Debut Author Snapshot: Yvette Manessis Corporon

Posted by Goodreads on April 7, 2014
Yvette Manessis Corporon Get away from your computer screen and take a much-needed respite on an idyllic Greek island with Yvette Manessis Corporon's debut novel, When the Cypress Whispers. Inspired by the author's family history, the story follows harried and high-powered Manhattan chef Daphne to Erikousa, a tiny island off the west coast of Greece and the real-life home of Corporon's Yia-yia (her grandmother). A widow with a young daughter, Daphne arrives to plan her wedding to a wealthy New Yorker but finds her priorities shaken by the old-world pace of island life, as she discovers untold stories from her own Yia-yia's life during World War II.

A senior producer with the entertainment news show Extra, Emmy award winner Corporon is also at work on her second novel. She shares family photos that capture the characters and sun-baked Mediterranean setting of When the Cypress Whispers.

"My great-grandparents, my Yia-yia (on the right), and my father's sister. This was taken on Erikousa in the early 1940s, around the time of the Italian Occupation when my grandfather left the island to work and make money in America. Women never smiled in photos back then, ever."
Goodreads: Goodreads member Sandy says, "The true love story here is that of Daphne and her Yia-yia." Tell us how your own grandmother inspired the character in your novel.

Yvette Manessis Corporon: This question makes me so happy, and I do think their relationship is the true essence of the book. Growing up as I did in a traditional Greek immigrant home, my Yia-yia came to live with us after my grandfather passed away. She was a real spitfire of a woman, kind, loving, incredibly opinionated, and simply unable to cook anything in small portions. Yia-yia lived in the U.S. for more than 40 years but never learned to speak English. Even so, she could aways tell you which poutana was cheating on her husband on All My Children.

Growing up in the New York City suburbs, in the bedroom next to Yia-yia's, I never paid full attention to the stories of Yia-yia's life in Greece. She would tell me what happened during the war, how she was left alone on our tiny island of Erikousa while my grandfather was off working in America. She also told me how she befriended a family of Jewish girls who were hiding from the Nazis. I would always sit and listen for a few moments and then find some excuse to escape to my room, probably to listen to Duran Duran. I never realized how extraordinary Yia-yia's life was, how incredibly strong and brave she really was, until it was too late. I never stopped to ask her what her life was like. Was she lonely when my grandfather left? Was she scared when the Nazis came searching house to house for escaped Jews?

Not only did my Yia-yia's life inspire the events of When the Cypress Whispers, this book is my way to finally acknowledge and honor the amazing woman she was.

"My favorite place on earth: View of Erikousa taken from my Aunt Maria's terrace. I love nothing more than to spend lazy summer evenings here surrounded by my family and feasting on freshly caught fish."
GR: Has the island of Erikousa changed since you visited as a child? How much of the old way of life still persists?

YMC: I am happy to report that in so many ways, Erikousa remains an untouched paradise. We do have lovely modern conveniences like cell phone service, but the magical rhythm of island life is thankfully still intact.

A typical day on Erikousa is to be woken by a rooster—or if you've been to a beach bonfire party, to go to bed to the rooster's call. You'll wake to several cups of dark, thick Greek coffee and have your future read in your coffee grounds before heading to the beach, where you'll stay all day swimming in the crystal blue Ionian Sea and napping on a pristine, quiet beach. After sunset, you'll head home to shower and eat freshly caught fish cooked over an open fire...and then do it all again and again.

To this day, there are only a handful of tiny cafés and stores and no traffic lights. To require traffic lights you need traffic, and we don't have any of that, either. The dirt roads are for the most part paved over, and you can still find the occasional donkey, but today most people get around on ATVs and some even have cars. There is actually a doctor on the island now; in the past a visit to the doctor required a boat trip to the main island. The true beauty of Erikousa is the sense of family and community that exists there. It is a place where everyone knows everyone else, and we're all related in some way. They are the most warm and welcoming people, and I feel I've come home every time I go back.

"One of my favorite photos ever taken: me and my other Yia-yia, my mother's mother. This photo was taken right after she taught my kids how to curse in Greek. Who says Yia-yias don't have a sense of humor?"
The one thing that does make me incredibly sad, however, is that every time I go back, it is clear how we are losing my Yia-yia's generation. There are only a handful of the elder islanders left, the ones who personify the culture and essence of Erikousa. When I was younger, each ferry would be met by a sea of black-clad widows at the port. They would hug and kiss you on each cheek when you arrived and wave white handkerchiefs as your ferry took you away. I really miss that.

GR: How has your experience as a TV producer prepared you to write a book?

YMC: Being a television producer for more than 20 years in New York City, I have developed a pretty thick skin. I'm also incredibly determined, tenacious, and stubborn—all job requirements for a successful career in TV.

My original manuscript was rejected again and again, year after year—and a few people told me to just give it up already. Each time I was rejected, I would take the feedback into consideration, and I revised the manuscript over and over again. The rejection was brutal, but it also inspired me to dig deeper and make the book better.

Working in TV, I am also accustomed to being edited. I've spoken to other writers who tell me they have a hard time making changes, taking direction, and live in fear of those dreaded line-by-line edits. I'm like, Bring it on! I'm all for anything that will make my book better. I've had executive producers blow up my scripts minutes before going on the air. I'm OK with edits that I have a few weeks to work on.

GR: Can you share one of your favorite Greek recipes?

YMC: Of course! Love for food and cooking are in my Greek woman DNA. There is nothing I love more than to be surrounded by family and friends and a whole bunch of delicious food. It was incredibly important to me that there be lots of great traditional dishes in the book, so I stuck with the dishes I grew up with, ones that my own Yia-yia made again and again, like tomatoes and eggs. This is the ultimate in Yia-yia comfort food and makes a perfect breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Please note one thing: No real Greek cook ever measures...never, ever. Ask a Greek for a recipe, and the closest thing to measurements you'll get is, a little of this, a splash of that, and some of this, too, for taste.

Tomatoes and Eggs

4 medium tomatoes
4 eggs
A few splashes of extra virgin olive oil
A few leaves of fresh basil or a sprig of fresh thyme
Salt to taste

Dice the tomatoes and drain the extra liquid.

Coat a medium-size pan with olive oil and add the tomatoes. Cover and simmer on low heat, stirring a few times until they lose their firm texture and are mushy and thick. Usually takes about 5 minutes.

Take a spoon and clear four spaces in the pan, pushing the tomatoes aside so you now have places to put the eggs.

Crack the eggs into the spaces you created with your spoon and cover. Cook on low heat for about 2 or 3 minutes, depending on how firm you like your eggs cooked. I like my yolks soft but not runny.

Remove the cover, and when the eggs are just about done, add your basil leaves (they should be torn into small pieces) or sprinkle on some fresh thyme...both are delicious.

Sprinkle with salt.

Remove from the pan and serve.

You can serve with some crusty, toasted bread for dipping.


Comments Showing 1-14 of 14 (14 new)

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message 1: by Mavis (new)

Mavis Having spent many fabulous holidays on the beautiful Ionian Island of Kefalonia and loving everything Greek, I can't wait to read this book. Even just reading her 'blurb' on Goodreads, Yvette exudes the love, warmth and sunniness of the Greek people. Her typical day makes me want to hurry back to Greece. This time to Erikousa!


message 2: by Helen (new)

Helen Coutlis Hello Yvette
I am so happy to have found your book, and will most certainly order, i cant wait. I am of Greek origin also, I live in Africa all my life, and my Father also used to tell us these stories about Greece, making images in my head! I have been quite a few times on a visit to Greece and become more in love with our heritage each time. Thankyou.


message 3: by Charlotte (new)

Charlotte Williamson Looking forward to reading your book. I lived in Greece for a few years
and was living there when the film of the book Eleni came out.
There was a very powerful reaction to an equally powerful and deeply
moving story of a remarkably brave woman.


message 4: by Ioanna (new)

Ioanna Souravla Hi Yvette, I am greek, I live in wonderful Thessaloniki and I love both reading and writing. I am very happy to find out about your book. I am sure it is a wonderful story worth to write and read. I love yia-yias and mine was the reason to start reading and writing. I wish you every luck!


message 5: by Yusuf (new)

Yusuf Üge mükemmel


message 6: by Venus (new)

Venus Yvette I am anxious to read your book. I, too, have a story to tell. My grandfather came over from Greece and I went to the Island and found his family. Do you have any suggestions or help on how I might tell my story.

Thank you,
Venus


message 7: by Dr.Daud (new)

Dr.Daud Samad Helo


message 8: by Denise (new)

Denise Unlike all the other comments. I am not Greek I am Irish, but my husband is Greek. My M-inlaw says my children are Greekish. I have yet to visit Greece, I hope to someday. Your book will appeal to all of those out there that wish they would have listened to their older family members and who out there can say they did? Best of luck to you!!


message 9: by Yvette (new)

Yvette Corporon Denise wrote: "Unlike all the other comments. I am not Greek I am Irish, but my husband is Greek. My M-inlaw says my children are Greekish. I have yet to visit Greece, I hope to someday. Your book will appeal..."
Thank you Denise - I hope you get to visit Greece someday soon. It is magical!


message 10: by Yvette (new)

Yvette Corporon Venus wrote: "Yvette I am anxious to read your book. I, too, have a story to tell. My grandfather came over from Greece and I went to the Island and found his family. Do you have any suggestions or help on how I..."
Hi Venus - just sit down and start writing. Don't think about the big picture too much, just sit down and start writing, word by word and sentence by sentence. I never thought I could finish writing a book when when I sat down and started writing I couldn't stop until the story was told.


message 11: by Yvette (new)

Yvette Corporon Ioanna wrote: "Hi Yvette, I am greek, I live in wonderful Thessaloniki and I love both reading and writing. I am very happy to find out about your book. I am sure it is a wonderful story worth to write and read. ..."
Thank you so much Ioanna


message 12: by Yvette (new)

Yvette Corporon Charlotte wrote: "Looking forward to reading your book. I lived in Greece for a few years
and was living there when the film of the book Eleni came out.
There was a very powerful reaction to an equally powerful and ..."

HI Charlotte - I could not agree more. I had the honor of meeting Nick Gage a few weeks ago - what a brilliant and powerful book and writer.


message 13: by Yvette (new)

Yvette Corporon Helen wrote: "Hello Yvette
I am so happy to have found your book, and will most certainly order, i cant wait. I am of Greek origin also, I live in Africa all my life, and my Father also used to tell us these s..."

I hope you enjoy it Helen


message 14: by Yvette (new)

Yvette Corporon Mavis wrote: "Having spent many fabulous holidays on the beautiful Ionian Island of Kefalonia and loving everything Greek, I can't wait to read this book. Even just reading her 'blurb' on Goodreads, Yvette exud..."
Thank you Mavis - what a beautiful and wonderful thing to say...I'll see you on Erikousa!


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