someone who looks for fast results. I never got bored with revising, editing, even after three big re-writes, I think this is because I was literally learning to write as I went along. I have a very active and pragmatic learning style, so I’m sure that if I’d have set out to learn the theory of writing I’d have been overwhelmed and not started.

Looking back, what did you do right that helped you with this book?

I showed my first manuscript to Nigel Ratcliffe, the sculptor of the Kritsotopoula memorial because I knew that he’d be interested in the subject matter. What I didn’t know was that in his past Nigel had been a writer so knew an amazing amount about the process. His feedback after reading developing drafts was an amazing gift that gave me the confidence to continue.

I decided not to spend time perusing traditional publishing, as I wanted to get the book into the Kritsa market place where I’ve judged tourists might buy the book as a souvenir of their visit. This meant I needed to find a good assisted publisher, as I didn’t have the knowledge or time to be totally independent, and I think I made a fabulous decision when I chose SilverWood Books.

Any advice for writers looking to get published?

Be prepared to invest the time and money it takes to make your book as good as it can be. Even though I chose to publish independently, I wanted it to look and feel like a traditionally published novel. I became increasingly confident as feedback from early readers, and my editor, allowed me to polish the manuscript further, and I adore the cover design provided via SilverWood Books.

Website?

My website is now a hobby, and I’m developing it to focus on Kritsa and the surrounding area, rather than just me and my writing. I’ll soon be starting two new features, Meet My Kritsa Neighbours and My Greek Bookshelf, to feature some of the wonderful books that I’ve enjoyed. You can find it via www.kritsayvonne.com

Where can we find your book?

Amazon supplies both paperback and ebook http://tinyurl.com/ofkk7jd

While I’m delighted with the lovely book reviews on Amazon, they only show on the UK site, so if you’d like a peek, they are here: http://tinyurl.com/njxql7m

What’s next for you?

I have written 60,000 words of a sequel called Rodanthe’s Gift, but work on it has stalled as I’m focusing on launching Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa. I’m also excited about a forthcoming party in the centre of Kritsa that will act as an official launch, and give me opportunity to thank the villagers who have made us so welcome. The party, during the second week of May 2015, will coincide with the opening of a new museum dedicated to Kritsotopoula and the annual memorial events. You are all invited!

Thank you for a wonderful interview and your kind invitation, Yvonne! One of these days, I will return to Greece. I wish you much success with Kritsotopoula, Girl of Kritsa!

About EleanorParker Sapia

Puerto Rican-born novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s work as a counselor, alternative health practitioner, a Spanish language social worker, and a refugee case worker inspire her stories. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, and is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

A Decent Woman is her debut historical novel, set in turn of the century Puerto Rico. The book was selected as 2015 July Las Comadres & Friends Latino Book Club, Book of the Month. Eleanor is the mother of two adult children and she currently lives in West Virginia.

A DECENT WOMAN available now on Amazon amazon.com/-/e/B00U05ZO9M

Author Interview with W. Ruth Kozak

 

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It’s my great pleasure to welcome, Ruth Kozak, author of the historical fiction novel, Shadow of the Lion: Blood on the Moon.

W. Ruth Kozak is a Canadian travel journalist with a strong interest in history and archaeology. A frequent traveller, and a published travel writer since 1982, Ruth lived for several years in Greece and instructs classes in travel journalism and creative writing. Ruth also edits and publishes her own on-line travel zine at http://www.travelthruhistory.com She has been published in the APA Insight Guides 1994, Writer’s Abroad anthology “Foreign Flavours”, as well as two poetry anthologies, and was writer for The Vancouver Guide for Planet Eye Traveler. She recently worked on an Athens Guide e-book for Hunter Publishing, US.

Welcome, Ruth!

What is your book’s genre/category? 

IMG_1803SHADOW OF THE LION: BLOOD ON THE MOON is historical fiction.  Though ‘fiction’, it is based on a historical time-line so the events in the story are true. Most of the characters are historical with a couple of fictional characters thrown in for a balance.

Please describe what the story/book is about.

After the death of Alexander the Great in Babylon, 323 BCE, his generals begin to squabble over who should take control.  A son is born to Alexander’s Soghdian wife, Roxana, a month after his death – Alexander’s only legal heir.  But as many of the generals do not want a non-Macedonian ruling, they name the child joint-king along with Alexander’s mentally deficient brother, Arridaios.  The theme of the story is “How blind ambition and greed brought down a world power.”  Volume One , Blood on the Moon, follows the journey of the two joint-kings from Babylon to Macedon.  Volume Two (to be published in 2016)  The Fields of Hades,  is the account of the wars of the Successors, and the women who were powerful figures in Macedonia including Alexander’s mother Olympias and 18-year old niece, Adeia-Eurydike.

How did you come up with the title?

It was a challenge finding sub-titles to suit the book. The main title, SHADOW OF THE LION, was chosen because everyone in the story is living under Alexander’s shadow.  He symbolizes a lion and often wore a lion’s head helmet.  When the publisher decided to break the very long novel into two parts, I then had to find a suitable subtitle for each Volume.

The end of Chapter One has a scene where two suspects in Alexander’s untimely death are seen leaving Babylon.  As the sun sets and a reddish moon rises, the youngest man notices and says, “Look! There’s blood on the moon. Surely it marks our destiny!”  Hence the subtitle ‘BLOOD ON THE MOON’.

For Volume Two, because it deals with all the battles and the results are a true Greek tragedy, I chose the title THE FIELDS OF HADES.

What is the reason you wrote this book?

I became interested in Alexander when I was a 16-year old in high school.  In my last year of school I wrote an Alexander-themed novel.  I’d always wanted to write a novel about my hero, but Mary Renault had done a good job with her Alexander trilogy.  So I decided I’d write about Alexander’s little-known son, Alexander IV (called by his Persian name “Iskander” in the novel).  I was going to write it as a young adult story but found it was far too political. So I was advised to rethink it and start over.  Once I established the theme I knew what to do, and started again in multiple points of view. The boy is still an important character in it but you get all sides of the story. Alexander is a ‘golden thread’ woven throughout the tapestry.  Mary Renault’s “Funeral Games” had disappointed me, being her last and a quickly written story, and this is the same era I’m writing about. I wanted to develop the characters and really give this tragic story some clout.  In doing so, I paid attention to developing the characters, visited as many of the sites that I could get to, and lived in Greece for part of the time while I wrote it.

What is your favorite part of writing?

I love the research, although I have to rein myself in!  And I love it once I have a grip on the characters and can let them ‘tell’ me their own stories. I also enjoyed exploring the actual locations for much of this story.

What is the most challenging aspect of writing?

Getting facts straight, in the case of this novel, which is mainly a ‘true’ story.  My current work-in-process is a Celtic/Greek tale and purely fiction other than a couple of historical characters (young Alexander).  I’m finding it much harder to write because I have to make it logical and realistic.  SHADOW was easier as I was following a historical plot-line. I was very meticulous in my research to get the facts straight as there is always someone to call you on it if you ‘make things up’. Because of my detailed research, it took me 15 years to write the complete book (which is now the two volumes).

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Mary Renault, Steven Pressfield, Margaret George, and many of the Classics writers. I am also reading an amazing book by Louis de Berniere and I admire his writing style and research skills. 

What authors or person(s) have influenced you?

Mary Renault was my writing ‘mentor’ in that I have read her books over and over.  I also found Margaret George’s books inspiring and Steven Pressfield’s Greek-themed books.

Three writers, who I mention in my book forward, who were so supportive of me in the writing of SHADOW.

Steven Pressfield has always been very supportive of my work. Writer Scott Oden and I have kept in touch and supported each other’s writing all along.  Dr Jack Dempsey, author of “Ariadne’s Brother”, an amazing book I read back in the ‘90’s, has been a mentor since I first contacted him after reading his book.

I couldn’t have gotten this massive project off the ground without the help of the Greek Consulate of Vancouver. When they learned what I was planning to write, back in 1991, they flew me to Greece to do more research. While there I was given interviews at the Ministry of Culture and Society of Macedonian Studies. I was also granted permission to research at the British Library and Gennadius Library in Athens. The Finnish Institute in Athens provided me with a site pass so I could visit any archaeological site for free. I met many Classical scholars there who also helped me.  Last September, when I was promoting my book in Greece, I was invited to do a reading at the Athens Centre to present my book at a World Poetry Conference in Larissa, and I read to two grade 9 classes at the Athens Community School. And when it came time for my book launch, the Consul of Greece in Vancouver, Ilias Kremmydas, sponsored it at the Hellenic Centre. I owe a lot to the Greeks!

I also belong to an amazing critique group, The Scribblers, and several of them were in on the very beginnings of this novel.  They have been a tremendous help, and with their experts critiques and encouragement, I was able to keep going for the long, long journey that the book took me on.

Favorite place to write?

I have my bedroom set up as my writing space with pictures on the walls and little sayings to inspire me.  When I am working on a new piece I often go for long walks and make notes in my notebook as I meditate and the words start flowing. I usually write scenes out long-hand before transferring them to the computer.

Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

I guess it’s my age, which I tend to ignore (because most people think I am much younger).  I was 80 when I finally got my first novel SHADOW published!

I am also a travel journalist and have been since 1982.  And I’m a solo traveler (usually)

I had a play produced successfully in 2000 that I had originally written in 1953 and reworked. 

Any surprises or learning experiences with the publishing process?

You have to be tenacious, patient, thick-skinned, and also organized.  It took a year before I hit ‘bingo’ and that was just by chance. On a last minute whim before leaving for another Greek holiday, I sent out the query to MediaAria-CDM. They immediately responded and within a few weeks said they wanted to publish. It happened the publisher loves that history!

I have also just learned that no matter how many times you and your publisher and your editor go through the MSS, there are likely going to be typos.  Ach! I couldn’t believe it. Though many were easily missed in the spell-check.

Looking back, what did you do right that helped you with this book?

I spent money on a very good editor.  I workshopped my novel from the beginning in my very excellent critique group, and before I sent it to the editor, I had two friends read through the original (1700 page MSS) to help me decide what to cut. My publisher remarked on what a good editor I had. It cost me a lot (and should have cost more) but it was worth it!

Any advice for writers looking to get published?

First, find a good editor.  Don’t give up. Eventually you will find the right home for your book.  I didn’t want to self-publish SHADOW because of its contents and the work I’d put into it. But these days lots of people do. However if you choose to self-publish, pay attention to all the above–get a good editor first! And be prepared to do a lot of work once the book is published as well. Athough SHADOW was published traditionally, I still have to promote and find myself working on this almost every day.  But it’s worth it in the end.

Website?

 My website www.ruthkozak.com will link you with my blogs and other sites, including the on-line travel ‘zine that I edit and publish.

Where can we find your book?

SHADOW OF THE LION: BLOOD ON THE MOON is available through Amazon.com  and can be ordered at major bookstores such as Chapters and Barnes & Nobel or any high-street book stores in UK.  Even smaller bookstores will order it for you. Hopefully it will soon be on bookstores shelves. It is already available in the libraries in Vancouver area.

What’s next for you? 

I am currently working on a Celtic tale  “DRAGONS IN THE SKY” told partly in Bardic verse, linking the Celts of the 3rd C BCE to the Greeks, and introducing Alexander as a  youth who rescues my Celtic Druid’s child from her kidnapper. It is a sort of past-life regression story told in first person, so somewhat tricky to write. My writer’s group loves it!  Now I just have to finish it.  Still working on the first draft and have been for ages, as I set it aside a long time ago when I decided to write SHADOW, thinking the Young Adult story I’d planned would only take a year to write. LOL!

I also write travel stories for a couple of on-line sites, www.EuropeUpClose.com and www.travelgeneration.com as well as any others who like my stories.  I teach travel journalism and creative writing classes, workshops, 3 morning memoir writing groups, and some one-on-one writing coaching.  I’m currently president of the BC Assoc. of Travel Writers.

Thank you for a great interview, Ruth. I wish you all the best with your writing and your many projects!

About Eleanor

Puerto Rican-born novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s life experiences as a counselor, alternative health practitioner, a Spanish language social worker, and a refugee case worker inspire her stories. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, and is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time.

A Decent Woman is her debut historical novel. Eleanor is the mother of two adult children, and she currently lives in West Virginia.

A DECENT WOMAN available now on Amazon 

Ponce, Puerto Rico, at the turn of the century: Ana Belén Opaku, an Afro-Cuban born into slavery, is a proud midwife with a tempestuous past. After testifying at an infanticide trial, Ana is forced to reveal a dark secret from her past, but continues to hide an even more sinister one. Pitted against the parish priest, Padre Vicénte, and young Doctór Héctor Rivera, Ana must battle to preserve her twenty-five year career as the only midwife in La Playa.

Serafina is a respectable young widow with two small children, who marries an older wealthy merchant from a distinguished family. A crime against Serafina during her last pregnancy forever bonds her to Ana in an ill-conceived plan to avoid a scandal and preserve Serafina’s honor.

Set against the combustive backdrop of a chauvinistic society, where women are treated as possessions, A Decent Woman is the provocative story of these two women as they battle for their dignity and for love against the pain of betrayal and social change.

amazon.com/-/e/B00U05ZO9M

Author Interview with Kathryn Gauci

I’m very pleased to welcome Kathryn Gauci, author of the debut historical novel, The Embroiderer, which is already garnering great reviews. I received my copy of the book today and can’t wait to travel back in time with her characters. KATHRYN-001 Welcome, Kathryn! What is your book’s genre/category? The Embroiderer is historical fiction. Please describe what the story/book is about. The Embroiderer is a sweeping saga of love and loss, hope and despair, and of the extraordinary courage of women in the face of adversity, set against the mosques and minarets of Asia Minor and the ruins of ancient Athens. In the spring of 1822, during one of the bloodiest massacres of The Greek War of Independence, a child is born to a woman of legendary beauty in the Byzantine Monastery of Nea Moni on the island of Chios. The subsequent decades of bitter struggle between Greeks and Turks simmer to a head when the Greek Army invades Smryna (modern day Izmir) in 1919. During this time, Dimitra Lamartine arrives in Smyrna and gains fame and fortune as an embroiderer to the elite of Ottoman society. However, it is her granddaughter, Sophia, a couturier in Constantinople, who takes the business to great heights, only to see their world come crashing down with the outbreak of The Balkan Wars, 1912-13.In 1922, Sophia begins a new life in Athens but the memory of a dire prophecy about a girl with flaming red hair once told to her by her grandmother begins to haunt her with devastating consequences when the Germans occupy Greece in 1941. The story unravels when Eleni Stephenson – an English woman living in London – is called to the bedside of her dying aunt in Athens in September, 1972. In a story that rips her world apart, Eleni discovers the chilling truth about her family’s dark past plunging her into the sensuous and evocative world of Orientalist art and Ottoman fashion, to the destructive forces of political intrigue, where families and friends are torn apart and where a belief in superstition simmers just below the surface. How did you come up with the title? During this period women in the Ottoman Empire led a cloistered existence and embroidery was one of the only areas in which a woman was encouraged to excel. A skilled embroiderer enhanced her chances of a good marriage as textiles were seen as an important part of a woman’s dowry. Whilst a great deal of high-quality embroidery was made either for the consumption of the Ottoman court or in the professional workshops of the Topkapi Palace, many women were able to supplement the family income through this work. 9781781322963-Perfect.indd What is the reason you wrote this book? This was a story I had to write. Whilst working as a carpet designer in Athens, 1972-78, I worked alongside refugees and their descendants from The Asia-Minor Catastrophe of 1922. In 1919, the Greek Army occupied Smyrna (Izmir) and fought a campaign to win back the land they had lost when Mehmet the Conqueror sacked Constantinople in 1453.  For most Greeks, this was unmitigated disaster and they had long harboured a dream to unite those lands once inhabited by Greeks for over 2000 years. With the collapse of The Ottoman Empire after WWI, Greece finally seized the chance of taking back what she considered to be rightfully hers. Unfortunately, circumstances turned against them and they underestimated the steely determination of Mustafa Kemal, better known as Ataturk. The debacle resulted in thousands of deaths on both sides and the destruction by fire of one of the most important cities in Asia Minor – Smyrna. Over one and a half million Greeks poured into Greece, changing the social and political face of modern Greece forever. It was the harrowing stories told to me by these people and their descendants that resonated with me. When I did finally decide to write The Embroiderer, I realized that to give an insight into those years, I needed to go back in time, hence the story begins with the massacre at Chios in 1922, during the second year of The Greek War of Independence. What is your favorite part of writing? Transporting myself into another world and putting myself into someone else’s shoes. How would I have reacted if my world fell apart and I had to reinvent myself? The instinct for survival changes people and I believe you do things you never thought you would be capable of. What is the most challenging aspect of writing? Finding the right voice. The characters grew up in a different era and would have thought and spoken differently. And of course, putting the images and story in my imagination into words; something all authors face. Who are some of your favorite authors? Where do I start? Nikos Kazantzakis, Louis de Bernieres, Sarah Dunant, D.H. Lawrence, Orhan Pamuk, Khaled Hosseini. And I find myself reading more Indian authors these days – Rohinton Mistry, Vikram Seth, Padma Viswanathan. What authors or person(s) have influenced you? Perhaps all of the above for the wonderful imagery and storylines they create Favorite place to write? I have my own room surrounded by books. My desk faces French windows which open out onto a patio. When the sun streams though and I can hear the birds singing – and Australian birds are very noisy – I am in my element. Something personal about you people may be surprised to know? I am a homebody and love to cook. It’s relaxation for me, as is gardening. Any surprises or learning experiences with the publishing process It is a difficult area to break into, especially if your novel is set in a place and time that is unfamiliar to many agents. It is also important to do your homework on the people who are eventually going to publish you. You only get one chance at your novel and you want it to be top quality. Looking back, what did you do right that helped you with this book? I took advice from the professionals. Two people advised me to cut the words down – by a considerable amount. It took me six months to do it, but the result was a much tighter and fast-paced book, and it didn’t affect the storyline. Any advice for writers looking to get published? Do the very best you can. Aim for a quality manuscript. Believe in yourself and be determined. Website? www.kathryngauci.com Where can we find your book? On line through the publishers – SilverWood Books and all online retailers and good bookstores. What’s next for you? I have started another novel set in France during WWII. This story emerged whilst researching The Embroiderer. I also intend to write two more novels in my “Greek Trilogy”. Both will be set in a different place and era and will center on my favourite subject – art. Thank you for a wonderful interview, Kathryn. Best of luck with The Embroiderer!

About Eleanor

Puerto Rican-born novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s life experiences as a counselor, alternative health practitioner, a Spanish language social worker, and a refugee case worker inspire her stories. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, and is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time. A Decent Woman is her debut historical novel. Eleanor is the mother of two adult children, and she currently lives in West Virginia. A DECENT WOMAN available now on Amazon  Ponce, Puerto Rico, at the turn of the century: Ana Belén Opaku, an Afro-Cuban born into slavery, is a proud midwife with a tempestuous past. After testifying at an infanticide trial, Ana is forced to reveal a dark secret from her past, but continues to hide an even more sinister one. Pitted against the parish priest, Padre Vicénte, and young Doctór Héctor Rivera, Ana must battle to preserve her twenty-five year career as the only midwife in La Playa. Serafina is a respectable young widow with two small children, who marries an older wealthy merchant from a distinguished family. A crime against Serafina during her last pregnancy forever bonds her to Ana in an ill-conceived plan to avoid a scandal and preserve Serafina’s honor. Set against the combustive backdrop of a chauvinistic society, where women are treated as possessions, A Decent Woman is the provocative story of these two women as they battle for their dignity and for love against the pain of betrayal and social change. amazon.com/-/e/B00U05ZO9M