Thursday, October 5, 2023

Revisiting Toula Mavridou-Messer

🥳 Continuing my celebration of 18 months of Tweetables, I'm revisiting some of the authors who have featured on the blog so far, to find out what they've been up to!

I completed my second non-fiction interview with Toula back in June 2022 and was keen to find out what had happened since our chat:

'Gosh! It feels like our feet haven't touched the ground since our last chat as we've worked on numerous books, some of which have been published and some of which are in various stages of completion.

The first one was adapted from a blog post that I wrote about five years ago, entitled, 'Only Dead on the Inside.' It's a 20-30-minute Kindle short-read and I have classed it as an essay.

It was written at a time when I felt it was important to be open about my own personal experience of childhood sexual abuse. The #metoo hashtag was everywhere and so many people were finally unburdening themselves to let others know that they were not alone in their experiences. 

Apart from a tiny handful of friends, very few people knew any details of what had happened to me and the feedback was overwhelming and unexpected. People I have known for years, some that I have worked with, and complete strangers sent me private messages thanking me for telling 'their' stories, as they had also experienced similar horrors, the details of which they had held deep inside them ever since. 'Only Dead...' wasn't written to make money but to bring experiences like mine and so many others into the light. We have all kept secrets for far too long.

Incidentally, whilst I was in the midst of my awful experience, I was actually working with Piers Morgan, at The Sun newspaper. He knew nothing about what was going on, so was extremely shocked when he kindly read the essay before I published it and said, ‘A powerful, harrowing and courageous book.

I also read 'Only Dead on the Inside' and as my previous experience of Toula's work was her lovely book on Gratitude, I have to say I was profoundly shocked by what she's been through. Would I have guessed she'd be subjected to childhood sexual abuse? No, never, and it just goes to show we don't know what's really happening in the world and it's a sobering thought, particularly as she was subjected to a 15-year ordeal.

I won't lie, it's a tough read - the harrowing story of a child who ends up with deep psychological scars is never going to be easy but then, it shouldn't be, should it? I comfort myself by seeing how successful she's become - a powerful force for good despite the adversity she faced so young - but it still doesn't make it right.

Even though 'Only dead...' is a short read, I'd highly recommend it. It's beautifully written and I'd like to say congratulations Toula, you're so brave for opening up and sharing your story with the world. I am in awe.

So, what happened after 'Only Dead...'?

'I then published two more Kindle short stories, both dark fiction, which are part of a collection - The Compendium of Impending Doom. The first is called 'Dead Ahead' and was inspired by a visit to Florida last summer. 

"The vacation is over. Taking the Old 192 Highway to the airport instead of the toll road to save a few dollars has disastrous consequences. The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it." 

This quote was taken from a review: "Dead Ahead is one of the most entertaining 20 minutes of reading you'll engage in. This tale is beautifully descriptive, almost cinematic. For such a short story, the author sets the scene really well. Within a matter of minutes, you'll find yourself immersed in a sense of fear & suspense as you try to figure out where and with whom danger truly resides."

The other Kindle short-read is called 'Lady Garden.' 'Lady Garden' was inspired by a conversation between my husband and me as we reminisced about our honeymoon in Arizona, many years ago. 

"Green-fingered Archie Wendling loves his garden but not everything is coming up roses." A reviewer said, "With its beautifully descriptive setting you would not think that this short story had a dark theme. This dark and short read will keep you entertained until the end. You can visualise the journey undertaken here and the air is tangible with the authors' flawless prose."

Both Kindle short-reads are immersed in nature and have unexpected twists!

The most recent book that we published, just a few weeks ago, is called 'United States of Quirk Quiz Book: 150 amazing trivia questions and answers,' and it immediately achieved the 'Number 1 Bestseller' in its category on Amazon. It is available as both a paperback and a Kindle book.

James and I are US permanent residents, albeit currently resident in the UK, caring for my mother who has advanced dementia. We spend every moment we can (and every penny, it seems!) road-tripping in the US. There is nothing that comes close to driving along an endless highway, under an enormous sky with music blaring and nature all around, as we visit one incredible National Park after another. We wanted to honour all that we love about our adopted homeland by creating a book that will make those reading it also gasp in amazement at all the things we have discovered that make America so unique, and quirky. 

We also wrote the book for people like us; those who would enjoy taking the quiz and discussing and laughing about the answers as they travel, making the miles disappear, or having it as a group activity as they gather with friends and family. 

James worked extremely hard designing the interior, which is reminiscent of those 1950s TV quiz shows, so it looks really fun on the inside, too. It's 6" x 6", so travel-sized, entertains and educates, and makes a fabulous gift for everyone you can think of. 

'Quirk' was the hardest book I have ever written. The research was an immense undertaking, checking numerous times that the answers to the vast array of questions were correct. The topics covered range from things like the world's largest ball of twine, and which international pop star owns the largest collection of Alamo memorabilia, to geography, geology, weather, food, architecture, history and so much more. 

Each question is multiple-choice and the answer has been expanded, to give a full explanation and details of the subject matter, some of which will leave you in awe, frequently in disbelief and often in laughter. As a reader said, "It's BRILLIANT, FUN and VERY INTERESTING."'
Gosh, my head's spinning from all she's achieved in just over a year! Dare I ask, what's next?

'As 'Quirk' has only just been published, we are going to spend some time giving it the start in life it deserves. It has already been added to various bookstores around the world, much to our amazement and delight, from the US and UK to the Congo and Japan! I had no idea that it would travel that far but I guess, there are fans of the United States and trivia all over the world.

I would also like to complete a full-length version of 'Only Dead on the Inside.' My life is not just about what happened to me as a child, but about how that has affected me throughout my life; the good and the bad. I have achieved things I could only have ever dreamed of, and met and worked with people I could have only ever dreamed of, all whilst dealing with nightmares that only some of us ever dream of and live through. It's only right that I share the full picture for those who are not able to share their experiences but want to know that whatever they are feeling/ doing is normal and okay, which of course it is.

Two more Kindle short dark stories from the Compendium are almost completed and others are in various stages of development. It's going to be a busy time, but never boring - that's for sure, and everything we do is always fitted in around Mum's needs.'

I can't wait to see all her upcoming work! You can read our original interview here or you can pop onto the links below to learn more about Toula:





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