Please welcome Elida May as she talks about her book Following Evan Three years on from the sudden death of her husband Matt and a subsequent miscarriage, interior designer Laura is still lost in grief, hiding out in the smart London townhouse that was going to be her family home. On the encouragement of her best friend Carla, she signs up to a dating website and receives a message from a mysterious stranger, imploring her to visit him in New York because he has seen her face in his dreams.
Meanwhile, Laura visits an art gallery and is captivated by a painting of a beautiful woman in a flowing dress. It seems to be speaking directly to her, beckoning her to take a leap of faith.
These seemingly disparate events lead Laura on an epic journey to the bustling streets of the Big Apple and the desert landscape of Wyoming, where the clues to her future happiness are waiting to be discovered… Tell us a little more about Following Evan, where did the initial inspiration come from?
I was inspired by my own life experience and by my hopes and dreams during two very difficult times in my life. In 1993, when I was 18, my father, whom I considered my Guardian Angel, died from lung cancer. A year later, and still grieving, I got married, but I quickly realized that my husband’s view of life and marriage was the complete opposite of mine. I felt suffocated, but I didn’t have the strength to walk out. After 16 long years he died suddenly. I poured years of accumulated thoughts and feelings into my main character, Laura. She stared to live with my pain and hopes. Laura starts the book struggling with depression. How did you research this mental illness?
I experienced it. I was born in 1972 in communist Albania. It was a poor, repressed and atheist society, which was ruled by the military. I left the country aged 21 and moved to London, but life for me didn’t improve. I had no one to talk to, I was far away from my family and I was forgetting my mother tongue while not yet knowing how to properly express myself in English. I became more and more withdrawn until I was almost incapable of looking after myself. My recovery was a process that took several years and involved medication and the help of a psychologist.
Following Evan came out of all those experiences and the impact they had on me. Writing became a therapeutic outlet. Starting was the easy part, but finishing the novel was much more difficult. I started it as a distraction, but I completed it as a way of proving to myself that I could accomplish what I had aimed to do. When you started writing this book, did you have a plan for where it would go or did you just put pen to paper and see where it took you?
I knew the beginning and I knew the end, but I didn’t know the route. As the book emerged, I was surprised to meet so many new personalities and characters. Where and how do you do most of your writing?
I do most of my work in my bedroom. I like it when the window is open and I can see the white clouds embellishing the deep blue sky. I handwrite everything first, then once a week I type up all my notes on my computer. I prefer to write at night when the noises of day have quieted down and it’s only me, a cup of coffee and a clean sheet of paper. It then that the magic happens for me and the words flow. However, sometimes I do sit and write in my favorite coffee shop, where I can people-watch. I love the hustle and bustle of public spaces and hearing the buzz of conversations going on around me. Do you have any plans to write more books?
I have been writing short stories and poems since I was 12. I started writing them in Albanian and Italian. When I moved to London I didn’t know any English, so it was a major challenge learning the language in order to express my feelings and write my book. Despite these difficulties, I plan to write novels for the rest of my life. If you had to describe your book in a Tweet(140 characters),what would you say?
After becoming involved with a mysterious artist, depressed Laura is led to another continent and finds a new reason for living and loving. Who is your favorite character in your book? (we won’t tell anyone! ;))
These characters are my babies and what mother can admit to having a favourite? Each has their own challenges and attractions, and I love them all – even if they are naughty at times! What was your favorite thing about writing this book?
Surely every author’s first novel is a process of emptying out the accumulated thoughts and feelings of a lifetime. Writing this book gave me a sense of freedom I hadn’t experienced as a child or during my early adult life. It also gave me the opportunity to find my voice…it was almost like a silent song bursting out. Interview questions by Faye Elida May was born in Albania in 1972. Growing up in a Communist country, where access to books was severely restricted, helped to nurture her love of the written word, and she avidly read whatever genre she could get hold of, including a lot of European literature. Today Elida lives in London with her son Elidon. Following Evan is her first novel, and she is currently working on her second, Diary of Michael Vica. TO learn more about Elida and her work check out her social media accounts on Facebook (here), Twitter (here) and Instagram (here). Following Evan is available to buy now from Amazon (here)