An Interview with Soulla Christodoulou
It is a pleasure to welcome my friend the bestselling author Soulla Christodoulou to the blogs today to chat all things writing and her new book, The Village House. Thank you for stopping by to chat, today Soulla and sharing your news and thoughts with my readers.
What inspired you to write your most recent book?
I think I wrote The Village House, which is my fourth novel, on a subconscious level, to create a happier ending to an event in my own life. Back in 1995, my paternal grandmother expressed a wish that her house in Cyprus would be mine when she passed but unfortunately, a few days later, she died without leaving a will. Her house, though still in our family, never came to me and so The Village House has allowed me to fictionalise what might have been had I inherited her beautiful village home. It is a way of allowing me to remember my grandmother and honouring her memory, as well as embracing my roots and a place which pulls at my heartstrings, though I was born and raised in the UK.
Who is your favourite character in your book and why?
My favourite character is Katianna – she’s strong, determined, successful and lets nothing hold her back. I love how she goes through a soft, gentle change as she comes to realise that there’s more to life than the life she knows in London, and she warms to her homeland in a way which many will relate to when we go back to our home country or country of birth. She finds a new pace of life, and love, in Omodos, the Cypriot mountain village where she has inherited her grandmother’s house. It is there that she finds more than a love for her heritage and culture.
What was the first story you had published?
The first story I had published by The Conrad Press and shortly to be republished by Kingsley Publishers, is Alexander and Maria. My first two novels were self-published: Broken Pieces of Tomorrow and The Summer Will Come Alexander and Maria is about an online friendship which blooms between a married man with Cerebral Palsy living in Inverness and a single mother of a teenage daughter living in London. It is a sexy read, and touches on themes of living with disability, acceptance, self-worth, taking chances and, of course, love. It was nominated for the RSL Ondaatje Prize 2021 and is currently a “page to stage” project.
Do you have another story planned or in progress? When can we expect to see that?
I have a story set in a Cotswold village in the hands of my Beta Readers which will be published by Kingsley Publishers in Spring 2023. It is about a retired art teacher who returns to the village she left as a teenager under a cloud of shame and embarrassment. There she finds it difficult to settle, missing the busy life she enjoyed in teaching until anonymous postcards start to arrive which prompt her to get more involved in her community and to use some of the skills she had as a teacher. It’s a tale of friendship, community, magic, starting over, finding yourself and, of course, there’s a happy ending.
Who is your favourite author?
I could write a whole list but I’m going to say Maeve Binchy simply because I absolutely adore her stories and she’s an author who continually writes beautiful tales and whose writing never fails to evoke my emotions. Her writing has and still is of the highest quality unlike some authors who still ride on their past fame yet fail to deliver good quality.
What do you like to do when you’re not planning or writing your next book?
I am a private tutor of English Language and Business Studies so much of my hours after 3.30pm are spent teaching six- to eighteen-year-olds. But I also read, enjoy watching movies and series, I spend time playing scrabble with my mum, and I’m lucky to live close to my family which means I can go out for lunch, have a natter and find inspiration for my next book. Recently, my eldest son and his girlfriend took me out to see Matilda at the theatre in London and it was a truly lovely night.
When did you know you wanted to write novels?
In a nutshell: when I sat in my first Creative Writing Class in January 2015. I’d always been a writer (and a reader) – keeping a diary as a teenager, journalling, keeping notes of favourite sentences from books I’d read – but never written anything remotely close to a story with a beginning, a middle and an end, since my school days. Sitting in that makeshift semi-circle in a church hall with twelve other strangers, ignited a sense of purpose in me. I wanted to tell stories and I wanted to tell good ones… ones about real people and real life.
Do you write novels in other genres?
I write mainly romance novels but my novel The Summer Will Come is a fictionalised historical story with a thread of romance and is currently a “book to movie” project. I love happy endings but that’s not to say my books are sweet and fluffy; I examine life in all its complexities and create characters who are raw and real, flawed and imperfect. Life isn’t meant to be lived in a straight line, right, and so neither do my characters.
What do you like most about being an author?
The best thing about being an author is creating stories others can enjoy. The best feeling in the world is a reader messaging or leaving a review which shows they have totally “got” what I’ve written but I also enjoy seeing what other themes or ideas they pick up on and how the story has pulled them in a certain direction whether that be a memory, an idea, a life change.
Do you have a specific routine for writing? Is there a special place or particular tool you use?
I have a beautiful wiring room – my own room with a view – at the bottom of my garden. My partner, Alan, built it for me and it’s the best space for thinking, imagining, creating and best of all writing my stories. In terms of routine, it varies but the one thing which doesn’t change is my discipline. When I have pencilled witing in my diary that’s generally what I do. I use my laptop and countless notebooks to write and record my ideas and story. Writing things out creates a better feel… writing with a pen allows me to write out my thoughts at the same pace as my ideas come to me. Being in sync is a good way to allow the free flow to lead me gently into the story and its pace. I find that typing the story, where my fingers work faster than my thoughts, sometimes leads to gaps or a less detailed work which means I then have to go back and think about the passage again. I don’t use any fancy tools – me, my laptop and an open word document.
What advice do you have for other writers?
I would say keep writing and keep learning. Find as many resources as you can and take what works for you and use it in your work. I have lost count of how many books on the craft of writing I have but there is only a handful I refer to again and again. Writing has to be done your way. It’s about finding your own unique way of telling the story and sticking to that. The rules, once you know them, can be broken.
Equally, find a group or someone to share your work with. It’s difficult putting yourself out there, putting yourself in a vulnerable position, but to improve and to trust yourself more and more you have to learn to listen to others and adjust. That’s why I love helping new writers find their way. I offer mentoring and developmental sessions, I edit at all levels and proofread their stories. It’s an honour to be able to support authors, especially at the start of their journey. I too have a support group and they make me accountable and strive to improve every time.
“Romantic, descriptive, and evocative… The Village House captures the authentic spirit of a Cypriot village.” - Nadia Marks, best-selling author of Among the Lemon Trees.
Katianna receives a solicitor’s letter summoning her to Omodos, a mountain village in Cyprus.
What is at first an inconvenient trip quickly becomes more attractive as she spends more time there. Flooded with many childhood memories, she falls in love with her roots and relishes in the relaxed pace and warmth of her cousin and the Cypriot people she meets. And then there’s the simmering attention of the builder tasked with renovating the village house Katianna has inherited from her maternal grandmother.
Grappling with yo-yoing emotions, she returns home. But in London all is not well for her award-winning dating agency; her world is threatened, turned upside down, forcing her to question everything she believes in and has worked so hard for.
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 Women’s 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 has since published a historical fiction novel set in 1950s Cyprus and England, The Summer Will Come, and a short story, Unlocked which was inspired by her travels to India in February 2018.
The Summer Will Come has been earmarked as a Book to Movie project and is also currently being translated into Greek.
She is a compassionate and empathetic supporter of young people. Her passion for teaching continues through private tuition of English Language and she also supports writers with mentoring and book editing and has recently set up a social media campaign promotion service for new authors. (email contact: firstname.lastname@example.org)
She is active across a number of social media platforms and can be found at @soullasays on Instagram and @schristodoulou2 on Twitter. Her website is www.soulla-author.com.
Her writing has connected her with a charity in California which she is still 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 has been featured in a book ‘Dear Friend’ which came out 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, Sunshine after Rain, published on Amazon and has most recently released a romantic contemporary novel, Alexander and Maria, through The Conrad Press.
Currently writing her fourth novel set in Cyprus and London, she is hoping to attract a book publishing deal for this story too within the next year or so.