By A P von K’Ory
Although I’d been writing nonfiction political/humanitarian books before, meeting my husband inspired my first romance novel. At the time I lived in both London and Geneva and did my first internship with the ILO Headquarters. I had been assigned to this charming and cultured older man as his interpreter, because I’d translated several of his papers from French and German into English. So in a way I already ‘knew’ him. We eventually discovered that we both had the sort of childhood we had not been happy with, but had to adhere to out of duty to our families.
We both bore the straitjacket of “to the manner born”, which threw a number of stumbling boulders in our path when we finally wanted to get married. We weren’t merely different in terms of culture and ethnicity; we also came from different continents.
After we got married regardless, I often discuss with my husband what being a Luo aristocrat culturally means. Despite all other heritage and cultural influences that converge in me, I most strongly identify with Luoland and the Luos. I was born in Kenya, but I’ve spent most of my life in Europe; from preparatory school in Yorkshire to universities in Britain, India, Germany and Switzerland.
My husband also has French and German aristocratic heritage, and has lived most of his life in Franconia, Bavaria. So the more we delve into the vagaries of our mutual attraction to each other, the more we uncover about ourselves. We often talk till the small hours about our customs, rites and rituals, religious beliefs and societal norms.
We’ve become a thousand shades of archaeological discoveries.
This is how I came to write my first romance novels, the Bound to Tradition trilogy, the love story of a Kenyan girl, Khira, and a Swedish industrialist, Erik. Once the books were written and my husband read them in the German translation, it was clear that one or two things had to be explained to the readers. In particular were the Luo terms of endearment and nicknames which may confuse readers because they defy both logic and reality. A male may address a female as “father, grandfather” or “mother, grandmother”, irrespective of age. A female may do exactly the same when affectionately addressing a man. Likewise parents address their children with these terms of endearment whether the child is a boy or a girl, an infant, a teenager or an adult, including grownup children who are already married and have children of their own.
Luos revere their forebears and hold them in high regard. “Without them, “ so the belief, “we wouldn’t be here, and they continue to be in our progeny.” The older one gets the more they gain respect and reverence. Youth is not worshipped in Luoland; quite the opposite. I had to inform my readers to view these endearment terms as no different from other cultures whose terms of endearment are angel, precious, honey, heart, mouse, soul, darling or sweetheart, irrespective of age or gender.
Another “confuser” in the trilogy is the word disease. Luos use this as a curse word because, from time immemorial, they associate disease with ungodliness, crime, divine punishment or lack of personal hygiene. It can be used on its own or in a phrase or sentence.
Bound to Tradition trilogy has won me numerous awards and prizes in Europe and America. It was little wonder then, that when I wanted to write something erotic, I reverted to the youngest daughter of Khira and Erik, Svadishana (Golden Shana), as my heroine. But I wanted her and Roman to have conflicts that were unique and not ordinarily associated with love affairs. I also wanted them to have an unusual eroticism in their love affair. To this end, I invented and copyrighted the terms I used explicitly for them for the first time: Domristocrat (Domri), Subristocrat (Subri), Sophisterotica and McErotica, to name but these. Of course, I stole and still steal a lot of their sizzling sex scenes from my husband and myself.
Luckily, I didn’t have to write a glossary for my inventions. They were self-explanatory in my writing. Above all else, I wanted to share them with others.