In Conversation with Effie Kammenou

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Effie Kammenou is a new to me author and her latest book, Love is What You Bake of It will not be my last book by her. As a woman that grew up in a very southern, close-knit family and then married into a decidedly different but still very close-knit Italian family, I saw a lot of myself reflected back at me in her story of a very tight Greek family. I think the biggest takeaway is, family ties are the ties that bind.

In Love is What You Bake of It, Kally Anadarakis owns a cafe, The Coffee Klatch and it, along with baking is the only love of her life. 

Kally never believed herself to be a person worthy of love, but when an intoxicating man she considered out of her league pursues her, she risks everything to be with him. Later, when tragedy strikes, truths are revealed that leave Kally brokenhearted and untrusting.

Eight years later, Kally is a successful pastry chef running the café she’d always dreamed of owning. With a home of her own, a profession she’s passionate about, and the support and love of friends and family, Kally is content with the life she has carved out for herself.

Until the day Max Vardaxis walks into her café…

With arguing parents, meddling relatives, an overly energetic grandmother, a man-crazy best friend, and the long ago, mysterious disappearance of a grandfather, this new man in town is just one more complication in Kally’s life, if not the main one.

Kally must now decide whether to keep her heart safe or to once again take a ‘whisk on love.’

Check out my chat with Effie and make sure you read all the way to the end, you’ll find some amazing recipes and a special giveaway – a little goodness we can all use right now.

Thank you so much for taking time out to chat with me about your new book. I enjoyed reading it very much and I’m always a sucker for books with delicious recipes and good men (…and strong women but good guys with little kids are catnip for me!)

Please take a moment to introduce yourself, what are your likes, dislikes, faves, and what did you do before you started writing. Tell us all about Effie Kammenou.

Thank you for chatting with me. I’m so glad you enjoyed reading Love is What You Bake of It

I like traveling, entertaining friends and family, cooking and baking, and of course, reading. I generally read women’s fiction, steamy romance, or paranormal romance. I also love compelling historical fiction novels.

I’m a very optimistic person. I find the good or the fun in just about everything, so there isn’t much I dislike, except birds—sorry bird lovers. I wish them no harm, but it spooks me when they swoop down and flap their wings by me.

Faves? I’m obsessed with the Gabriel’s Inferno book series, soon to be released as a movie on the streaming channel PassionFlix. I was able to spend a day on set during the taping of several scenes. On the other end of the spectrum, I’m a huge Disney fan. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve been to the parks.

I work in the optical field. It wasn’t what I had intended to do, but it served me well, allowing for flexible hours while I raised my children. I went to college as a theater major and hoped to act professionally. Once both my girls graduated high school and I turned fifty, I decided it was time to do something that defined me. I knew that something would have to exercise my creative muscle.

I think it’s safe to say, you know a thing or two about being Greek. The main characters in Love is What You Bake of It, Kally and Max, are both Greek. Good, bad or indifferent, family is an integral part of Greek heritage and Kally’s family is, well I say this in the nicest way, they are a lot! What is the strangest, most decidedly Greek thing you’ve ever had to deal with and is it possible it has shown up in the pages of this or other books you’ve written?

Let me first say that the dynamics of each family is different, no matter the ethnicity. In my first series, The Gift Saga Trilogy, the relationships between the characters are quite different. They are supportive and wise, but not intrusive. Kally’s family is a lot, and although there are times when mine can be, we aren’t overwhelming. Some of our children might not agree though when our ‘Greek Hotline’ blows up!

In answer to your question, all my books are sprinkled with bits from my Greek life. Kally’s mother calls Facebook, ‘The Facebook.’ My mom told us not to put pictures of her on ‘The Facelift.’ Also, I recall my mom telling me not to marry a Greek man whenever she’d get mad at my dad and, then right after, she’d nudge me toward the nice Greek boy from church. Humor aside, I hope my books convey the love I have for the traditions, culture, and food of the Greek people, which far outweigh the sometimes overbearing actions of our close-knit families.

Kally’s love of food and specifically baking really shines. The reader can feel the joy Kally feels when she’s in her kitchen, it is truly her happy place. Love is What You Bake of It is filled with delicious recipes, do you have a favorite you’d like to share?

I’d love to share all of them with you, but space is limited! Here’s one for Karithopita It’s an easy-to-make walnut cake soaked in simple syrup. I believe almost everyone has heard of baklava. Many avid home bakers are afraid to attempt this pastry because of the phyllo. But once you get a feel for how to handle the thin sheets of dough, this recipe is a breeze,

While Love is What You Bake of It focuses mostly on baking, you’ll find an equal  number of dessert and food recipes in The Gift Saga. My chickpea spread is a real crowd-pleaser.

Kally’s café, The Coffee Klatch, was modeled after a plan I had for an international coffee and pastry café. I had decided that I much preferred leisurely baking for my family and friends rather than waking up at the crack of dawn each day.

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Both Max and Kally come into their relationship with a fair amount of individual baggage. Trust issues are definitely a thing for both of them but Max has the added pressure of also having a young child. How important and how difficult was it to include a child in this story. People in entertainment always say not to work with children or animals because they steal the show, you did a great job managing that balance. What was it like for you as a writer to include her? You actually have people of all ages in this book, do you find one age easier to write than others?

Including a child into this story, particularly the love story, was not difficult at all. If you think about it, having read the book, Athena is the essential factor. Every decision made was with her in mind. I’m not sure there would have been a chance for a relationship between Max and Kally without Athena. The very reason Max comes back to his hometown is to sweep Athena away from a toxic situation. From their first introduction, Athena was drawn to Kally. The progression of their affection for each other was as satisfying to write as the love story.

I don’t find one age easier to write than another. I interact with people of all ages. I spend time with the children in our extended family, as well as my very stubborn and independent ninety-seven-year-old father. A running theme in all my books is the connection between the generations and the lessons to be learned from the elder and wiser ones. It’s important to respect history and our loved ones who lived through life-changing events. More emphasis is placed on these ideas in The Gift Saga than in Love is What You Bake of It. Yet, although it’s meant to be a lighter read, the concept of family and community bonds holds great importance in this story as well.

Love is What You Bake of It has several different yet brilliantly intertwined stories. I was completely captivated by all of the stories, especially Kally’s grandmother’s. Was it easy to weave all of these together, did you have a favorite and what can we expect next?

It wasn’t challenging to intertwine the stories at all. Character development and interconnecting relationships are the most exciting parts of writing. This group of family and friends watch over each other. The Andarakis family has taken teen neighbor, Loukas under their protection. Kally and her sisters offer much-needed female affection to Athena. The grandmother’s storyline showcases the family background and, as a bonus, gives the reader a glimpse of a relatively recent tumultuous time in Greek history. I truly enjoyed writing the grandmother as a young woman. We sometimes forget that the elderly was once young. They loved, went through heartaches, dreamed of the future, and had adventures.

I’m currently writing the second book in the series. This will be Mia, Kally’s sister’s story. As a graphic designer for a nationally circulated magazine, Mia is unexpectedly asked to work side-by-side with a man she has crushed on from afar. A location photoshoot in Greece will afford Mia to continue the search Kally began for information on the disappearance of her grandfather.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

Giveaway

Effie Kammenou is giving away a signed copy of Love is What you Bake of It and it’s open internationally! Follow the directions in the rafflecopter to enter to win. If you have any trouble, click this link to go directly to her special Frolic Reader Giveaway!

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