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Cyprus weekly

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Eve Makis Written by Melissa Reynolds

Published in Apollo magazine July 2010.


British Cypriot author Eve Makis has achieved critical acclaim for stories which delve into the complexity of the Cypriot psyche, however she’s now ready to tackle a different culture. We catch up with Eve to find out about her latest project and the passion which drives her work.


The first thing you notice when talking to writer Eve Makis is her refreshing candour; the second, that with three successful books under her belt she’s surprisingly modest about her achievements. For her fourth novel Eve has set herself a new challenge, taking a break from satire and Cypriot culture and into unchartered territory with a story tracing the turbulent history of Cyprus’ Armenian community. Centred on a family haunted by the spectre of genocide, Eve has written with a greater sense of gravitas, although readers can still look forward to a splash of trademark humour, albeit she says, in a slightly different way. 


Having recently submitted a rough draft of the manuscript to her literary agent and mentor, Judith Murdoch, Eve admits that she’s nervous about the initial reaction to her new style. “Whether I pull it off or not remains to be seen,” she says, “It’s been a difficult process and a hard book to write; I’m just hoping it’s not going to be a hard book for people to read.” 


Eve’s anxiety seems somewhat incongruous for an author who has sold over 50,000 copies of her previous novels, earning both critical acclaim and a solid global fan base. The change of style marks yet another turning point for the writer who began her career as a local newspaper journalist in the UK, followed by a four-year ‘adventure’ as a freelancer in Cyprus. Liberated from the confines of formulaic local news writing, the experience afforded the freedom to pursue her own stories, and the chance to learn about the history and tradition of her culture first hand.


Since returning to the UK, Eve has published three novels between the births of her two children, aged two and eleven. Remarkably, she manages to find the time to write by keeping to a schedule designed around the demands of her job as a mum. She’s become adept at working whenever time allows, developing plots while doing household chores or mentally formulating paragraphs during the school run. Characteristic pragmatism and level-headedness help Eve to maintain focus, while a writer’s propensity for a touch of self-doubt keeps her feet planted firmly on the ground.


Aside from the occasional book signing, and a glamorous make-over and photo shoot for ‘OK Cyprus’ last year, the author says she rarely gets the chance to bask in the glory of her profession. “I’m so rooted in the daily reality of being a writer and a mum that anything else doesn’t register on my radar,” she asserts. “When a book is published I’ll have a couple of days when I think this is great, then I realise I’ve got to get my head down again. I can’t spend too much time luxuriating or thinking I’m great; I just can’t, it’s not the way I’m made.”


Likewise, Eve is bemused by an assumption that getting published brings instant wealth and a life of comfort. On the contrary, she reveals that she hasn’t earned a penny for the past year and is more often than not making material sacrifices. “It’s not the reality at all,” she says truthfully, “There are years when things are good and there are years when things are very bad, and unless you are completely dedicated to what you do you’re not going to be able to ride that storm. The reality is that most people are not JK Rowling, she’s an exception to the rule,” she adds. “My motivation is the hope that I will get my book published. My other motivation is that I don’t want to do anything else because it’s what I love doing on a daily basis.”


Given a genuine passion for her craft it’s not surprising to learn that the author was an enthusiastic scribbler throughout her youth, decanting years of teenage angst into poetry, an uneventful diary and regular letters to a Cypriot friend during her university years. “I certainly wasn’t the best writer at school or the best at English Literature, but I did tend to write about my feelings,” Eve confesses. “I used to pour my heart out in those letters and I think that was a form of writing and offloading. A lot of those feelings of frustration made their way into my first book,” she adds, referring to her semi-biographical novel, ‘Eat, Drink & Be Married’ published in 2004.


Set against the backdrop of the family’s fish and chip shop on a Nottingham council estate, the book is her personal perspective on the struggles of a generation of British born Cypriots yearning to enjoy the freedoms of their birthplace but restricted by family loyalty and tradition. Although focused on the difficulties faced by the Cypriot Diaspora, Eve’s story is a reminder of the injury and alienation of intolerance endured by every subsequent wave of immigration since.


A perceptive grasp of the human condition makes Eve a talented storyteller, with an aptitude for crafting authentic characters woven skilfully within stories revealing the multifaceted and sometimes dark side of human nature. They are tales readers feel they can connect with, featuring protagonists they know, bound together by complex relationships they understand. Among them are mothers, grandmothers, friends, husbands and acquaintances, along with the scourge of many a young bride - the interfering mother-in-law.


“Things that have a lasting impression or strike a chord with me seem to come out in my books,” Eve explains, describing the themes of matrimonial culture clash, an overbearing mother-in-law and the plight of Cypriot refugees, dealt with in her 2006 novel ‘The Mother-in-Law.’ Her husband’s childhood in Trikomo inspired ‘Land of the Golden Apple,’ a coming of age story laced with an undercurrent of human malevolence. Teenage fans will be delighted to learn that Eve is considering writing a follow-up instalment of the mischievous Socrates’ ‘Huckleberry Finn’ style adventures.


While Eve confesses to being a reluctant self-promoter, she’s always prepared to lend a hand to highlight the joy of reading. In 2008 she joined crime writer Stephen Booth as a Nottinghamshire Libraries’ ‘Reading Champion,’ and featured in this year’s ‘Storyfest,’ an initiative to celebrate the power of stories. Having left her previous books to their own devices, Eve is keen to get personally involved in promoting her next work, which means overcoming a fear of flying to embark on a book tour outside Europe. She also promises to work through her technophobia to interact more frequently with her fans using a combination of social media.


Eve has yet to plan the next chapter of her personal life but isn’t ruling out the possibility of a permanent return to the island. For the time-being, her Cypriot born husband Tasos satisfies his yearning for home with frequent visits to Cyprus in his capacity as Chief Scout for Nottingham Forest FC’s youth academy. Creatively, Eve has a plethora of ideas, though none will get her attention before she’s finished her book. Whatever happens, she’s certain she will always indulge a passion for writing as a ‘crucial part’ of her life. As for its outcome, that she says “Rests in the hands of the Gods.”


©Melissa Reynolds 2010 

 
 

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