11 June 2014: What’s in a name …. The stories of how characters got their names

A lot of people ask me where I got the names for characters in the books. That’s a difficult question to answer because the answer is All over the place!

In my third novel, one of the characters is Mason Turner. I remember seeing that name on a business card taped on the desk of a coworker several years ago. It was just some salesman’s card who’d stopped by the day before to sell him something. But something about that name just struck me, so I wrote it down. A few books later, I needed a name and found that little note I’d made and Mason was born.

Sophronia Hood is another name I love. It’s the name of Daniel’s grandmother. Sophronia is a name I’ve run across on several different occasions in the course of my genealogy research. There’s a few in my family tree. It’s not a popular name now (no really, it’s not …) but it wasn’t that unusual back in the 1800’s. I got Hood by doing a little digging for family names from the area around New Paltz.   You ask, ‘Well how do I find that out?’.   That’s not too hard. I just looked up a local New Paltz cemetery on http://www.findagrave.com and looked at last names of older burials. I knew I wanted the first name Sophronia, so I just picked a name I thought sounded good with it.

There are a lot of characters that are named after my friends as well. In Book Three where Sara is at the hotel, her coworkers are Odalys, Keith, Christy and Mirta. These are also the names of friends of mine that I used to work with at a hotel here in Orlando.  Kerri and Laura, Sara’s across the hall neighbors in Capen Hall are names after two New Paltz roommates of mine.

Henry Preston was named Preston because I wanted something that sounded nautical. Preston may not sound all that nautical to you, but when I was a kid my family would drive out east on Long Island to Greenport, NY on weekend afternoons. We’d usually go to a store called Preston’s that sold all sort of nautical knick knacks and antiques.  To me, it’s a very nautical name. The same can be said of Mr. Wentworth, Sara’s boss at the hotel. Again, I wanted something nautical for his name. He ended up being named after Captain Wentworth, a sea captain and the hero of my favorite books, Persuasion by Jane Austen. Mr. Wentworth owns Clipper’s Inn. The inn is modeled after Danford’s Hotel and Marina in Port Jefferson. However, I named my hotel Clipper’s Inn because I used to work for Clipper Cruise Line. It’s an homage to all my fellow crewmates out there.

My friend Jim has the distinction of having two characters named after him. Jim Forgy in Book 3 (Forgy being a family name on his mother’s side) and Madam Huff. I had to sort of apologize to him about Madam Huff.  Sometimes when I’m writing and I can’t think of a name, I’ll just stick a place holder name in there and come back to it later. Huff was a placeholder name, but after a while it sort of grew on me and then before I knew it, I’d forgotten I was going to change it. So, yes, I did make it up to him with big, strapping, burly Jim Forgy.

Ben’s brother Brian is another funny story. One day I was sitting at my desk at work. I’d been pondering what to name Ben’s brother for a while now and at that moment had found myself lost in that great internal debate. I heard a sound and looked up. My boss Brian walked in the door. Humm… Brian. Yeah, that works.

The Pearce family is named after an actor I used to know when I worked at the hotel in Hollywood. His name is Guy Pearce. I think when I was imaging what Randall might look like, I kinda had an image of Guy in my head. That and the fact that I wanted what sounded like and old American name. (Ironic, yes I know as Guy is Australian) But Pearce also had a vintage quality that I liked about it.

Sara is the same way. Boy did I bounce around with a long list of names for her! I’d always wanted something that was an old traditional name. I had thought about Elizabeth as that’s my middle name, but decided against it. There were too many nickname variations of Elizabeth. I ended up with Sara, but decided on the slightly less traditional spelling of Sara, not Sarah with the ‘h’ at the end. Donnelly is because I wanted something Irish to sort of match my last name. This was because so much of Sara’s genealogy is mine as well. This was why her father is name Carl. He’s named for the German side of the family. Carl sounded like a good strong traditional German name.

I’ll end here but I think you get the gist of it. My names come from anywhere and everywhere. And yes, I’m still adding to that list I keep of prospective names. You never know when you’re going to be searching for just the right name for a character you’re giving birth to.

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