18 November 2012

Get Away to an Exotic Greek Island with This New Book

Most of the time, I don't pay too close attention to promotional stuff coming through my feed on Google Plus. But something about a character unemployed and suddenly single, caught me immediately. I went over to Amazon, bought the book and then invited the author to my blog.

Here's the blurb that caught my eye (personally written by the writer) -

Anna Cox thought she knew exactly where her life was heading. She was wrong. The same week she turns thirty, she suddenly finds herself unemployed and single.

After ten years of steadily climbing her way up the stressful corporate ladder at Milton International, her dream of one day occupying her boss’ corner office with the enormous windows has been ripped from her thanks to a round of brutal downsizing. Her slightly boring but reliable boyfriend of five years has dumped her because he didn’t think she shared his vision of their “ideal future” together. And in addition to losing her job and boyfriend, she comes to the conclusion she might be losing her mind too.

A sane person wouldn’t follow a perfect stranger they meet on a plane to a tiny village no one has heard of on a Greek island, would they? The stranger in question is an irresistibly charming and handsome Englishman with a sympathetic ear. But that’s no excuse to follow him to the place he calls his home and practically move in with him, is it?

Having left everything she knows behind, Anna begins to discover she’s not the person she thought she was. Neither is her mother - a woman Anna barely knows - who shows up in Anna’s new home unexpectedly. Even more unexpected is the arrival of a mysterious relative Anna didn’t know she had. Who knew getting dumped and downsized and momentarily losing one’s sanity could have so many surprising side effects?

Doesn't that sound awesome??

And I was so excited to interview the writer and find out so much more about the book, her writing process and what it's like for her to live near the very place she set the book.

I was immediately drawn when I read the book's description and I can't wait to read it! What inspired this book?

My move from Singapore to Crete almost four years ago is what inspired me to write “Change of Pace”. Not only did I find myself adjusting to living in a different country, I was inundated by an entirely different culture, too. After nearly two decades of being an expatriate in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, Europe was utterly alien and downright esoteric to me.

I had visited the Greek islands as a tourist before I impulsively packed up my life in Singapore and headed to Crete, which is the largest of the Greek islands. Like most tourists, I took the romanticized and perfectly idyllic version of the Mediterranean home with me in my mind when my vacation ended. The reality of life on a Greek island came as a huge culture shock. Singapore and Crete are both islands but that is where their similarities begin and end. One is a bustling metropolis of the highest modern mode. The other often operates on medieval morals… Crete has one foot firmly and proudly planted in its illustrious past and history while the other foot very tentatively treads on present ground.

Your answer may have already answered this next question, but did this reflect your own life in anyway?

My book’s central character, Anna Cox, loses a job she loves, gets dumped by her boyfriend of five years, and turns thirty in the space of one unfortunate week. While I’m still twenty-nine for another couple of months, haven’t had the misfortune of being fired, and never been in a romantic relationship that has even come close to lasting five years, my book does reflect my own life in many ways. Change is the theme of my existence. I permanently left the country of my birth before my ninth birthday and I’ve been on the move ever since.

I was recently asked if my book is a thinly veiled autobiography. The truth is some parts of it are more thinly veiled than others. Change of Pace is not exactly autobiographical but events from my own life wound up bleeding into the story of Anna Cox.

Am I right when I say that you actually live in the city of Greece, where you have set this book? Did you describe real places within the book?

If you come to Crete, you can visit all the places I describe in my book. I live in a town called Chania, which is located on Crete’s west coast. Crete does belong to Greece but it also has a very strong sense of identity separate from the mainland. People who are born on this island are Cretan first and Greek second.

Describe your writing process.
I have a vivid imagination. Often, I find myself floating off into a world of my own making inside my head, which may or may not have something to do with my being a Pisces. In any case, in this private world of mine, people come to life and I observe them. It’s not unlike watching a movie. When the credits roll and I snap back to reality at last, all I have to do is try to remember the plot and type it up in a word document. I usually do this in the evenings but I’m not rigid about adhering to a schedule. I don’t have a set word count I must reach every day. In a word, I suppose you could call my writing process fluid.

What was the biggest challenge you faced while writing this book? How did you conquer it?
My Yorkshire Terrier! He doesn’t approve of me spending extended periods of time chained to my laptop. Honestly, I was lucky in the sense that writing the book was an enjoyable experience for me.

Yes, writing the book was fun and relatively painless. I wasn’t struck by any “artistic pain and suffering” until after my manuscript was accepted for publication, which is when the editing process began.

I was shocked to the point of stupefaction when I opened the word document containing the edited version of my manuscript because it was suddenly blue. The changes the editor had made to my manuscript were in blue text. It looked like it had been attacked by a herd of Smurfs.

Shaking my head, I promptly closed the word document. I hadn’t been sleeping much. Sleep deprivation does strange things to the mind. I convinced myself the blueness of my manuscript was a hallucination. But after my best friend had taken a look at my manuscript, and confirmed it was indeed blue, I felt as though I’d been stabbed in the gut. The story I had created was my baby. As silly as it sounds, it hurt that someone wanted to change it.

When the hurt ebbed, anger flooded my being. Oh yes, I got mad. How dare someone attack the story I had poured my soul into? What gave them the right to sick a bunch of rowdy Smurfs on it? It would not be an understatement to say I did some serious fuming over my “Smurfed” manuscript. I finally conquered my fuming by taking some very long walks with Taxi Driver, my aforementioned impossibly cute Yorkshire Terrier.

What part do you like the most in your book?
Despite the fact Anna Cox gets off to a very rocky start in the first chapter of Change of Pace, I have to say it’s my favorite part of the book. The same is true for any book I read. First chapters are full of the promise of experiences to be gained through the lives of a book’s characters. I tend to read first chapters slowly, savoring each word as though it’s a spoonful of some sinfully calorific chocolate concoction.

What do you feel you did right with this book?
My goal was to entertain people with the story and give them a break from their own lives. Hopefully, I got that right.

What are you working on next?
I’m working on a story about three women at three very different ages and stages in their lives. They become unlikely friends through unexpected circumstances. Basically, it’s about how even the best laid plans can become derailed at any given moment. Yes, more change and shock, and pivotal life-altering decisions.

And my final "non writing related" question - what is your favorite amusement park ride?

I’m old-fashioned at heart. I love a classic carousel with horses.

Make sure you take a look at Sofia Essen's blog, Facebook page, and Twitter account. Most of all, check out Amazon to buy your copy!

Sofia Essen spent twenty years as an expatriate in Southeast Asia and the Middle East before moving to the island of Crete in Greece. Living in Crete is what made Sofia pick up a pen and start writing. She was sitting in a café in a small Cretan village one afternoon, watching a couple of tourists desperately trying and failing miserably to order a cup of coffee, and said to herself, “This place would be a great setting for a book.”


  1. This books sounds really awesome and is really fitting to what is happening in my life at the moment. Thank you so much for sharing this. Great interview too.

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