Monday, December 24, 2012

#BookChat CIRCLE DANCE by Lynne Constantine #womensfiction #greece

Young, smart and beautiful with everything figured out – or so they thought. Born into a prosperous Greek American family, sisters Nicole and Theodora have achieved the perfect balance between the old world rich in Greek tradition and the freedom of life in America. Headstrong and independent, Nicole plunges into life head-first, too often ignoring the risks. Her talent and astute business acumen make her the perfect heir to her father’s empire, but his old-world attitudes prevent him from giving the top spot to a woman. Nicole’s world spins out of control when she falls for a married senator who shares her heritage and her dreams. While struggling to navigate previously uncharted moral waters, she uncovers treachery and corruption that will break both her sister’s and her father’s heart. The decisions she makes will affect the happiness of those closest to her and will define the woman she is to become. The young and conventional Theodora weds and quickly learns that marriage is not the paradise she envisioned. She must soon confront the growing suspicion that her husband is not the man he seems. Forced to endure the constant disdain and disapproval of her patrician mother-in-law, she resigns herself to the fact that she will always be considered an outsider. As she struggles to succeed at her marriage, she seeks the wisdom and council of her beloved Greek grandmother who has been happily married for over half a century. Ultimately she must come to terms with the reality of her own life and take responsibility for the role she has played in deceiving herself. As the dramatic plot unfolds, the two young women must confront deceit and betrayal and their own shortcomings – while they struggle to preserve the values they cherish. Set in Baltimore, Annapolis and the tiny island of Ikaria, Greece, Circle Dance provides a view into the lives of a dynamic family that has successfully achieved the American dream without abandoning the customs and traditions handed down through their Greek heritage. Artfully intertwined plots bring generations together in a dance of rejoicing and mourning, loss and healing that will keep readers enthralled until the last page.

What Circle Dance means to me
            When my sister and I first agreed to collaborate on a story we constructed one similar to what we loved to read at the time – stories about women, their emotional lives, and the choices they make in life.  Our first characters were three sisters – beautiful, blonde, rich, and American.  The story was a struggle and we realized that we were not writing about what we knew or even about what spoke to us – but rather to what was popular and interesting at the time.

            We talked about the fact that there were very few stories about the Greek American experience.  While similar to other ethnic stories – there are unique aspects to being Greek that we felt needed to be shared.  Growing up in a close, tight-knit, community, surrounded by families that had been friends for generations, there was much to be enjoyed about the experience.  Being second generation Greek Americans, our loyalties were very much in the American camp.  There was a sense of rebellion and wrestling against the tight constraints our grandmother, and to a lesser extent our mother, tried to put on us.  The admonition to marry inside the Greek community fell on deaf ears for all three of my siblings as well as myself.  We all married wonderful people who brought their own unique heritage and traditions into the tapestry of our lives.  Circle Dance is a reminder to them as well – to embrace their beginnings and to never forget that we all come from someplace else.  Before writing Circle Dance,  we didn’t give much thought to what our grandparents and their own parents had sacrificed in order to improve their lives in a new country.  Sophia, the wise grandmother, reflects on this fact during a time of crisis in the lives of the Parsenis family:
Sophia was proud of her family in this time of uncertainty and apprehension.  They had drawn together around Nick and Eleni, supporting them with their prayers and their presence.  She was thankful to be alive to see the fruits of the teaching she and Andreas had tried to instill in their children and grandchildren. Sophia’s own mother, Vasiliki, had not been so fortunate.  By the time Sophia and Andreas could afford to make the long voyage back to Greece, Vasiliki was dead. She never saw her daughter’s children.  It was only now that her own children and grandchildren were grown that Sophia fully appreciated just how much her mother had missed.  Perhaps she was too busy as a young woman to give it much thought or perhaps it was too painful to dwell upon in those days when there was nothing she could do to remedy it anyway.  But now she realized the emptiness that she and all the other immigrants left in the souls of parents who knew they would very likely never again set eyes on their offspring, their parenting abruptly terminated and ended forever.  Her mother had never challenged her decision to leave for America and never, she now realized, allowed her to see the sorrow she felt at her departure.  They were brave, these parents who were left behind alone and childless, and they were openhanded in their unstinting generosity to let go.
            Looking back to my childhood I now realize that I took for granted the privilege of knowing first-hand my grandmother- fresh from the Greek soil - her Greek accent and customs intact.  It tied me closely to my roots and cemented forever my connection to Greece and things Greek.  My own children,  only half Greek feel no such connection.  I have to build for them, layer by layer, an understanding of the importance of knowing your heritage and of being tied to something that came before.  Circle Dance is my legacy to them - a view into a world they will never literally enter – but one in which they can vicariously enjoy.  May they taste the home-baked bread my Yiayia so lovingly prepared - the butter melting into its warm folds -sugar sprinkled on top.   It is my hope that in these pages, they will one day discover the wonderful traditions and customs that are rooted in their genetic makeup.  That they might one day desire to return to the country of their origin and appreciate its beauty and splendor.  Whatever their response – of one thing they can be assured – Circle Dance was a true labor of love for my sister and me.  I hope they will pass it along to their children one day and that the legacy will continue.

Picture of Ikaria:

Readers' Reaction:

Circle Dance has captured the essence of the Greek American experience.  Full of plot twists and turns, it is a page-turner, appealing to Greeks and non-Greeks alike.  Bravo to these two talented authors."

Olympia Dukakis

Circle Dance is one of my favorite books. I rarely read books more than once, but this is one of the few I've read several times. I love reading about the close-knit Parsenis family, and their challenges and triumphs. The writing is wonderful, and I can truly imagine what it would be like to be a Parsenis! For me, it's the perfect leisurely read, ending just the way I want it to! I'm always a little sad when I finish the book and look forward to the next book by these talented authors! I highly recommend this book!  Diane Kuczo

Sisters Lynne and Valerie Constantine must be very close, almost thinking as one. In Circle Dance, they have created a seamless classic which takes you on a dynastic journey from the humble islands of Greece to the American Dream of New England. Their story bridges the culture gap from one European country to one corner of the States, but its appeal is universal... Garry Kay, Author of "Don't Fear the Reaper"

I loved this book. Once I started, I couldn't put it down. I had to know what was going to happen next to Nicole and Theodora, who became like sisters to me. It was so refreshing to read about women who are intelligent, hard-working and family-oriented. I could identify with the characters and their struggles, heartaches and joy. Coming from an Italian-American background, I could also identify with so much of the Greek characterizations - the Greek grandmother in Circle Dance was always giving everyone the "evil eye" - I had to laugh because my own grandmother always talked about the "evil eye." So many of the Greek customs are similar to cultures throughout the mediterranean. I've read so much recently about life in the Middle East and India, particularly, that I loved reading about a culture that was familiar to me. Reading this novel definitely felt like "coming home."  Madeline Monde

Behind The Scenes:

I found the benefits of writing with a co-author (my sister Valerie) far outweighed the drawbacks. During the often lonely and rejection laden path from writing to publication – my sister and I comforted, encouraged and cheered each other on. Rarely did we both feel like giving up at the same time and our collaborative efforts were in large part the driving force behind our perseverance and success in overcoming the daunting odds of traditional publication. When Circle Dance was first released in 2004 we heaved a sigh of relief and felt confident that it would soon climb to the top of the New York Bestseller list. Naïve about the publishing world, we had no idea how much we didn’t know. Our small publisher was no match for the large houses and we soon found out that the marketing efforts would fall largely on our shoulders.  Being a new mom of twins, I had barely enough time to shower, let alone market our book. My family had also just moved 200 miles away, making any joint efforts with my sister nearly impossible. At the time, the only way to sell our book was to make personal appearances and visit bookstores and libraries.  We did manage to sell most of our initial print run through talks at women’s groups, book clubs and select bookstores and we garnered some great reviews and press.  However, neither of us was in the position to travel the country promotingCircle Dance and we had no other means to do so as social media marketing had not yet come fully into its own
We ultimately decided to purchase our book rights back and put the book aside for a little while.  This past summer, Valerie and I began to go through the book and edit it one more time. When we originally wrote Circle Dance, we followed an outline rather strictly and assigned chapters to each other. One drawback of writing with a co-author is the tendency to feel constrained by agreed upon plot lines - neither of us felt free to allow the story to change as organically as we might had it been written solo.  This time we discussed areas that didn’t ring true to us, characters that needed strengthening, dialogue that needed re-writing and plot points that needed tweaking. Over the summer we revised and improved Circle Dance and by fall were ready to share it again with the public. It became available in e-book formats and paperback in November.  While we have always loved the characters and the story, we believe that our changes have made Circle Dance into a better book that tells the story in a more fluid and dynamic manner. 
About Lynne:

Lynne wrote her first book, Circle Dance, with her sister Valerie. Circle Dance was a legacy of love fueled by the desire to pass on to their children the traditions and experiences unique to them as second generation Greek Americans.   Lynne was raised in a close-knit family surrounded but extended family and “adopted” family through the Greek community.  Both she and her sister wanted to leave a legacy for their children and future generations of a bygone era. 
Lynne attended Hellenic College where she earned her undergraduate degree in Human Development. She went on to earn her masters degree in Business Administration at Johns Hopkins University.    She has an extensive marketing background and over eighteen years of business experience.  She left the corporate world in 2000 to pursue her writing full time. She has written for magazines and journals but her true passion is fiction.
A native of Baltimore, Maryland, Lynne relocated to the New York area with her husband and children. In addition to her writing, she is active in her church and local community.   She serves on the board of her town’s Women’s League – a philanthropic organization dedicated to helping women and children.  She is passionate about education, reading, health, and wellness.   She enjoys traveling, spending time on the beach and talking walks with her family and their adorable golden retriever. 
Lynne is currently at work on her next book, a thriller.


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