Think of Sookie Stackhouse, narrator of Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire Mysteries aka HBO’s True Blood. Her name is perfect for the shapely, petite blonde, and it gives you a feel for the rural Louisiana setting.
Or a wizard named Harry—as in Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files. The name conjures up the affable, yet dangerous (as in Dresden firestorm), character who’s kept me intrigued through twelve novels.
When I started writing Zero Time, I knew characters in ancient Peru and Mexico couldn’t be named Sookie or Harry. But what would be believable? Fortunately, I was living in Washington, D.C. and discovered the Pre-Columbian Society. I finally decided to use the names of Inca, Aztec and Mayan mythological figures. You may not find many folks today named Xmucane (shmoo-kane) or Coyolxauhqui (ki-olo-kee), but I’d never heard of anyone named Sookie before I read Harris’ books.
The way names evolve, I have to wonder if one day a boy named Harry will sit in homeroom next to girls named Sookie and Xmucane. You can already buy Xochitl (so-cheel) tortilla chips in local grocery stores, so perhaps it’s not inconceivable.
Along the same lines, what characters eat must also be believable. An ancient priestess wouldn’t sit on the porch with an iced tea like Sookie or go to Burger King like Harry. That would just be wrong. But I can envision Coyolxauhqui drinking chicha—corn beer—and dipping maize tortillas into a spicy tomatillo salsa. Here’s a super-easy recipe to try if you’re ready to go Aztec; grab some Xochitl chips just for giggles.
Salsa de Tomate Verde
6 cups water
2 or 3 cloves garlic
3 Serrano chiles
1 pound tomatillos, husks removed
1 bunch cilantro
¼ cup minced onion
Salt to taste
- Bring 6 cups of water to boil. Remove husks from tomatillos.
- Add tomatillos and chiles. Simmer for 6-8 minutes.
- Transfer cooked tomatillos and chiles to a blender. Add cilantro, garlic and salt. Puree until smooth.
- Transfer to a bowl and fold in minced onion.
- Refrigerate until cool. Can be kept for up to five days, if it lasts that long.
*For milder version, reduce the number of chiles.
*Can add diced avocado to make Salsa de Tomate Verde con Aguacate
*Add this salsa to guacamole a tablespoon at a time to your desired taste.