When I started reading Michael Ttappous’ book Deferred , I’ll admit to being quite shocked. My past few experiences with middle teens did not leave a favorable impression. From the very first page it was apparent that here was a young man living in a country many of us might consider to be a paradise or a bucket list destination, who had STRONG and well thought out opinions about politics, culture and what was wrong with the country. He was concerned with his future and made the decision that university was the only way out for him. The only problem was? NO money.
Deferred is all about his struggle through those years … I’m going to let Michael tell us about his life and his book!
Melanie Rockett: Tell us a bit about who you are and who your audience is for your new title.
Michael Ttappous: I like to think that I am a down-to-earth sort of person. I always like keeping myself grounded and I keep my expectations low so that I’m rarely disappointed. I’ve spent most of my life in Cyprus, a beautiful little island in the Mediterranean, and this is the place where most of my story comes from. Having a mixed South African and Cypriot background, I experienced a small cultural conflict when changing homes—likely due to the dramatic difference between the two societies. I suppose in some way this is what gave rise to so many of the issues I confront in my book.
Deferred is set in Cyprus and quickly establishes some of the things wrong with the country in terms of its economics, politics and opportunities for its youth. I try to address these issues in a way that adult readers can also identify with, especially since much of the journey happens through the eyes of a young high school student and soon-to-be graduate. So to answer your question, I’ve written the book in a way that appeals to the interests of older readers and that gets into the thought process of students and people who are soon heading out into the big scary world for the first time. My hope is that both students and parents will really understand and engage with it.
Melanie Rockett: Your book, Deferred: My Extraordinary Journey to New York University Abu Dhabi, is not only your FIRST book, but is a memoir about your recent past. Why did you make the decision to write the book?
Michael Ttappous: Sometimes, things happen in your life that completely destroy the path and the plan you have set for yourself. Whatever you may have been building towards and have been completely focused on can come crumbling down in an instant. That type of occurrence can dramatically change the way you see and perceive the world around you, and it’s entirely up to you how you respond to that.
I wrote Deferred because it is a sort of real-time narrative of the build-up to an event like this and an account of the raw emotion and humanity of a person as it happens. I wanted to share why these experiences were the worst things in my life and to share honest, deep, personal reactions to the disintegration of everything I knew. And not only do you get to experience that devastation with me as a reader, you get to see my flaws as a person and to see the flaws in the systems that I point out—and you get to form your own opinion about the stuff that’s going on. That’s why I wrote the book: to bring some awareness to the things that caused me both so much happiness and so much pain.
Melanie Rockett: Tell us a bit about your book.
Michael Ttappous: Deferred follows a seemingly carefree, high school teenager who has nothing but academics and grades on his mind. In fact, those two things are so distracting for him that he ends up losing sight of the world around him and of the hidden problems of his past—and of his future. As the story moves forward, so does his understanding of how difficult some challenges can be to overcome.
Once you look past the worries of grades, what comes next? This is the heart of the story: How do you look past all that you know and find your way in a deep, dark, divisive abyss? How do you make the leap from being a student, at the same school for most of your life, to a place completely different and unrecognizable? The answer is often a simple one: You follow everyone else’s footsteps; university.
But… how do you get to university with no ability to finance it? This is the conundrum that the book heavily addresses from a teenager’s perspective. From the process of applying to universities all around the globe and chasing scholarships and financial aid opportunities, to centering on a vision of where you know you should be, to being unexpectedly hit by a wave of shocking and previously unknown obstacles that stop your progress dead in its tracks, the story takes on an evolving and progressing theme that shapes and changes as new information becomes available and destroys all previous notions of choice.
Is it always possible to pick up the pieces of our shattered dreams and put them back together? That’s the question I try to answer with Deferred.
Melanie Rockett: You contribute regularly to various websites, are a freelance writer AND you undertook the writing of your memoir. I am always fascinated by how authors juggle their writing schedules and regular work lives. Do you have a specific routine? Do you write only when inspired, or are you a disciplined writer who aims at xxxx words a day?
Michael Ttappous: I’ll be honest and say that Deferred was written and shaped and edited over a long period of time. I wasn’t always writing for websites when I started and it was difficult, as a first-time author, to have the confidence to write something you are hoping to one day publish. I think it’s important to overcome that feeling of pessimism and to take action rather than sulking over it. You’re unable to share a piece of writing that’s not finished.
At the beginning, I was motivated to write by impulse—a sudden memory; a meaningful sentence; an emotion. Often writing in sections (a paragraph here and there), I would aim to write enough material to join the scattered pieces together. This way, instead of setting a word count for a day, I might set the goal of stitching an entire chapter together and editing it as I went along.
Towards completing the book, I started a lot of freelance work and began writing online to share my experiences with other enthusiastic writers. I think it’s always important to take a step back from your book, try to learn and grow and become a better writer, and then go back and finish it. My writing developed a lot by doing that, and I’m positive that it will continue to.
Melanie Rockett: What’s next for you in the future? More writing? More books?
Michael Ttappous: I have come to love the writing process and working as a writer. There are so many upsides to doing something like this full-time and you really get to measure the results of your efforts. My hope for the short term is to spread the word about Deferred and to try and touch as many people with it as possible.
I am likely to continue writing in one capacity or another, but other priorities in life—many of which are mentioned in the book—will likely pull me away from more books for the meantime. I would love to tell more of my story, and there is definitely more to tell, so I’m looking forward to seeing if there is a hunger for more among readers.
All I can say for now is that I hope Deferred gives people some laughs, some advice, something to get angry with, and something to think about.
Melanie Rockett: I for one am interested in seeing what direction Michael’s life heads. If you are as curious as me be sure to . . .
Follow Michael Ttappous on Facebook and be sure to read Deferred to find out how Michael actually managed to make the journey from a cash poor high school student to a well-respected university. The story is at times frustrating, at times funny but is definitely a lesson in determination for us all!