The idea for Pam of Babylon came from a fantasy about my own life. My husband Jim is a saint by most standards. He has unselfishly plodded through life, working to support his family in whatever scheme they may have cooked up. For many years, he worked for Associated Press as a communications expert, and during that time, he traveled extensively and was away from home for weeks at a time. I was your average exhausted, chubby housewife who worked nights in the Operating Room, often daydreaming during a long case, wondering what my husband was up to while he was away from home. So while the reality is much different than the fantasy; a beautiful, slender blond who lives at the beach and has only her children and her fitness to worry about, my husband could have been up to no good. I think he was probably too tired to do even a fraction of what Jack did.
Jack had superhuman staying power. The guy fornicated across the city of Manhattan and his wife never had an inkling of suspicion. I fly into a rage at the slightest misdeed; Pam was loving and kind to everyone who stabbed her in the back. I want to be that way! She doesn’t seem to hold a grudge, while I remember everything.
The abuse is harder to define. I’ve never made it a secret that I was sexually abused by a drunken neighbor who drove a cab back in the 1950’s in Dearborn. The smell of alcohol on unwashed body is thankfully something I don’t have to face . So although I ‘beautified’ Marie’s abuse, if it can be done, by having her abuser be a man she loved and wanted, it is still troubling and stirred something painful in me when I wrote it. Marie’s whole life is tragic; the fourth book, Prayers for the Dying will be very difficult for many people to read because of its graphic and troubling theme. She was victimized from her early childhood and the consequences are devastating. The conclusion is that life is not fair. For some people, it sucks.
A light segment in Prayers for the Dying has Jack in the apartment of his seventy year old lover, Dale. I couldn’t help myself; it’s erotic. And I didn’t use one explicit word, or describe a body part. When I was finished writing, I hunted for my husband.
I’m fearful of repercussions I’m sure will come from my family when The Greeks of Beaubien Street comes out this summer. I already got grief about the non-Greek name of the heroine. Why didn’t I call her Penelope or something that at least sounded Greek? And then there are the frequent ethnic slurs of which no one escapes. I cover all the food groups. Luckily the most disgusting, hateful characters are white Americans, so I might just slide by without getting stoned. My husband thinks we should change our name.
I freely borrowed from my own memories that are skewed after living away from Michigan for over thirty years. The area around Marygrove College was a favorite of mine when I commuted there from Dearborn in the 1970’s. Tireman Road, where my character, Nana Wong lives, fascinated me after the riots of 1967 as the people stayed there struggling to maintain their neighborhood as the city collapsed around them. I have no idea what the city is like today; not Greektown or Tireman Road, East or West Dearborn. What I have written is all fantasy. If anything appears to be too close to reality, it is just luck.
It’s less about anything ethnic as it’s human nature in general. It’s not a treatise on Greek or Arab or English people and their proclivities. It’s just a Story I made up. The problem with fiction is knowing when to stop. It can go on and on and on.
So look, this is what I have to say about the books. They are pretend! I tell readers it contains gruesome stuff, so if you don’t want to read about infidelity or a woman who likes her husband’s mistress, don’t read them for heaven’s sake!
I am fascinated by all the characters that end up in the story of Pam. How on earth did you keep track of all of them, especially since they are well developed (their personality – not body parts).