Eleni N. Gage is the author of the novel The Ladies of Managua. From her Q&A with Deborah Kalb:
Q: In your acknowledgments, you write, “I’m living proof that the most fun way to learn about another culture is to marry into it.” What role did your husband’s family play for you as you wrote this novel?--Marshal Zeringue
A: Some people say you don't just marry a man, you also marry his family. But I got an entire country! My husband was the first Nicaraguan I'd ever met; this book would not exist in any form, not even as an idea, without him and his family.
All I knew about Nicaragua before meeting Emilio came from the Saturday Night Live skits in which news anchors reporting on the Iran-Contra affairs took great pride in pronouncing the country's name, showing off the Spanish they learned in Correspondents' Language School.
On one of our early dates, Emilio mentioned that his family moved to the U.S. during the war and I said something like, "Now tell me what that conflict was about again?"
And then on a later date, he told me about his grandmother, whom he's very close to, and who attended high school in New Orleans at Sacred Heart, which many well-off Nicaraguan girls did at the time.
She really did have a clandestine romance with a Cuban that ended when her parents whisked her back to Nicaragua, and that inspired the character of Isabela. That's where her similarities to Isabela end—I invented the specific interactions and incidents in the character's life, including the final scene in the book.
The funny thing is, my grandmother-in-law, who is a real legend in her own mind, totally...[read on]