Thanks for being on Loukia, please tell us about yourself.
Thanks Jessica. I am a native of Toledo, Ohio, but was raised in Virginia Beach. I graduated from Elon University and was a journalist and freelance writer for about 20 years. I am married and have three children. “Raping Aphrodite” is my first book.
Have you always wanted to be an author or is this something new you’ve discovered about yourself?
I didn’t think I would be an author until I started work on “Raping Aphrodite,” a little more than two years ago. I have always worked as a journalist, mostly for newspapers. Sitting down to write a book is very different from having a daily deadline.
What are you reading now?
I have a stack of books I need to get to, including “Queen” by Alex Haley, “Suite Francaise,” by Irene Nemirovsky, and “Ripley Under Ground,” by Patricia Highsmith. I have been busy checking the proof for “Raping Aphrodite,” and making changes so it can get out in paperback. I also have been doing interviews like this, so I am behind in my reading.
Please tell us about your new book “Raping Aphrodite
Sure. The book switches between 1974 and 2009, weaving two stories together. Tash Colgate is a beautiful art gallery owner, married to a man she has loved half her life. She agrees to exhibit items from Cyprus in her gallery, and in doing so, unlocks the door on her secret past – a past her husband unravels but is still unknown to her. At the same time, in between Tash’s situation, the book goes back to the 1974 invasion and division of Cyprus. A Peace Corps volunteer is held captive by Turkish forces but escapes and begins walking to get help for other hostages. The 1974 and 2009 events come together toward the end of the book.
What kind of reader would your book appeal to?
Anyone with an interest in art, historical fiction, Middle East history; readers who like intrigue and suspense.
Being that this is your first book, what kind of experience has it been for you writing it and getting the word out after?
It took about a year to write “Raping Aphrodite.” After the manuscript was completed, my husband, a former newspaper reporter and editor, took it on. He edited the manuscript and gave me suggestions. I would look at it and then decide what to do with his advice. We basically passed the laptop back and forth during that time. That took about six months. Afterward, I spent about six more months contacting 90 literary agents across the country, with no luck. Finally, two years after the whole thing started, I epublished on Barnes & Noble and Amazon. I am proofing the paperback now, and hope to get that out this year. Since late 2011, I have been doing interviews and spreading the word about my book
What has been the most surprising about the whole experience?
There are so many people out there who want to help new writers promote their work. Before the Internet, if you didn’t have an agent or a big publisher, you were roadkill. Now, you can move forward and tell your story without having strangers tell you to forget it.
What is your work space and working routine like?
I wrote the book when my kids were in school, so mostly daytime until about 2 p.m. In the afternoon, I would shift gears for the rush of homework and meals. Sometimes I worked on it late at night or weekends. Much of it was written in my bedroom with the blinds drawn and a favorite movie in the DVD player. It would be cool to say I have a secluded writing studio, but I don’t.
Why this book, why this subject?
My parents were born in Cyprus. They came to America in 1952. In 1974, when I was 11, the island was invaded by Turkey. My maternal grandparents went missing and my relatives in Cyprus were refugees. To this day, the island is still not unified. When this happened, about 2,000 Cypriots – Greek and Turkish – were reported missing by their families. More than 200,000 people, Greek and Turkish, were forced out of their homes. I remember my parents talking about it and hearing outrage and sadness in their conversations. In 1974, I didn’t have the ability to write a book but as time went on, and I matured, more of my thinking was with Cyprus and the events of that summer. The island is still grappling with that time, as anthropologists and archaeologists work together to identify mass graves and buried remains. A couple of years ago, my oldest daughter had an English assignment where she had to put a fictional character into a historic period. She chose Cyprus and then I thought, you know, even though I am born in America, this is my family’s story, too. I had something to say.
What works do you have planned for the future?
I am trying to prepare the paperback for “Raping Aphrodite,” for this year. After that, I hope to begin the prequel to the book, “Aphrodite Ascending.”