Sunday, November 11, 2012

This week, Sofia Essen has graced us with a guest post. It's hard to imagine taking the steps she has taken. I would love to visit some of these places, but to pick up and move there? There's no other way to say it... it takes balls. Enjoy!

Island Inspiration

If you were to ask me where I get the inspiration to write from, I would without a doubt say it comes from living in Crete. The idiosyncrasies of the island provide plenty of inspiration and ideas for characters and stories to write. Just finding a place to live was quite the adventure when I moved here almost four years ago.

What Real Estate Agents in Crete call a “Renovator’s Dream” is a homeowner’s nightmare in reality. A “Fixer Upper’s Delight” is far from delightful unless you have limitless funds to allocate to the endless amount of fixing up it requires. And a “Bargain Villa” is more often than not a ruin without a roof and indoor plumbing.

Here on the island, Real Estate Agents prey on hapless summer vacationers who pause to gawk at glossy photos of “Authentic Greek Houses” pasted to their office windows. The Agents paint a charming picture of living simply in traditional villages, making it sound idyllic and stress-free. They even suggest the hapless vacationers can do a lot of renovation by themselves – any fool can learn how to mix up a batch of plaster, can’t they?

I’m embarrassed to admit I was once such a hapless vacationer, charmed by the island and a well-practiced tale of tranquil living. I fell in love with a beautiful wreck of a house. And I was indeed convinced I possessed previously dormant carpentry skills. Oh yes, I was almost certain I was one of those people who can build you a shopping mall if you hand them nothing but a length of rope and a Q-tip.

Let’s suffice it to say I was quickly brought back to earth with a resounding thud when I fell off a ladder while trying to change a light bulb… so I hired a contractor.

Three days before Mr. Manolis, my contractor, was supposed to begin turning my ruin into a habitable dwelling, I came home from a jog on the beach to find a three-man crew lined up in my driveway.

“Hello,” I puffed. “Are you starting today? Did I get the date wrong?”

The three men looked at each other, shrugged, and then stared blankly back at me. I took a moment to catch my breath and regain my equilibrium before asking the same questions in Greek. They looked at each other and shrugged again before staring down at the ground this time.

“Okay,” I sighed. “No Greek.”

The almost scarily tall and scarecrow thin man on the left shook his head.

“And no English,” I stated needlessly.

The considerably shorter and much wider man in the middle nodded.

“Italiano?” I tried.

The average height man of normal weight on the right cleared his throat and said, “Bulgaria.”

“Great,” I muttered. “Just great.”

I began the process of opening my very warped wooden front door. I had to unlock it, back up and get a running start, and then throw myself against it in order to open it up wide enough to let me and the three Bulgarians into my hallway. Out of breath again from the battle with my door, I headed to my study to call Mr. Manolis. After having called his cell phone a dozen times, paged him and called his office just as many, and finally talked to his wife who had no idea where or how to reach him, I gave up. I returned to the crew of three who were shuffling aimlessly around the hallway and said, “You can go.”

“Go?” they parroted in comical unison.

“Yes.” I pointed at the open door. “Go.”

I watched in silence as the three of them whispered to each other for several minutes. Finally, the human beanstalk said, “Okay. Go.”

I smiled in relief. “Good. Thank you.”

I went back to my study and booted up my laptop. Just as I was about to settle at my desk with a hot cup of coffee, an earsplitting creak followed by a thud sent me bolting back into the hallway where I found Larry, Curly and Moe standing in a gaping hole where my massive wooden door hung only minutes earlier.

“What?” I gasped. “What did you do?”

The vertically challenged and rotund barrel-like man grinned in triumph, gave the front door that was now laying on the floor a kick with his booted foot, and said, “Go!”

Now, almost four years later, I've sold the house to another tourist with more optimism than sense... and I'm nearly fluent in Bulgarian. ***



Facebook page:!/essentially.sofia


Amazon Link:

Sofia Essen » What do you do when you get dumped, fired, and turn thirty in a single unfortunate week? You book the last available ticket on the next plane to Greece. Or at least that’s what the normally unadventurous Anna Cox does in a moment of uncharacteristic spontaneity. Visit the Greek island of Crete through the pages of Sofia Essen's novel Change of Pace… but first, take a look around this website to learn a little more about the novel and its author.

Sofia Essen spent twenty years as an expatriate in Southeast Asia and the Middle East before moving to the island of Crete in Greece. Living in Crete is what made Sofia pick up a pen and start writing. She was sitting in a cafĂ© in a small Cretan village one afternoon, watching a couple of tourists desperately trying and failing miserably to order a cup of coffee, and said to herself, “This place would be a great setting for a book.”

Change of Pace is Sofia's first novel. All royalty payments from the sales of the book are donated directly to PETA.

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