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In Judith Miller’s The Lady of Tarpon Springs, Zanna Krykos eagerly takes on her friends sponging business as a way to use her legal skills and avoid her family’s matchmaking. But the newly arrived Greek divers, led by Nico Kalos, mistrust a boss who knows nothing about the trade. Yet they must work together to rise above adversity after the mysterious death of a diver and the rumor of sunken treasure.
Can you tell us about your newest release? Is it part of a series or a stand-alone?
The Lady of Tarpon Springs is my latest release (July 2018). It is a stand-alone set in Tarpon Springs, Florida, and is historical romance. My daughter lived in Florida for a number of years and when I was beginning to think about my next book proposal, she mentioned sponge diving in Tarpon Springs. I didn’t know anything about the sponge diving business or that compressed air diving had begun in the late 1800s. It took me only a few hours of research to decide I wanted to set my next book in Tarpon Springs.
As I worked on the proposal, I decided I wanted readers to enjoy learning about sponge diving and the Greek settlement that evolved in Tarpon Springs as the divers and their families came and settled in Florida. Tarpon Springs was already a small city before the Greeks arrived, so I wanted to use characters who revealed both cultures of the city. I hope readers will bond with Zana Krykos, an American born Greek who is a lawyer, and Nico Sevdalis, the talented sponge diver who leads a group of Greek divers to Tarpon Springs.
After my proposal was accepted by the publisher, I read a number of books related to sponge diving in Greece and Florida. I also traveled to Tarpon Springs to view the community and learn more about diving during the late 1800s and early 1900s. During my visit, I had the opportunity to go out on a sponging boat and watch a diver don one of those ancient helmets, old canvas diving suits, and heavy metal boots before he jumped over the side of the boat and soon reappeared with a sponge on his hook. Observing an actual dive in one of those old canvas suits will go down as one of my most memorable research activities.
Is anything or anyone in this book based on real-life experiences?
While the characters in the books are fictional, the sponge diving and its impact on the city of Tarpon Springs is based upon the actual development of the trade within the community.
Who was your favorite character in this story, and why?
I liked both Zana and Nico, but if I had to choose only one, I think I would choose Nico. He was a strong character who was faced with huge obstacles. He was responsible for bringing a group of Greek spongers to Florida. The men had left their families and trusted they would soon be able to have those families join them in American. Nico felt the weight of making the venture successful, both for them and for the man who had financed the venture. Upon their arrival in Florida, Nico was greeted by a headstrong young woman—a lawyer—who was determined to take charge of the business. He was every bit as determined the business wouldn’t succeed with a woman at the helm. Thus begins Nico’s path toward the success or failure of the Penrose Sponge Company.
Compared to your other books, was this one easy to complete or challenging? Any idea why?
This one was a little more difficult due to the type of research required and the fact that I didn’t know anything about diving for or processing sponges. While I’m accustomed to researching the settings of my books—and that’s one of my favorite things—I usually have some basic knowledge about the topic I’m researching. In this instance, except for period clothing, I didn’t have a lot of previous research to fall back on.
What was the hardest scene in this book to write? What made it difficult?
The scenes where there was equipment failure on the boat or the divers were in danger were more difficult. I wanted those scenes to be as realistic as possible, and I wanted the medical conditions suffered by the divers to be accurate.
What did you (or your editors) edit out of this book?
There are three sisters who live in Tarpon Springs and provide a bit of humor with their antics. I edited out one scene with Bessie because I thought it wasn’t necessary to the movement of the story.
What’s the most difficult thing about writing from the point of view of the opposite sex?
As I’m writing, I need to remember that I’m “in the head” of the male characters so that the dialogue sounds like a man and their behavior in each situation closer mimics what a man (rather than a woman) would do in the circumstance.
Writing Christian fiction is Judy’s second career. For many years she worked as a legal assistant in law firms and later worked in government law offices. She has retired from legal work in order to write fulltime —a vocation she considers both a ministry and a blessing.
Judy has authored or co-authored more than twenty-five books since she began writing in 1996. She is an award-winning author whose avid research and love for history are reflected in her novels, several of which have placed in the CBA and ECPA top ten lists. It is her deep desire to point readers to the love and grace of Jesus.