Blog 75 21/11/2018 Behind the Story: The Notebooks for “The Embroiderer”.

Posted in on 18 November, 2018 in News

Behind the Story: The Notebooks for “The Embroiderer”.

CHIOS: Artemis and Dimitra as a young girl

The jade dagger that Artemis killed herself with. Given to her by Yasim-Ali


Every author has their own way of working, and each story may have its own unique style in the way it is approached. Some authors are plotters, others are pantsters. To date, I have written two novels and three novellas and approached each one differently, but there is one thing that all my works have in common, and that is that I think cinematically. I must have the images of the characters clearly fixed in my head before I can write about them. My first novel, The Embroiderer, took six years to write and is epic in its scale. It covers 150 years, spans five wars and numerous dictatorships, and is centred on the lives of one family through several generations. Quite a daunting project, but then we writers do like to make things hard for ourselves with the twists and turns a novel needs to make it a page-turner.



When I began The Embroiderer, I bought myself a few large notebooks and filled them completely with images, time-lines , family trees, plots, names, maps – you name it, I added it to the book. Therefore, The Embroiderer was carefully mapped out in my mind before I started. One thing I knew for sure, was the beginning and the end, and the plot had a skeleton. In fact knowing the beginning and the end is important for me. If I know the end, even if there are slight changes, I have a goal to work towards. So before we go on, what is The Embroider all about?

Eugene Delacroix. From the massacre at Chios.

Smyrna 1919

1822: During one of the bloodiest massacres of The Greek War of Independence, a child is born to a woman of legendary beauty in the Byzantine monastery of Nea Moni on the Greek island of Chios. The subsequent decades of bitter struggle between Greeks and Turks simmer to a head when the Greek army invades Turkey in 1919. During this time, Dimitra Lamartine arrives in Smyrna and gains fame and fortune as an embroiderer to the elite of Ottoman society. However it is her grand-daughter Sophia, who takes the business to great heights only to see their world come crashing down with the outbreak of The Balkan Wars, 1912-13. In 1922, Sophia begins a new life in Athens but the memory of a dire prophecy once told to her grandmother about a girl with flaming red hair begins to haunt her with devastating consequences when the Germans invade Greece in 1941.

1972: Eleni Stephenson is called to the bedside of her dying aunt in Athens. In a story that rips her world apart, Eleni discovers the chilling truth behind her family’s dark past plunging her into the shadowy world of political intrigue, secret societies and espionage where families and friends are torn apart and where a belief in superstition simmers just below the surface.

Set against the mosques and minarets of Asia Minor and the ruins of ancient Athens, The Embroiderer is a gripping saga of love and loss, hope and despair, and of the extraordinary courage of women in the face of adversity.

With a story that involved so many changes in society and political upheavals of the day, a time-line of events was essential. This was a formidable task. Events were marked in years, then weeks, and in some cases, as with the Great Fire of Smyrna, in days and by the hour – pages of time-lines, but a necessity if you want historical fiction to be true to the facts.

As for the family trees, if my readers were going to find the characters believable, it was crucial that I believed they were real. Therefore the protagonist’s family tree had every single person on it, including those who were never even mentioned in the book. I knew when they gave birth, when they died, and in some cases, the cause of death. There were two family lines – the Greek and the Turkish. Already the characters were taking on a life of their own.

Family Tree

Family tree. The Turkish line

Then came the most important thing, I had to visualise my characters. I researched books, old photographs, searched the internet, and wherever possible, pasted a likeness of them in the notebook. The family grew.


Dimitra as a young woman

Photeini, last daughter of Dimitra, mother of Sophia.

The cast in The Embroiderer is large, but as the story spans several generations, they don’t all appear at once. Each one has their time and place in order not to confuse the reader.  In these following photos, I wanted to share with you, the main characters as I saw them. For me it’s like opening a photograph album of my own family – a  glimpse into my imagined past. They are still with me in spirit as I hope they will be for you.


Sophia at the age of 15 and with her great grandfather, Jean-Paul

Grand Duke Nikolai Orlovsky and Sophia in Contantinople 1916

Andreas, husband of Sophia.

“Mestinigar” Sophia’s car. A gift from Nikolai

Sergei who worked for the Turkish Secret Police, his sister Helene and Anna, (Sophia’s friend)

Leonidas just before he disappeared in Smyrna. 1922

Chette group – irregulars.


The Nightclub scene. Musicians and Singer. Sophia as she was when WWII began.


Reinhardt, Chief of the Gestapo, and Maria’s lover, Maria, and Nina 1944

Naturally, there’s much more, including a seperate one for fashion and embroidery, but I have to stop somewhere. I hope you’ve enjoyed a glimpse into the world of The Embroiderer


The Embroiderer is available from all on-line retailers.

The Greek publication is avaiable in Greece in all major bookstores.

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