The sun has gone down.”
My friend’s disappointment shrouded the restaurant table.
Now I can’t give you the koliva.”
How do you respond to that? I don’t know. I just asked the obvious question. “Why?”
The veil of dismay lifted. Her eyes lit up. And she began to explain.
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My friend… I love her.
You know, her Greek accent never makes it difficult to understand what she says Strange, how that is. Occasionally, she pauses, searching for the English equivalent to a word for which there is none. But otherwise, our conversations flow.
She’s told me about her son’s baptism, the traditions for naming children, the delightful idioms that make as little sense in English as some of their English equivalents. Don’t believe me? What do we say when it’s just pouring outside?
It’s raining cats and dogs.”
Tell me that makes sense. I mean, really. The Greeks aren’t any more logical. They say:
It’s raining chair legs.”
Or, rather, that’s the literal translation, anyway.
We say a race is “neck and neck.” I suspect because of horse racing, but I can’t prove that. The Greeks say, “Breast to breast”—like runners in a marathon. And then there’s the bit about eating someone’s cabbage. I never do get the saying right, but the gist is that you’ll get ahead of them somehow.
And she says My Big Fat Greek Wedding is pretty close to how it really is! Hollywood got it right, for once!
Can you imagine how fascinating our conversations are?
It’s her birthday. We go out to lunch. She gets to pay for it. Why? Because she’s Greek. And in Greece, if you go out for your birthday, you pay for everyone. It’s rude to invite people out and expect them to treat you. (I still haven’t gotten it into her head that if I invite her, then it’s not RUDE. Hmph). So, I let her win that one. After all, my birthday is coming in a couple of months.
My birthday arrives.
She insists on paying for lunch. Why? Because I am not Greek. I am American. And in America, you treat the birthday person.
Look, I’ve got mad skills of persuasion. I almost always win these arguments—or at least have the quickest draw on the check. Seriously, I’m good.
And I shamelessly use her for inspiration. This time, to torture characters.
Picture it: An American police officer—I’m thinking Chicago. She and her partner pull over a man matching the description of a wanted suspect. They take him in for questioning and identification. He’s Greek. He’s not their guy. And he’s amused.
So where’s the torture, you ask? I’ll tell you. But first, just remember. Like I explained back in THIS POST, it is an author’s duty to torture her characters. It’s what we do! Without it, you get a conflict-less, yawnable book!
Torturing my characters one inspiration at a time.
I’m going to make her fall in love with this guy. Lest you think this book is just another romance, well it is. But not the kind you think it is. Sure, she’s going to find herself head-over-heels for a Greek dude. And yeah, he’ll help her work through some of the demons in her past. Sure, he’ll have to move back to Greece to help his father and make her choose between him and her family life in America.
Yeah. That. I’m going there. I’m sending this non-Greek, linguistically-challenged, American cop to live in a little Greek village on an olive farm. Yes, I am.
And that’s not all. She can’t work in Greece. Nope, she can’t. She can’t help with the family business, either. When you don’t speak the language, it doesn’t work. So, while the family fights to keep the farm up and going, she’ll be getting to know everyone better—and making lots of cultural mistakes.
Like serving koliva for dessert one night because she knew how much her husband loved it at that 40-day memorial dinner they just attended.
Don’t know why that’s a big deal? Yeah, well she doesn’t either. But trust me. It is. And you’ll just have to wait to find out why.
Meanwhile, she falls in love all right–with Greece.
Summer 2018. I’m going to Greece. It’s called research. And guess what? The joke’s on me because I’m the one being tortured until then.
Meanwhile, I can’t wait for our next lunch meeting. I won’t be able to grab the check. It’s her birthday. But hey, if she has to pay for her own birthday lunch, maybe she can spin me a few more stories for her supper. I need more inspiration. Greek friends are cool… and they’re great at helping me torture my characters.
I’ve got one question for YOU.
What do I name this book? I want to call it “Eat Their Cabbage” but my friend tells me it’s no good.