|Dante Gabriel Rossetti's Helen|
Greek mythology and - rom-com, Simon? Com, yes, but - rom? More like everyone trying to AVOID the romance! :-) But thanks for liking my story enough to take it, Simon and Edwina!
Read on, gentle readers...
Sue’s ‘Five Ways to Start a War’ is delightfully playful; it’s a substantial piece, but it has the frothy, fizzy feel of rom-com. But, of course, when you mix rom-com with Greek mythology, something has to give ... The decision to juxtapose this story hard against Jo’s was a deliberate one on the part of Edwina and myself, and I really like the contrast between them.
Sue’s story is a hoot! I loved it!
Greek mythology has been a part of my life since I was in primary school. I remember reading Robert Graves’ The Greek Myths cover to cover around halfway through. Of course, my school library didn’t have it; my sister had to borrow it from the public library several times for me.
One of my favourite characters was Odysseus who, alone among all the Greek heroes at Troy, had something I could recognise as brains. Truth to tell, he is still my favourite character in Greek mythology. I loved the story of Heinrich Schliemann, which made me dream of becoming an archaeologist myself.
Then I went to university and learned that, if it ever happened, the Trojan War was probably about economics, not honour.
Another thing: there was a play by Euripides in which Helen never went to Troy. This version of the story had been mentioned in Graves’ book. This Helen was replaced by a woman made from cloud, while she herself spent the war years in Egypt.
All these elements came together in my first draft of “Five Ways To Start A War”. I interpreted the author brief as ‘beginnings’ and wrote accordingly. So how did the war start? Was it the Judgement of Paris or did it start before that, with an offended goddess of strife? What about the suitors of Helen? Would there even have been a war if Odysseus hadn’t come up with a way to keep the peace? I imagined that each of the leading characters would have had their own ideas about how and why the war began and decided I would give some of them the chance to argue their viewpoints.
Suddenly, an opening line formed in my head: “It began with that stupid wedding invitation - the one I didn’t get.” After that, the story simply flowed out of my brain - I could hardly stop it. And I surprised myself by giving Helen all my sympathy.
But be warned: I was in a very silly mood when I wrote the story! Don’t expect a Greek tragedy when you read it. You won’t get one.
Sue is a Melbourne writer with ten books and many articles and short stories to her name. Her short fiction has been published by ASIM, Fablecroft Publishing, Ford Street, Peggy Bright Books and Pearson. Her 2010 YA novel Wolfborn is a Children’s Book Council Notable Book and her book Crime Time: Australians behaving badly was on the longlist for the Davitt Awards in 2011. She is currently working on a novel set in the Wolfborn universe, in between teaching Year 8 and running a school library.
You can find sample chapters from both books on this web site.