I'm so excited to have author Soulla Christodoulou as my guest today! If you follow Soulla on social media, then you already know what a gracious, warm, and wonderfully talented woman she is. She is, in my opinion, the embodiment of a ray of sunshine; her posts are always joyful and uplifting and never fail to put a smile on my face. I know you'll be encouraged as you read the following interview and hear more about her brand-new novel, The Summer Will Come.
Now grab your hot beverage of choice, settle into a cozy seat, and enjoy the interview!
Welcome, Soulla! Congratulations on your new novel, The Summer Will Come! Can you tell us a little bit about it and what inspired you to write it?
Thank you, Diana! I’ve had many enriching experiences in my life which have opened my eyes to new things about myself, people and the world. But the seed which influenced the story The Summer Will Come came from somewhere deep within me. My mum recovered from an illness which lasted over three years and brought the concept of death and the fragility of life closer to me than ever. I realised, quite painfully, everything comes to an end and I began to question my life's purpose. What legacy would I leave behind once I was gone? How would people remember me? What is this life all about?
My Greek Cypriot roots and my sense of wonder and inquisitiveness of what came before filled my heart and my mind. What was life like before I was born, what experiences made my parents the people they are and ultimately have shaped me and the person I am today?
My pique didn’t stop there and I began asking questions of my mum and dad, aunts and uncles; What brought you to England? Why did you leave Cyprus? I listened in awe at their recollections, their tales of escape, of heartache, of leaving behind their loving homeland, their hopes and dreams as their parents came to a foreign land with hopes of building a better life for their families. It was these stories and other people’s accounts which provided the thread and plot twists and turns in The Summer Will Come, against a real historical background.
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I’m more of a plotter. I write a chapter synopsis and try to keep a running time line but this changes as I write and I’ve come to recognise that no plan can be set in stone. My imagination takes me where it wants to go and so I’m often changing my plans; they have to be organic and fluid to support my creative, sometimes mess-tangled and confuddled mind. In The Summer Will Come keeping track of the timeline was the biggest challenge, especially with the changing POV throughout the story.
Take us through a typical writing day. What time do you get going? For how long do you write? Do you have a time goal or a word-count goal? Do you have any pre-writing rituals or must-have beverages? :-)
I don’t actually have a typical writing day although, I suppose, when I know I’m going to write and I generally do know because I schedule my writing days on my calendar as I would any other commitment or meeting, I do actually lock myself away in my dining room and write. I’m a morning person now that I work part-time, but when I worked full-time as a teacher I was a night-time person writing late into the evening and on the weekends. I ignore the doorbell, I ignore the telephone ringing. I prepare my writing space – set up my laptop and ensure I have everything to hand such as notes, research and any scribbled feedback from my creative writing buddies – and I write. I have my mobile on silent but I have my Kindle open on Twitter. Twitter is the only distraction I keep…it makes writing less lonely!
What's your favorite genre to write in and why? Is it also the genre you prefer to read?
I would say real life as I like to connect with the situations people find themselves in and I like the way these stories bring out different emotions and attitudes in me. When I read I look for any genre, including crime, romance, thriller, biographies and semi-biographical stories, which have a real setting. As I like books that make me question my own morals and judgments, challenge my way of thinking and seeing the world and those in it. I’m a people person and enjoy realistic characters.
Do you have any advice for writers who are struggling to take a story beyond bare-bones idea to fleshed-out novel? What do you do when you get stuck in the plot or become unsure about what a character should or shouldn't do next?
I’m very lucky in that I attend a creative writing class every two weeks and my writing peers, who have been part of the group now for over three years, all read my writing as it unfolds, so they are able to give me advice. Most of the time, their advice and ideas are ideas that I’ve been toying with in my head but not actioned other times they are an absolute genius and it gives me a new path to wander down with a new burst of energy and zeal. Either way I read and re-read my story many times over and sometimes something will hit me as I’m reading and I will tweak and add revisions.
What are your top marketing tips?
Never underestimate the power and influence of the people in your immediate circle. Your friends, family, acquaintances, peers, work colleagues and clients are ALL in a position to support you in so many different ways. Marketing is not just about sales; for me it’s about “soft selling” – creating awareness, interest, making links and building my support network. I’ve had people buy my book because they got chatting to my friend in the hairdressers, another three people bought my book when they met me at a cousin’s wedding. I’ve had a local business owner offer to host my Book launch and Book Signing Event for free.
In terms of social media and marketing and promotion I would say there’s lots you can do for FREE and if you don’t have a budget you can barter by swapping services or asking for favours; ‘If you don’t ask, you don’t get.’
I also don’t try to do everything all the time…some days I’m tweeting writing quotes, other days I’m posting on Instagram. You can’t do everything all of the time. Choose what works for you and be consistent in your approach.
Did you learn anything notable in 2017, either regarding writing or publishing?
I learnt a lot but the two things that stick in my mind the most and have impacted on me and the way I think and do things.
I visited the London Book Fair for the first time and while I learnt so much from the presentations, seminars and workshops I also learnt that the people you meet, publishers and those working in the publishing industry don’t always deliver what they promise. I had the most detailed conversations and discussions about my writing at the time and I had 6 people tell me to contact them after the show. I did exactly that and yet they didn’t even acknowledge me. I find that not only rude but arrogant and disrespectful. I am a person of my word and always follow through if I say I’m going to do something. I found this disappointing and extremely annoying as they had wasted my time. My background, prior to teaching, is the hospitality industry so being a person of my word created the backbone of my success in an industry that was most competitive in London in the 90s.
The second thing I learnt was how utterly amazing the writing community is in its passion for writing, its sharing of knowledge and its genuine interest in supporting other writers. The writers I met at the LBF have become my friends and I have connected with writers all over the world through my social media. These people have been the source of inspirations, love and motivation and I know that with any issue I have I can turn to them. Equally, they celebrate my triumphs with me too!
What's your current favorite inspirational quote?
This is a difficult one because I LOVE inspirational quotes and post so many across my social media. But I also come up with my own and said this recently to a group of writer friends and they loved it so here’s one of my own for you:
‘Give everything a try. If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, have a giggle or a cry and move on.’
Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity Diana and thank you to all your readers for taking an interest in me and my book, The Summer Will Come.
About The Summer Will Come
Set in 1950s Cyprus, EOKA, British rule, the fight for Enosis (unity) with Greece and two Cypriot families, living in different villages on the island, are coping with the unpredictability of this fractious time.
Circumstances over a five-year period push both families to emigrate to London where, as immigrants, they struggle to settle, face new challenges, trauma and cope with missing their homeland's traditions and culture.
Both families' lives cross paths in London and it seems that happier beginnings could be theirs. But at what cost?
A story of passion for a country in turmoil, family love, loyalty and betrayal and how, sometimes, starting over, in the end, can be better than imagined.
‘The book was so good. I loved it and couldn’t stop reading it. Each chapter left me hanging on a cliff edge and I couldn’t wait to read the next chapter. Just brilliant!’
‘I have really enjoyed it. I really liked the character of Elena and how she met Christaki and the story of Christaki’s sister who rebelled. Well done a really good read which kept me interested.’
'A racy, gripping and fluently written novel, which brings to life the unfortunate realities of Britain's occupation of Cyprus.'
William Mallinson, former British diplomat, Professor of Political Ideas and Institutions, Universita Guglieml Marconi, and author of Cyprus: A Modern History
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 43,000 into the first draft of a third novel, Trust is a Big Word, about an on-line friendship which evolves over time into an illicit cyber relationship.