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Monday, October 12, 2015

The Journey of Writing a Novel

This is a guest post by Effie Kammenou.

When someone meets me for the first time, somewhere in that first conversation the question comes up, “What do you do?” It’s a simple question and should have a straightforward answer. But for me, it never seems that simple, and I often find myself hesitating before I respond. The last person I actually gave a complete answer to looked at me with disbelief and said, “Are you sure you covered everything?”

So here goes – I’m a graduate from Hofstra University who majored in theater but didn’t have the gumption to bang on doors and deal with rejection. I stayed in the field that put me through college, managing an optical store and working as a lab technician making eyeglasses. But that never filled the creative void I felt from never having fully pursued my dream, so I found other ways. I wrote and directed a couple of children’s plays for my daughter’s elementary school class and for our church Christmas pageant. 

Then, 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 one time, and before I knew it, people were ordering them from me. Along with that, I found myself taking orders for platters of my Greek pastries during the holidays.

Something prompted me to start a food blog, sharing not only the recipes, but also the traditions and stories that went along with the particular food I shared the recipe for. And that led to me writing restaurant reviews, sharing recipes and writing feature articles for the regional magazine, Boating Times Long Island.

In 2012, my mother passed away after battling pancreatic cancer for two and a half years. I was so busy being the strong older sister, the compassionate mother and aunt, and a supportive daughter to my grieving father. I never really let myself crack. One night I sat 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 took that story and combined it with a story inspired by my mother’s life and wrote a saga. The novel is a work of fiction, but there are elements that are true. Personality traits, events, and circumstances may be recognizable to all that knew my mother, but the story is in no way her life. There were difficult chapters where I sobbed every time I wrote, rewrote, or edited them. But I honored her, and our Greek heritage that she was so proud of.

So here I am a mom of two, ex-actress, optical technician, food blogger, freelance writer, baker, and debut novelist. That’s a hard one to explain. I guess I could just say I’m an optical lab technician, since it’s my day job, and call it a day, but I don’t feel it defines me as a person. What defines me is my never ending optimism, my love for life, my family and friends, and my insistence that I will never be old. 

Work is work, but I love my down time, too. I live on Long Island, which is beautiful in the summer. I live close to a port town that is lively all summer with locals and tourists. I’ll go down port with friends or family for dinner, or maybe just for ice cream and a stroll on the pier. I often go to the Hamptons with my daughters for a day of shopping and lunch, or an outing with family or friends exploring one of the dozens of wineries the East End has to offer.

One more thing - I will confess. I am a Disneyworldaholic and I am not ashamed of it. I may have to write a guidebook one day.

As you read Evanthia’s Gift, keep me in mind. I put my heart and soul into every word. Just about every character has a tiny piece of me inside them. One or two has a big part of me. After all Sophia lives in my timeline, and Anastacia is inspired by my loving mother.



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 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. 
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