Life has not been holding back any punches in 2020. We need a break more than ever—a chance to relax, recenter, and recharge. However, the global pandemic continues to keep our suitcases on the top shelf of the closet, and our passports shoved in the back of our nightstands.
Thankfully, the wonderful Jenna Evans Welch (author of Love & Gelato and Love & Luck) has blessed us with a remedy for our cancelled plans and landlocked life by sweeping us away on a vibrant, immersive, and swoon-worthy vacation to the sparkling city of Santorini, Greece in her latest YA contemporary, Love & Olives.
The story follows Liv Varanakis as she receives a postcard from her longtime, absent, myth hunting father, telling her to come to Santorini to help with a documentary on the sunken city of Atlantis. While her memories of him are not fond (her father has been out of the picture since she was 8 years old, abruptly fleeing to Greece in pursuit of his lifelong passion of finding the lost city of Atlantis), she finds herself on a flight to the coastal city.
While Liv explores the deep blue waters and hidden caves, delicious cuisine of Santorini, and her feelings for her father’s protégé Theo, she realizes that the reason her father called her to Santorini is even bigger than she thought.
As you can see, the setting of Love & Olives is monumentally important to the life of the story. I had the pleasure of interviewing Evans Welch on how she was able to perfectly replicate the gorgeous setting of Santorini, as well as her process for researching the lost city of Atlantis.
TYF (The Young Folks): With your “Love Abroad” series, readers have gotten to visit both enchanting Italy and whimsical Ireland. How did you decide on Greece as your next location?
JW (Jenna Evans Welch): Because it was my third book I had a solid awareness of how much mental time I would be spending in whatever location I chose, so I decided to choose somewhere that interested me most. I ended up doing a simple internet search and found Atlantis Books in Santorini, Greece. I was immediately captivated by the bookstore and the island’s stunning views, as soon as I saw it I knew it was the place I wanted to write about!
TYF: What did the research process look like for this book, and was it difficult? Your descriptions of Santorini feel so incredibly vivid and precise. I feel like I got to go on a mini vacation. And, I have to ask, was watching Mamma Mia! part of the process? I may or may not have had the soundtrack playing in my mind as I read this novel.
JW: I had an amazing time researching this novel. I have never felt like I can do a place justice without visiting it, so once I knew that Santorini was the place I wanted to set my novel I booked a flight to visit as quickly as I could. While I was there I visited the bookstore, jumped off cliffs, swam in emerald swimming spots, ate my weight in Greek yogurt, and enjoyed six of the most spectacular sunsets I have ever seen. One of my goals with my novels is to send my reader on a mini vacation (something I think we could all use right now) so I’m thrilled you felt like you were there. And about Mamma Mia…funny story, but I have never actually seen the show or watched the movie the entire way through. I was worried about taking too much influence from another work, but now that my Greek story is finished I think I’d better watch it!
TYF: The focus on finding Atlantis made me so excited about this story. I love the myths that surround this ancient city. So, after researching about Atlantis, do you believe it exists?
JW: I am not someone who is terribly interested in fantasy or myths, so I was surprised by how hard I fell for Atlantis. I spent months completely immersed in the literature and as fascinated as I was by all of the theories surrounding the lost city, I was even more captivated by the people who have spent their lives looking for it. I even went through a brief time period in which I was positive that I knew exactly where Atlantis was (in Santorini’s caldera of course, ha!). I’ve now exited my obsessed-with-Atlantis phase but I’m still standing with the believers—I think Atlantis existed and I hope someone finds it.
TYF: Even though the pandemic has made travel quite difficult this year, where in the world would you love to be swept away and have an exciting, and swoon worthy adventure?
JW: Iceland! It is so moody and interesting looking. Plus I found a place called the 5 Million Star Hotel that lets you sleep in a bubble igloo so you can watch the stars and Northern Lights all night. Swoon!
TYF: Finally, do you think you’ll be taking us on any more romantic, globe-trotting adventures? And if so, maybe a hint as to where. ;)
JW: Love this question! I am currently working on a book that is (gasp) not set in Europe. I can’t say a lot about it, other than that it is another contemporary YA, has some serious desert vibes, and has a strong witchy element. I am having an absolutely amazing time working on it and can’t wait to talk about it more.
About the Author: Jenna Evans Welch is the New York Times bestselling author of Love & Gelato and Love & Luck. She lives in Salt Lake City, Utah with her husband and two young children.
Love & Olives goes on sale Nov. 10, 2020.