Eleni Kyriacou is the author of She Came to Stay, which was published by Hodder & Stoughton in paperback on 25 February 2021.
Eleni kindly answered a few of my questions.
1. Tell us a little about She Came to Stay.
She Came To Stay is set during the Great Smog of 1952 and is the story of Dina, who arrives in Soho, London from Cyprus, dreaming of a bigger, better life. She becomes friends with the mysterious, glamorous Bebba. But Bebba’s past catches up with them and, along with Dina’s no-good brother, Peter, the trio are pulled into a shocking incident. If they’re to escape the gallows they must do all they can to stick together…but by now Dina loathes the two of them and is desperate to get away.
2. What inspired the book?
In the 1950s, my mother arrived in London from Cyprus. She was in her in her mid-twenties, spoke no English and hardly knew anyone. She met my father here, they married and they went on to have happy lives. But I’ve always wondered what would have happened if she’d taken a wrong turn? If she’d got mixed up with the wrong people or made some terrible decisions? This is that story. Who can you trust when you’re in a city of strangers?
3. Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you?
I plan because my books are quite twisty and ‘plotty’, and I like to think about when I reveal certain secrets to the reader and how. So that usually involves knowing a few key scenes and thinking through where these would work. I need to see the book visually, so I use index cards to structure it, laying them on the floor or kitchen table. But it’s not unusual to then change it all – I’m not a meticulous planner, more a messy, free-form one.
4. Is there anything about the process of publishing a book that surprised you?
Where to start? I was surprised at how much a book can change (for the better) in the editing and how crucial an editor’s role is in bringing out the story and asking the right questions. How an editor can sometime see something in the book that you, the author can’t (because you’ve worked on it for so long).
I was also surprised at how much promoting of your own work you do as an author. Much of this is voluntary of course, and some authors choose not to. But if you do choose to be on social media it can take over if you’re not careful and start to feel a bit relentless!
The nicest surprise is just how supportive other authors are. I’m part of The D20 Authors, a group of us who’ve published our debuts during the pandemic. It’s by far the best thing I’ve ever joined, full of support and advice, and our Friday zooms are great fun.
5. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?
Art exhibitions, going to the cinema, dinner with friends. Can’t wait to get back to all that. I did a lot jigsaws during lockdown and never want to see another one.
6. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?
Can I cheat? If there’s a single volume that has all of Patricia Highsmith’s work in it, I’d choose that (there probably isn’t because she was so prolific). Failing that I’d choose Fingersmith by Sarah Waters.
7. I like to end my Q&As with the same question so here we go. During all the Q&As and interviews you’ve done what question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?
How do you make a classic champagne cocktail?
Put a sugar cube in a flute glass, add few drops of Angostura bitters, pour in Champagne, twist lemon peel over the drink and drop it into the glass along with an orange wedge (optional). This is essential knowledge and I have no idea why nobody has ever asked.
About the Book
In a city of strangers, who can you trust?
London, 1952. Dina Demetriou has travelled from Cyprus for a better life. She’s certain that excitement, adventure and opportunity are out there, waiting – if only she knew where to look.
Her passion for clothes and flair for sewing land her a job repairing the glittering costumes at the notorious Pelican Revue. It’s here that she befriends the mysterious and beautiful Bebba.
With her bleached-blonde hair and an appetite for mischief, Bebba is like no Greek Dina has ever met before. She guides Dina around the fashionable shops, bars and clubs of Soho, and Dina finally feels life has begun.
But Bebba has a secret. And as thick smog brings the city to a standstill, the truth emerges with devastating results. Dina’s new life now hangs by a thread. What will be left when the fog finally clears? And will Dina be willing to risk everything to protect her future?
About the Author
Eleni Kyriacou is an award-winning editor and journalist. She has worked in various roles across publishing and her writing has appeared in the Guardian, the Observer, Marie Claire, Grazia, You, Stella and Red, among others. Eleni was the Editor of national magazines New Woman and Looks and has also worked in digital media. The daughter of Greek Cypriot immigrant parents, Eleni has never felt completely British nor Cypriot, but has always felt a Londoner. She was born and grew up in Camden, then Elephant & Castle, Finsbury Park, Tottenham and now lives in Ealing. She has lived north, south and west. East London is another country to her. Every year, she has long conversations with friends and family about leaving London but probably never will…