Kate Hewitt on Memories and the Making of The Greek Tycoon’s Reluctant Bride

by Kate Hewitt, author of The Greek Tycoon’s Reluctant Bride (Harlequin Presents Extra, February 2010)

One of the questions I’m asked most as a writer is: where do you get your ideas? There’s no easy answer to this question because ideas come haphazardly, from various places. Some books start with a character, or a bit of dialogue, or a snippet of a scene. Some ideas fall wonderfully, fully formed straight into my head–that happens rarely though, alas! In the case of The Greek Tycoon’s Reluctant Bride, the idea or the story came from a place–and a memory.

It was the summer of 1994, and I was traveling around Europe with some college friends (and my two brothers who kept an eye on me) after spending a term in London studying Shakespeare. We’d been making our way through Eastern Europe, and on a youthful whim decided to take a flight to Athens from Budapest. However, after only a few hours in hot, dusty, crowded Athens, my brother suggested we take a ferry from nearby Piraeus out to the Cyclades Islands. And with the insouciance of a 20-year-old, I said farewell to Athens without so much as glimpsing the Acropolis.

We took a city bus to Piraeus (picture standing for nearly an hour on a crowded bus in the height of summer, wearing a 40 lb backpack!) and ended up by the Piraeus docks at around ten o’clock at night. And let me tell you… that moment was magical.

After enduring the heat and dust of the city, the air was cool and fresh, and the ferry boats were all preparing to sail. The sky had turned violet and the boats were strung with fairy lights; ferrymen were shouting out unknown and alluring destinations in desperate attempts to entice travelers such as ourselves onto their boat. We hurriedly bought some bread and cheese at a stall and jumped on the nearest boat. It happened to be sailing for Naxos.


As we pushed off from the dock, the lights strung across the boat were reflected in the dark water, so the whole world looked as if it were glittering. Standing on the deck, I felt a bit like Odysseus.  The world seemed full of adventure, as if anything were possible, and it was that memory that inspired The Greek Tycoon’s Reluctant Bride. I capture a little bit of that memory in a scene in the book:

The air was salty and surprisingly fresh, and the voices of the ferry sailors carried across the water.

‘Mykonos! Mykonos at eleven o’clock!’

‘Amorgos! Ten o’clock! Leaving now!’

They were raucous siren calls, Althea thought, to places she’d never been but which sounded exotic, exciting. They reminded her of that first freedom she’d felt on the research ship: the endless expanse of water, the wonderful possibility of being something new, of being herself.

She hadn’t been on a ship since.

Althea, the heroine of The Greek Tycoon’s Reluctant Bride, has been held back by the tragic circumstances of her life, and marrying Demos Atrikes offers her a chance at opportunity and possibility and even hope. This idea emerged directly from that poignant memory of my own life, when I was young and adventurous and my whole life stretched before me as I stood on the deck of a ship sailing to an unknown destination. That scene in The Greek Tycoon’s Reluctant Bride, when Althea first begins to realize what Demos can offer her, is really the touchstone of the book.

What makes a memory stand out in your mind? Do you remember certain details about how you felt, or where you were, or what someone said? Maybe a certain scent or taste takes you back to a particular poignant memory? And have you ever had a memory really encapsulate an idea or time of your life? Tell me about it!

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Comments ( 16 )
  1. Caroline Storer
    February 12, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    Great blog KAte! *Sigh* – oh to be 20 again and traveling. Take care. Caroline x

  2. Caitlin Crews
    February 12, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    I wish I was in Piraeus *RIGHT NOW*! Wow.

    I think music is the best way to jog my memory. A friend recently reminded me of Linda Ronstadt’s “Long Long Time,” so I went and played it and–BAM. I was twenty years old again, driving on the New York State Thruway through a frigid gray winter, listening to that song on the tape deck, shivering, and wondering if I would ever survive my poor, broken heart.

    Nothing like a song to take you back!

  3. Sarah Morgan
    February 12, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    Kate, I once took a ferry from Piraeus to Mykonos so reading your lovely post certainly brought back memories and now I can’t wait to read the Greek Tycoon’s Reluctant Bride. I agree with Caitlin that music triggers memories – so do photographs. I love photographs.

  4. Kate Hewitt
    February 12, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    Hi everyone,

    Thanks for your posts. Yes, music can definitely take you back! RadioHead’s ‘Thinking About You’ always reminds me of a broken-heart situation back in college! Ah, the angst! Sarah, my husband and I went to Mykonos once just for an evening–we were on a cruise and we stopped there. We needed to buy a birthday cake and a pair of shoes for our toddler daughter who was turning one and we found both in two little shops on a narrow, whitewashed back street–it was magical! We hurried back to the ship to celebrate 🙂

    Smells also bring back memories to me too–the smell of cut grass always remind me of childhood.

  5. Annie West
    February 12, 2010 at 6:11 pm

    Hi Kate,

    Your blog brought back memories of Greek ferries, sailing late in the day or just before daybreak, and getting off at one island where there was no port and we had to jump from a door in the side of the ship into a motor boat to take us ashore!

    For me, music brings back memories and so do scents. Certain smells trigger remembrance, even when I can’t identify the precise aroma! Like Sarah, photos work for me too. I love them.

  6. Jane Holland
    February 12, 2010 at 8:50 pm

    My mum was always being asked ‘Where do you get your ideas?’ and would invariably reply, utterly dead-pan, ‘Woolies Pick’n’Mix!’

    Jane x

  7. Christina Hollis
    February 13, 2010 at 2:41 am

    Photographs do it for me, too. That’s a wonderfully atmospheric pic of Piraeus, Kate. Is it one of yours?

  8. Kate Hewitt
    February 13, 2010 at 8:24 am

    For some reason my comment is not displaying–sorry, everyone! Thanks for all your comments. Sadly, Christina, the photo isn’t mine, although it does take me back. My photos from that trip are packed away in storage in another state!

    I agree music can definitely bring back memories, as do certain smells. I wrote in my post that is not showing up that the smell of cut grass brings me back to childhood.

    xx Kate

  9. Marilyn
    February 13, 2010 at 11:28 am

    Kate, this post also brought back memories of my time spent in Greece as well. I also have wonderful memories of Venice and Florence.

  10. Abby Green
    February 15, 2010 at 6:34 am

    Kate, love your post – so evocative, I want to be in Greece now and heading off to a beautiful island…sigh!
    Can’t wait to read the book, it sounds brilliant, xx

  11. Monday Morning Stepback: Links, Cliques, and Randomness « Racy Romance Reviews
    February 15, 2010 at 7:46 am

    […] Presents author Kate Hewitt talks about the personal memories that inspired The Greek Tycoon’s Reluctant Bride. It turns out Ms. Hewitt, whose married name is Mrs. Thermopolous, IS the reluctant bride of a […]

  12. Kate Hewitt
    February 15, 2010 at 10:29 am

    I love Greece too, Abby & Marilyn. I think that’s part of the reason I love writing Presents–it’s a chance to go to places like Greece without ever leaving my desk 😉 My current WIP is set on a fictional Greek island based on the one I went to on that ferry so many years ago!

  13. Lynn Raye Harris
    February 15, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    Sigh, I wrote response and then it got lost when I clicked submit. Grr!

    I’ve never been to Greece, alas! Got as far as Brindisi, but was too busy exploring Italy to take a ferry to Greece.

    And music definitely brings back memories for me. Yanni takes me to a warm German summer, wine and fresh pasta on the patio. Carlos Santana’s Supernatural takes me to Germany in winter, Christmas markets, and my new car. Creed’s “With Arms Wide Open” takes me to Vicenza and the pride I felt at finally driving through the city without fear (seriously, driving in Italy was like driving in a huge bumper car race!). Hawaiian music takes me to the years I lived in Hawaii (finally, the music lines up with the place, LOL).

    I could go on and on! Smells evoke memories too. Fresh, sweet hay makes me think of my childhood and the horses I used to have….

  14. Jennie Lucas
    February 18, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    Kate, I loved reading this post. I could totally imagine being there – and being that young again, too. Thanks for sharing a great memory.


  15. Bianca
    February 19, 2010 at 12:26 am

    lovely book and a good read .. demos was so patient with althea

  16. Kate Hewitt
    February 22, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    Thanks everyone for posting–I’m so glad you enjoyed the book, Bianca 🙂 Ah, Greece! I’d love to be there right now…