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22 March 2015

Interview with author Anna-Maria Athanasiou!

Today I'm really excited to share my interview with author Anna-Maria Athanasiou with all of you! A few weeks ago I reviewed Anna-Maria's debut novel 'Waiting for Summer', a women's fiction book I really enjoyed (click here to read my review). Tomorrow I will post my review of the sequel, 'Waiting for Summer - Part 2', but for now have a look at where Anna-Maria got the inspiration for her novel, what her future plans as an author are and what some of her personal favourite books are. Enjoy! :) 

Can you tell us something about your novel, ‘Waiting for Summer’?
I've always had a very active imagination. From an early age I would play out scenarios out in my head, this didn't change even as I got older. About ten years ago the idea for the first chapter came to me and before I knew it I had a whole story rattling around in my head. In September of 2011 I decided to start writing it down. I've never written before and have no literary background whatsoever. I wrote randomly, as the ideas came to me, on scraps of paper in the car and on receipts I found in my bag. Eventually I got myself more organised and carried a notebook around with me. This small idea ended up being a nine hundred page novel, which was then split into two Books. 

When I'd started it I didn't even think I'd finish it and because of that, I didn't tell anyone I was writing until I was at least half way through. I only confided in a couple of close friends and family. I didn't even tell my husband until it was practically finished. It took me roughly fourteen months to complete, writing very early in the morning and when there was no one in the house. 

Where did you get the inspiration for your novel? Is it in any way based on your own personal experiences?
The idea for the story came to me when I was changing the time on my husband's phone. A number of innocent messages beeped through and I thought, what if? I wanted to write a story that was centred around an older woman, in her forties. Sylvie also has two sons, which I also have and a lot of her thoughts and tastes are definitely me! But that's where the similarities and personal experiences end. 

I wanted all the characters to be real, like someone you might know, almost ordinary. And more than anything I wanted for them to be believable. The story itself is total fiction but the themes that run throughout it, I think, all of us have either been touched by or had experience of. Infidelity, self doubt, fear of getting old and a sense of loss. The book is based in Cyprus, which is where I live now, so all the locations are real. I personally love Summer and it was really a no brainer for me to base a story that had Summer central to the plot. I used the seasons to reflect the emotions Sylvie was experiencing and as well as the mood of each part.

Can you tell us a bit more about the main character, Sylvie?
I love Sylvie! She's the kind of person I aspire to be. She's fiercely loyal always putting her family first and incredibly kind. She's loving, a hopeless romantic,  witty and doesn't take herself seriously. When I spoke to friends of mine that were of a similar age who'd read the book, they all said exactly the same thing to me. They could totally relate to Sylvie and her insecurities. I wanted Sylvie to be as real as possible so the reader could see her as someone they could easily know or even recognise something of themselves in her.

There’s a great cast of supporting characters in the novel as well. Which character did you most enjoy writing?
I have to pick just one?! After Sylvie the next main character that I created was Julian, Sylvie's husband's friend. I just loved this guy, he was just so flawed yet still likeable. I enjoyed writing his inner struggles and his humour, often directed at himself. He's someone you shouldn't really like because he makes mistakes in his personal life continuously, but for some reason you want him to get it right, for his sake. 

Honestly though, I really enjoyed writing all the different characters. They're all so real to me I actually feel that they are people I know, rather than created!

Did you do any particular research for parts of the book?
The locations in Cyprus were well known to me so there was no added research needed. In the second book, 'Waiting for Summer Book Two', which has a few chapters in different countries, I had to do a fair amount of research to ensure the detail was accurate.  I have to say I enjoyed it immensely. 
Can you perhaps tell us something about your future plans? Are you perhaps already working on a next novel?
Yes I am. In fact as I was finishing 'Waiting for Summer', I already had the idea for my next novel. I'm roughly half way through it. At first I thought it would be a shorter story, but it looks like it will be another nine hundred pages! It's taking longer than I thought, purely because I seem to have less time and there's more research needed.

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
I'm not entirely sure if I'm qualified to give tips, but all I would say is; If you have an idea or a story, or even just a thought, write it down. Write everything down and don't worry if you never use it. At some point it'll feel right to put them altogether. Once you've written even a small amount, ask someone you trust to give you their brutally honest opinion, then you'll know if you're on the right track.

What is the last book you read that you’d like to recommend to others?
I'm normally reading or re reading books. If I've enjoyed a book, I read it again immediately. And then I'll dip into it periodically while I'm reading something else. I've recently finished the second of a two book series called The Cold Series by Eliza Lloyd. The first book is 'Best Served Cold' and the second 'On Thin Ice'. They're a bit more rauncier than mine and I thoroughly enjoyed them.

Which book could you not live without?
My first though is that I couldn't live without my receipe book! It's a tattered old note book filled with family and my own receipes and I cannot live with out it! From a literary point of view though I couldn't be without 1984 by George Orwell. I haven't read it for a very long time because it disturbs me, but it was the book that sparked my interest in books and I need to have it close by. Amongst all the horror that he writes about there are some incredibly moving, intimate and romantic parts that made an enormous impression on me. 

Thanks so much, Anna-Maria!

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