Eve’s heroine Anna dreams of swapping life behind the counter of the family fish and chip shop for a university course. But her mother Tina wants Anna to learn to cook, to ensnare a good Greek husband, to have a big white wedding, and then go to live in a four-bedroom house with a BMW in the driveway. So sparks are bound to fly.
‘My parents are Greek Cypriot immigrants who came to England in the sixties and worked long, unsociable hours in the fish and chip trade,’ explains Eve. ‘My father’s schooling was cut short at the age of fourteen because his parents couldn’t afford his bus fare to school.
‘Dad arrived in England with £20 in his pocket. Just like Anna’s father, he spent his first night on the British mainland, sleeping in a telephone kiosk. My parents worked long hours and suffered many hardships to secure a better future for their family.’
Eve studied at Leicester University and has spent most of her adult life earning a living from writing. I was a local newspaper reporter for four years, then I was a freelance writer in Cyprus for a further four years,’ she says. ‘I also did lots of writing of my own during my lunch breaks and after work. I jotted down thoughts, observations and family stories.
‘These stories I was told as a child, together with the extraordinary relatives who were part of my life, were the starting point for Eat, Drink and be Married. My maternal grandmother, Yiayia Despinou, was the village matchmaker and she read people’s fortunes in their coffee cups as she sat beneath the shade of a lemon tree in her back yard. She was the inspiration for Yiayia Annouolla, the grandmother in my novel. But unlike Yiayia Annoulla, she did not lose her home in the war of 1974, and she never lived in England. The death I describe in my story is not hers, but that of my paternal grandfather, who lived with us for many years.
‘My mother has also been a major inspiration in my fiction. Mum is a one-off, her wit is inadvertent and her language colourful. She lives for her children and grandchildren. She has lots in common with Tina, the mother in Eat, Drink and be Married, and I have a lot in common with my heroine, Anna. I too had a strict upbringing, and my wish to leave home and study was met with parental opposition. When I was growing up, a Greek Cypriot girl didn’t leave home unless she had a ring on her finger.
‘Writing this book was a cathartic, emotional and stimulating experience. It allowed me to give vent to some of my latent teenage frustrations, and to acquire a deeper understanding of Greek Cypriot culture. ‘When I was living in Cyprus working as a freelance reporter and radio presenter, I researched the history and traditions of the island. I visited mountain villages to watch traditional foodstuffs being made, I interviewed people who had lived through colonial, civil war and world war and began to understand the sequence of events that led to Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974. Much of my research has found its way into the book. ‘Apart from writing, these days I also look after my daughter and help my husband run his ceramics business. My brother-in-law is an artist who designs and hand-crafts ceramic sculptures which we sell to retailers in the UK and abroad. I switch on my business brain when the office telephone rings and sink back into writer’s mode as soon as I replace the receiver.
‘I avoid daytime distractions that eat into my writing time. I have become good at utilizing spare hours or even minutes – for example, I write in the car when waiting for my daughter to finish after-school activities.’Eve found it comparatively easy to put her novel into print. ‘I sent three sample chapters of Eat, Drink and be Married to both Transworld Publishers and to the literary agent Judith Murdoch,’ she explains. ‘I expected nothing more than some critical comments and/or rejection letters. But both agent and publisher wrote back asking for the complete manuscript.
‘After reading the book and suggesting ways in which it could be improved Judith became my agent and two months later negotiated a deal with Black Swan.’
Eve Makis is available for corporate events, private shows, milestone celebrations (birthday, anniversary), fundraisers, festivals, and more.