Greek writer Effrosyni Moschoudi presents her upcoming novel “The Lady of the Pier – The Ebb”, a quarter-finalist in the 2014 ABNA contest.

Ever since I was little, I’ve always cherished time spent in Corfu; my mother’s birthplace. Corfu is one of seven islands in the Ionian Sea. It is situated on the northwest edge of Greece, an hour’s journey by ferry from the prefecture of Epirus in the Greek mainland. The first thing you notice when you see pictures of my favorite Greek island is how green it is and that is no surprise, given the fact that it is remarkably more humid and rainy there than is common for the rest of the country.

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Lush hills, quaint fishing villages and stunning sandy beaches are to be found all around this highly touristy island. I regard myself as very lucky to have spent most of my childhood summers there in the company of my beloved grandparents and multitudes of cousins; sometimes for 3 months at a time! My encounters with hoards of mainly British, German and Italian tourists over the years have been a source of joy and fascination to me. I have a wealth of fond memories involving dozens and dozens of strangers who I have encountered there over the years. Some of them were fellow swimmers at the local beach and others were customers in our family businesses of a souvenir shop and a guesthouse where I used to help out in my youth.

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“Mataouna” is the pyramid-shaped mountain (on the right) that is described fondly in my upcoming book. It is fully visible from the beaches of both Moraitika & Messonghi.

The summers of my childhood in Corfu are to me, a unique blessing. It was inevitable that as a writer, I would wind up writing about my beloved island one day. In my debut novel, “The Necklace of Goddess Athena”, I modeled Mrs. Sofia (the elderly Corfiot lady who runs the guesthouse) after my grandmother Antigone. Back in the 80s, she used to clean the rooms in our guesthouse on the island with help from my sister and me. In my upcoming novel, “The Lady of The Pier – The Ebb”, I have gone further by setting the scene (in one of the two worlds in the story) in my grandparents’ village, Moraitika, which I baptized in the book with the fictitious name, Vassilaki.

Fishing boats at the river mouth in Messonghi

Fishing boats at the river mouth in Messonghi

I did the same with the neighboring village of Messonghi which I renamed Messi for the book. I will take this opportunity also to proudly announce that other than the wealth of fond memories that Messonghi has granted me, it recently yielded one more unexpected treasure! After a chat with fellow author Nicholas Rossis (SciFi author of the Pearseus series), it turned out that we are actually related in a way. We have the same set of cousins in Messonghi plus his great grandfather had baptized my granddad! How’s that for reality that resembles fiction? Anyway, I digress!

One of the picturesque lanes in Moraitika (“Vassilaki” in the book). It is on the facade of my great-grandfather’s house so it used to serve as a playground for my cousins and me during many childhood summers.

One of the picturesque lanes in Moraitika (“Vassilaki” in the book). It is on the facade of my great-grandfather’s house so it used to serve as a playground for my cousins and me during many childhood summers.

In the book, I describe Corfu through the heart and I hope that all the love that is in there, is conveyed with vibrancy of truth as I speak of the kind-hearted locals, the serenity of the settings, the alluring sparkle of the water and the softness of the sunlight as it caresses the hills just before sunset.

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But the book is set in two worlds and the other one had to be Brighton (my second favorite place in the world) but not in the present day. My heart broke forever the day that the legendary West Pier in Brighton ceased to exist. Therefore, there was no way that I was going to set a book in a world where it wasn’t included. After all, I still haven’t found the courage to visit Brighton since the Pier’s destruction.

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The West Pier graced the Brighton seafront from 1866 to bring an unsurpassed grandeur and influx of tourism to the town, until WWII where a gradual decline finally resulted to its total demise. In time, it became derelict until a storm and then a cruel and selfish act of arson destroyed it completely in 2003 before the promised funds from the British National Lottery could help restore it.

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Here, I am photographed with the derelict West Pier in the background on my first visit in Brighton (during Easter, April 1997)

Luckily, I managed to visit Brighton more than once back in the late 90s. The first day I saw the West Pier something strange stirred inside me. I can’t explain it but just like that I was fascinated – awestruck – completely and utterly enthralled. I am not surprised that when it came to writing a novel later in life about tragedy and a haunting, the West Pier is what became the predominant image in my head.

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It is believed that the fire was an act of arson and the allegations connect this act with complaints from the inhabitants of Regency Square (across from the West Pier). They had been insisting for the Pier’s demolishment claiming that it obstructed their sea view’.

As I walked along Brighton beach on the crunchy shingle with the cry of the seagulls overhead accompanying me all the way, I found that I couldn’t take my eyes off the once majestic landmark of British seaside history. I spent hours sitting on the beach or at benches, just watching the familiar cloud of starlings swirl in mesmerizing patterns over the Pier, coming and going as if beckoning the tourists to come closer and watch the show.

It broke my heart as I rested my gaze upon the wounded windows and paint-flaked pillars in its two prominent buildings: The Pavilion at the head that used to be a theatre and the Concert Hall in the middle of the Pier. But of course, all that now remains is the memories as well as a plethora of Pier photos that range from the resplendent times of its former glory, up to the very bitter end with the half-sunken edifices threatening to be swallowed by the angry sea at any moment.

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Even more, the devastation was caused to the Pier in February 2014 during a series of fierce storms. Parts of the remains pictured here have now been claimed by the sea.

Born from the mixture of nostalgia, love and frustration in my heart at the thought of the West Pier, is the novel that I have created. Inevitably, tragedy strikes in the story just as it did for the Pier itself in real life.

“The Lady of the Pier” is a series of two books. The first is subtitled “The Ebb” and the second, “The Flow”. In the following months, I shall hope to share with you photographs from Brighton, both from the past and the present, insights into the characters of my story (both in Corfu and Brighton) and even a sample of the poetry that I have included in the two books. If all goes well, “The Ebb” will be published this summer and “The Flow” will follow by the end of this year.

I am pleased to announce that “The Lady of the Pier – The Ebb” is now a quarter-finalist in the 2014 ABNA contest (Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award). The semi-finalists will be announced in June. Currently, an excerpt of the first 2 chapters is available on Amazon for a FREE download. You are welcome to download it and also review it if you wish. It’s all part of the contest.

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Enjoy the journey into Brighton’s glorious past and I hope to meet you there!

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BLURB

BRIGHTON, 1937
Laura Mayfield leaves London with her mother Ruth in order to pursue a new life in Brighton. She finds employment at the West Pier Pavilion and soon falls in love with Christian Searle, one of the stagehands at the theatre. Laura aspires to a life of riches but this annoys and frightens the proud and insecure Christian, causing rows between them. When she is offered the chance to perform at the theatre, her love for Christian is put to the ultimate test. Charles Willard, a wealthy and arrogant aristocrat becomes fascinated by her and pursues her relentlessly, causing Christian to become enraged. Will Laura’s desire for wealth throw her in the arms of Charles or will her feelings for Christian prevail?

CORFU, 1987
Sofia Aspioti, a Greek student from Athens, arrives in Corfu for her annual summer holidays at her grandparents’ house, relieved to escape her overprotective parents’ care for a while. She takes on a job at the local water sports pier and when Danny Markson, a larger-than-life British tourist flirts with her, she is initially worried that his advances will cause her trouble with her strict family. Yet, by the time she realizes that she’s desperately in love, she finds she no longer cares. When Danny returns home to a village near Brighton, Sofia becomes haunted by a series of dreams about the West Pier and a woman dressed in black. As if cast by a spell, she takes to writing poems about a love that won’t let go. Who is the grieving woman in her dreams and how is her sorrow related to her own feelings for Danny?

 

Reposted with permission from EFFROSYNI’S BLOG – The public diary of a Greek dreamer