Thank you to Faye Rogers for my advanced copy of this book. I am delighted to be a part of the blog tour for Following Evan.
This book is a sensitive and emotional exploration of grief and how people can struggle to break free from their memories and pain. When we first meet Laura, she is completely traumatised by the loss of her husband and child. It was startling to realise that she had been cut off from the world for three years, and it has taken her that long to get to a place where she can begin to move on. The emotive and expressive language of Elida May has made it so we feel every single step that Laura makes towards healing and moving on. We cry with her as she battles her hearts need to protect itself from further pain.
The first half of the book was awful to read but in a good way. I think most people have been through grief at some stage in their life, and this story is written with such agonising realism that it is relatable, and we follow Laura understanding her feelings and willing her to move on and break out of the prison her grief has created. With each chapter, I could see both the struggle and the progress she was making and I enjoyed reading this transformation.
The way in which Elida May uses fate to help Laura move on was where the realism ended. I didn’t enjoy this as much as the gripping and authentic grief that Laura experienced, but it did make the book original and gave it more depth. I wasn’t really sure where she could go with the story when Laura began to heal a little, but I liked this quirky and spiritual aspect of the book.
Overall this was a really natural depiction of grief and how it is possible to exist and continue living a happy life after losing someone who is/was the centre of your world. I think this book will give a lot of hope to people that have/had experienced this loss that we all dread. Even though this book is mostly about Laura’s grief what I take most from this book is that we are strong enough to survive even when faced with great tragedy, we can heal and love again.
Interview with Elida May
1) When writing Following Evan, did you have any bad habits? (i.e. staying up until 3am writing?!)
I completed Following Evan by staying up far too late and by drinking far too much coffee. My favorite cup was always a companion next to my laptop. I also ate too many biscuits and neglected my housework.
2) Did you do a lot of research before you started writing?
Following Evan had been building up inside me for a long time, and came out of many of my life experiences and the impact they had on me. However, as my book is set in London and America, I had to do a lot of research about the places where my protagonists travel, e.g. New York, Woodstock and Wyoming. I also did some research into spine cancer, as one of the characters suffers from it.
3) With your characters, do you create profiles for each of them or just store all the information in your head?
My characters were born in my head and they developed while I wrote the book. We spoke to each other a lot and they took me where they wanted to go. It was always exciting when they wanted to take me to a new place.
4) If you had to choose to live in any fictional world, which world would you choose and why?
Actually, I was brought up in communist Albania – which was, in a way, a fictional world. My people were brainwashed for decades and were forced to live a lie. Because of that I prefer to live in reality.
5) What is your favorite drink to have while writing?
Coffee. My favourite is Nescafe Original Instant. I take it in my favorite cup and prefer it steamy, hot and well-stirred. I don’t actually notice how many coffees I drink while I’m writing, but of course it’s too many!
6)Do you write at set times during the day or just write as and when the inspiration strikes?
My mind is always working to create new scenes or dialogue, but I am more productive at nighttime when my mind becomes quiet from the noises of the day and it’s only me, a cup of coffee and a clean sheet of paper. During the day I talk myself out of trying to write, but my characters keep talking in my head - they don’t keep quiet until I put them down on paper.
7) How long has it taken you to write Following Evan? It is your first ever novel or just the first you wanted to publish?
It took me a year to complete Following Evan, which is the first novel I’ve written. Starting it was the easy part, but finishing was much more difficult. Right now I am only a couple of chapters away from finishing my second novel, which is quite different from Following Evan. I plan to write novels for the rest of my life.
8) What do you do in your spare time when you’re not putting pen to paper or fingers to keys?
For the most part I am a homebody who loves to escape into books. I listen to music, and I spend time with my 13-year-old son, Elidon, who Following Evan is dedicated to. I like playing tennis with him in the park at weekends and I’m also developing my skills as an interior designer and decorator.