I am delighted to welcome Soulla Christodoulou to my blog today.
Soulla is an author from London.
Today we’re discussing her new book The Summer Will Come.
Congratulations on its publication.
ER The Summer Will Come is very close to your heart and your heritage. So to start, would you like to tell us something about yourself and what inspired you to write this book?
SC I’m British born, with Greek Cypriot parents and I’ve always lived in London. Growing up I remember embracing my family’s traditions and our culture in a way which made me feel safe. I liked having something that made me different to the children in my class at school. I also liked the way other Greek Cypriot children would somehow become part of not only my friendship circle but their parents would come to know my family too. So in a way, my family was always growing!
In my adult years, my mother became ill and after a long battle with cancer I was overwhelmed with the news she was in remission. This experience impacted on me deeply and I questioned my purpose and my life’s path. I began asking questions about my heritage, my grandparents and their decision to come to London. I knew part of the story but never really thought about it in the context of the political landscape of the country at the time. This is what planted the seed that lead me to write The Summer Will Come.
ER I suspect your parents would have had many anecdotal stories to help you. However, you must have had to a do a lot of research.
SC They certainly did Ellen but you’re right in that my research, both primary and secondary, opened me up to the reality of the harsh, violent and disturbing political backdrop which has, even to this day, shrouded the island of Cyprus. I always believed Turkey were wrong to invade Cyprus in 1974, but going back over the history since 1953, I can see why they did, even if I disagree with it. The research I did, in the main, was around the political landscape. It connected me with the family of a famous EOKA hero, Evagoras Pallikarides, whose poetry, incidentally, gave me the title of my book. I interviewed many people of my parents’ generation and older too and their personal stories are what makes my book so real. It’s not about facts and figures, or what I gleaned from history books of the time, but personal accounts; it’s the passion, the love, the fear, the uncertainty, the reality of leaving the home they had ever known, which I have explored and hopefully, bring out in the story.
ER The story revolves around two families, both Greek Cypriot living in different villages in Cyprus. You’ve set the story in 1953. That was a turbulent time in Cyprus’s history. I refer in particular to a quote from your book, ‘You want to be a part of this. I praise your conviction to the EOKA cause even if I disagree. But it’s more complicated than you know. You’re putting yourself, and us, in danger.’
Could you tell us something about the turmoil and political conflict during those years?
SC Yes of course, although it’s all far more complicated than I am able to tell you here and I am certainly no specialist on the subject; much of my research involved personal accounts of that time period. Many of the stories talk of complete and utter chaos and a reign of inter-racial conflict; the EOKA guerrilla group fought hard against the British in an effort to gain freedom from British occupation. Initially, the British administration didn’t realise how serious the situation was and when they did, it was too late; EOKA was highly organised, regimented and those who signed up were patriotic to the death in wanting to secure freedom. It caused a panic, form the accounts I have heard, and as such the tactics used by the British too were ferocious and inhumane. Many innocent people, including Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots and British, were killed in bombings and unprovoked attacks. Many school children got involved too with demonstrations against the British who retaliated by imposing curfews on villages and their inhabitants and arresting anyone who behaved suspiciously. It was a terrifying and chaotic time. There are, of course, many accounts written from many different viewpoints, however my book has been written from the viewpoint of those who lived in Cyprus during this time and it is these personal struggles that are depicted through the characters in my book. It is certainly not a political or historic encyclopaedia.
ER EOKA was a Greek Cypriot nationalist guerrilla organisation that fought a campaign for the end of British rule in Cyprus.
How many years did it take before this was achieved?
SC All in all, Ellen, it took 5 years until a resolution as reached which gave Greece, Turkey and Britain the authority to intervene should they have to through the Treaty of Guarantee. But if you look at the bigger picture it goes further back than 1955, all the way back to 1931 in fact and, I suppose, the repercussions of the EOKA movement is what ultimately lead to Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus in the summer of 1974.
The British flag came down at midnight on the 15th August 1960 which brought to an end the British occupation of the island. So officially Cyprus gained its first day of independence on 16th August 1960.
ER Both families in The Summer Will Come immigrate to London. This must have been a challenge for them.
Could you tell us how they coped?
SC Both families in the story had common hardships; language, culture, finding work, but they also had their own individual hardships to face.
Elena’s family missing family and friends and even foods and personal belongings. came to London in the hope of starting a new life with the Kostas, the wife of Evangelia, but their dramas were shattered when it evolves he was weak man with poor morals and little regard toward his family responsibilities. This in turn, brought additional hardship to the family whereby Evangelia becomes the sole income earner of the family and Elena, despite being a promising at student at school, has to leave and work to supplement her mother’s income. Christaki’s family struggle initially as Loizos, his father, does not come to England with them. Christaki therefore has to grow up and becomes head of the family. Pavlo and Melani both have their own demons; Pavlo is angry and cannot settle, Melani begins to fight the restricting demands of her culture and traditions which are exacerbated against the backdrop of 1950s London.
ER The novel is written as a multi-point of view story – a mother and daughter from one family and a father and son from the other family. Elena, the daughter, and Christaki, the son, are the key main characters in the story.
How did you find writing in both female and male voices?
SC Actually I feel like I cheated a bit here. I knew my grandparents, both maternal and paternal, and Christaki and Elena are based loosely on my own parents, and so I just imagined what they would say. The only difficulty was getting across the same passion in the English language as would be evident had the story been written in Greek. I tried to compensate for this by using little Greek sayings and anecdotes my family have used over the years and which are still used today in Cyprus.
ER Do you have a favourite character in this book? Why?
SC I would have to say, Elena who is one of the four main characters. She is the one who grows up the most in the story from being a child living in the village of Kato Lefkara to becoming a mature young woman in London and finding herself despite the setbacks along the way; both external and personal. She longs to meet her father and when she does, despite her initial excitement and intrigue, she is disappointed and let down and neglected but despite this she loves him to the very end of the story. She deals with poverty, a controlling mother after the family’s move to England and yet she stands by her family despite their failings, which are not always intentional or malicious but rather a thread woven into their lives through tradition, culture and beliefs. She’s my favourite because she faces her chance for a new life with a happy-go-lucky outlook and a can-do attitude, which sometimes gets her into trouble…she reminds me a little of me in a lot of ways!
ER Readers interested in Greek Cypriot life and culture, as well as 1950s Cypriot and British history will love this book. It’s also a story of hope and new dreams.
What do you hope readers take away with them when reading The Summer Will Come?
SC I really hope that above all else they will get a real sense of what Cyprus was like and how passionate the people of the country are and how they held onto their values and traditions despite being miles away from home in a foreign land. It is with belief in God and their faith that drove them to continue and work hard to make things work in a new country, with no support network, a new language and culture and way of life to get used to.
ER What are you working on now?
SC I’ve written the first 43,000 words of a novel called Trust is a Big Word about an illicit online relationship that develops between two people. It’s quite experimental as I’m including in the book passages of narration in the first person, witter message feeds between the two main characters and poetry which one of the characters writes for the other.
ER What do you do when you’re not writing?
SC I’m a busy bee doing lots of other things including private tutoring from home, working part-time for a private tuition school as well as working on commissions for proof-reading and editing and writing marketing content and blog posts for clients. I enjoy meeting up with my friends, especially if there’s dancing involved, and of course being Greek Cypriot I spend a lot of time with my immediate and extended family, which always involves food…a lot of food! I enjoy walking and holidays that take me to places that make me think and feel differently. (I can add a bit about India here if you like – going there in Feb)
ER I’d like to thank you so much for joining me today. I wish you every success with The Summer Will Come.
Thank you so much for having me Ellen and for putting together this really thoughtful interview. I’ve really enjoyed taking part…you’re a dear friend and I wish you well with your writing too.
Born in London to Greek Cypriot parents Soulla Christodoulou spent much of her childhood living carefree days full of family, school and friends. She was the first in her family to go to university and studied BA Hotel & Catering Management at Portsmouth University. Years later, after having a family of her own she studied again at Middlesex University and has a PGCE in Business Studies and an MA in Education.
Soulla is a Fiction author and wrote her first novel Broken Pieces of Tomorrow over a few months while working full time in secondary education and is a mother of three boys.
She is a compassionate and empathetic supporter of young people. Her passion for teaching continues through private tuition of English Language and Children’s Creative Writing Classes. She offers writing services too in support of businesses, authors and students.
Her writing has also connected her with a charity in California which she is very much involved in as a contributor of handwritten letters every month to support and give hope to women diagnosed with breast cancer. One of her letters is featured in a book ‘Dear Friend’, released on Amazon in September 2017.
When asked, she will tell you she has always, somewhere on a subconscious level, wanted to write and her life’s experiences both personal and professional have played a huge part in bringing her to where she was always meant to be; writing books and drinking lots of cinnamon and clove tea!
She also has a poetry collection inspired by old phrases and sayings, Sunshine after Rain, published on Amazon and is releasing her second novel, The Summer Will Come in March 2018.
She is currently working on a third novel, Trust is a Big Word, about an on-line friendship which evolves over time into an illicit cyber relationship.
A Word from Soulla.
I have recently come back from India and after spending 23 days there I can honestly say the country and its people have inspired a deeper happiness in me, which coupled with gratefulness, has allowed me to look at my life, for a second time, with different eyes.
Travelling always seems to impact on me in a big way; it refreshes, enlightens, empowers me in so many ways.
You can buy The Summer Will Come at the following:
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