By Malena Lott
Ramona, my protagonist in Dating da Vinci introduced herself to me in waves. First, as a grieving widow. I felt empathy for her immediately. And raising two boys on her own? As a mother of three who depends on her hubby mightily to share the load, I admired her courage just to get out of bed each day. Yet, as we moms know, that’s what we do: whatever it takes.
Her passion for teaching English to immigrants at the Panchal Center for Diversity was a pleasant surprise. I loved that she held on to her passion for teaching and language when her world had crumbled around her. In fact, her teaching was the one place where she felt comfortable. She was now like them – outsiders desperately wanting in. She was as lost as they were.
Yet I wanted her reaching for something more and I liked the idea of her being a student at the University of Texas, too. She had put her dissertation on the “Language of Love” on hold after her husband Joel died, for obvious reasons. In searching for joy again, she resumes the dissertation to get her doctorate in linguistics.
I don’t recall consciously deciding that this should be her occupation, but when a character lives within you, the ideas almost “appear” when you aren’t expecting them. The pieces began to fit, and I liked the idea of someone who can speak so many languages and have such a love of language and yet not feel that she can – or should- express herself anymore. What happens when words lose their meaning? And when it comes to love, are words meaningless? She explores these questions and more on her search for la vita allegro, joyful living.
In the book, Ramona shares her favorite words. As a writer and/or reader, what are your very favorite words? What words do you dislike? Share yours and I’ll share mine…