Thursday, July 31, 2014

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Chrissie Parker, Author

Chrissie Parker, Author
UK author Chrissie Parker just released her latest novel, AMONG THE OLIVE GROVES, a suspense story with threads of romance inspired by an occurrence on a Greek island in World War II. She wanted to tell a “raw and real” story about her main character Elena, whose life was typical of what happened to Greeks during WW II. She also wanted to attract people to visit Greece, a country that has had “such a hard time lately.”

Parker, who lives in London with her actor husband and two cats named appropriately after Roman goddesses, enjoys ancient history and archeology. She has also published the thriller INTEGRATE, and is working on two sequels to it along with two historical novels set in Egypt and Jordan. In addition to writing, she likes making spiral beaded bracelets.

Q: How did you conceive of the story for AMONG THE OLIVE GROVES?  Is it based on a true story? Or on characters from your family?

Chrissie Parker: The entire book is based on a conversation I had with a Greek local while on holiday in Zakynthos, Greece in 2005.  During the conversation the local told me all about something that happened on the island during World War Two (I can’t tell you what it as it’s a huge spoiler for the book!).  Needless to say, the conversation stayed with me and I decided to write about it.  I also wanted to set a book on the island of Zakynthos as it’s a beautiful place and Greece has been through such a hard time recently.  I wanted to write something that would inspire people to visit it.

Q: How would you characterize AMONG THE OLIVE GROVES? Is it a “coming of age” story? Or romance? Or suspense?

Chrissie Parker: AMONG THE OLIVE GROVES is Historical Fiction.  It is very definitely a suspense, but there are aspects of romance weaving through it.  I think in essence the book is about change, and dealing with things in your life that you can’t control.  Both Elena and Kate are faced with things that they have to deal with head on.  It’s about strength of characters and doing the right thing for ‘you’ as well as others.

Q: How helpful was setting to telling your story? Thinking about events in Greece during WW II invokes all kinds of possibilities. Could you have told this story as effectively at any time in any place?

Chrissie Parker: The setting was crucial.  As the story hinges on this one piece of information I heard, Zakynthos was the only place it could have been told.  If you then combine that with the main character and the isolation of the island and its idyllic nature, I don’t think the story would have worked as well anywhere else.

The thing that surprised me the most was the lack of researchable material that remains.  Most information about what happened on Zakynthos in World War Two, came from a limited number of sources, either word of mouth, or from one book in the island’s library. Many records of what happened were destroyed during a big earthquake on the island in 1953. 

Q: How did you assure historical accuracy? Is accuracy important for credibility and believability? Or for enhancing the story?

Chrissie Parker: I did a lot of research.  I love history, but I’m more into Ancient History than modern, so World War Two was a bit of a learning curve for me.  I read books about the war, the Greek resistance, and women’s roles during the war.  I watched a lot of documentaries on the subject and also visited some museums.  I also had to do a lot of research about Greece in general.  For this particular book, accuracy was incredibly important, as the chapters set in Greece are chronologically set from 1938 to 1944, so I needed to make sure that any world events mentioned, that impacted the story, fell in the right place in the book.  

I wanted the book to not only tell a story but to be raw and real.  It is rumored that what eventually happened to my character Elena actually happened to Greeks for real during the war.  I needed to understand why, so that I could write in the best way possible without sensationalizing it. 

Q: What did you do to help readers engage with your characters in an historical setting? Why do we care what happens to them?

Chrissie Parker: I think Elena is an important character.  She is a woman, she is expected to act a certain way for a woman of her time.  She breaks with conventionality in many ways in this book.  Everything she does is for others, she is completely selfless and I love that about her.  She is strong willed, has a big heart and is also very feisty.  In a way I feel that what happened to her was always meant to be.

Q: Did you write AMONG THE OLIVE GROVES strictly to entertain? Or did you also want to educate readers? Or deliver a message?

Chrissie Parker: I wrote it to both entertain and to send a message.  In fact there are a few messages in this book.  War is hard, it changes life, but Elena fought for everything she believed in, people are strong and will do everything they can to protect those they love, and whether we are at war or just living life normally, we should always look after those we love and protect them the best we can.  There is always an answer to your troubles if you search hard enough, and I think all of that comes across in the book. 

I also wanted to show people what a wonderful place Greece is.  As I mentioned above, it has been through a really hard time over the last few years and if people read the book and choose to then visit it, it means that it is helping the people who live there. 

Q: Does the concept of “heroes” vs “villains” play an important part in AMONG THE OLIVE GROVES? Do you need a villain to have a hero? What makes a good villain?

Chrissie Parker: Very much so.  There are a number of villains in this book, and a few heroes too.  War changes people and people have to choose sides whether they like it or not.  In this book we have the typical villain, Italians and Germans who have invaded the island and taken away the freedom of those who live there.  There are also people who have unintentionally become villains by choosing to align with the enemy as a way of self-preservation. Sometimes in life people don’t always pick the right side, and they unintentionally then become a villain, but if there is good in them, they will do something heroic in the end.  There is a definite need for hero and villain in AMONG THE OLIVE GROVES, the war was full of both, and it very clearly comes through in this story. 

In the case of this story a good villain is one that suppresses the masses, one that takes away their freedom, that leaves them scared and afraid, with no choice but to fight against the oppression.  This in turn makes the islanders heroic, they fight for their family and their neighbors and for their ultimate freedom.

Q: Are you in control of your characters, or do they take over occasionally and make you write something you never intended?

Chrissie Parker: Most of the time I am in control of my characters but I struggled a lot with Elena.  She is such a feisty and headstrong character.  She led me down paths I was least expecting. I knew what I wanted from her, but she really did break all of the boundaries, and ended up being much braver and more determined than I could ever have imagined.  I also struggled with a few others too, Kate Fisher was hard to predict, in the book she receives a big shock, and she handles it very badly, she definitely suffered with mood swings during the writing process!

Q: What’s next?

Chrissie Parker: I am currently working on two sequels to INTEGRATE called Temperance and Retribution, both of which will be released next year.  I also have two works of historical fiction in the pipeline that I need to revise, they are set in Egypt and Jordan.

Q: Tell us about Chrissie Parker. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Chrissie Parker: I am married to an actor, and live in London (UK), and we have two cats that are named after Roman Goddesses.  I’m a history and archaeology geek, and I have completed a 6 month Egyptology course and a 6 month Archaeology course with Exeter University. I love collecting and reading history books and watching documentaries about ancient history too.  I also make beaded spiral bracelets.

- I always write with a green pen
- I can’t say the word anonymous – it comes out as anomynous
- My favorite sandwich is cheese and orange marmalade – everyone thinks it’s odd

About Chrissie Parker

Chrissie lives in London with her husband and is a freelance Production Coordinator working in the TV, documentary and film industry. 

Chrissie is also an Author.  Her thriller INTEGRATE was released in October 2013.  Chrissie is currently working on two sequels to Integrate called Temperance and Retribution.  Both will be released in 2015.

Other written work includes factual articles for the Bristolian newspaper and guest articles for the charities Epilepsy Awareness Squad and Epilepsy Literary Heritage Foundation.  Chrissie has also written a book of short stories and poems, one of which was performed at the 100 poems by 100 women event at the Bath International Literary Festival in 2013.

Chrissie is passionate about Ancient History, Archaeology and Travel, and has completed two six-month Archaeology and Egyptology courses with Exeter University.   She also likes to read, collect books, make bracelets and listen to music. To find out more about Chrissie visit her website

Elena Petrakis adores living on the Greek island of Zakynthos. When World War Two looms her way of life is threatened. Left with no choice she joins the island's resistance to fight for what she believes in; her family, her home, and her freedom.

Decades later, thousands of miles away in the Cornish town of Newquay, Kate Fisher prepares to celebrate her twenty-first birthday, but her joy is fleeting when she learns she is adopted. Abandoning life in England, Kate flees to Zakynthos, where she is forced to acknowledge a life she has struggled to come to terms with, one that will change her future.

From the beautiful crystal turquoise seas of the Ionian Islands to the rugged shores of the Cornish coast, AMONG THE OLIVE GROVES  is a story of love, bravery and sacrifice.


Purchase Link 

Author Links
Twitter - @Chrissie_author

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