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 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.

Vampires? Yep. And I say, why not?

So a lot of people have asked me “why vampires?” Yes, my books are basically romance books, but they’re really so much more when you get right down to it. They’re the story of Sara and how she deals with all the changes in her life that suddenly rush upon her in the most unexpected ways. It’s not only her romance, but so many other discoveries about who she is that make up the arc of the five books I’ve written in the series. Why vampires? Well, why not? I like vampires, I find them the most interesting of the genre of horror creatures. I remember last year when my friend Jim reading book one, a friend or coworker asked him what he was reading so he explained his role as my editor. His coworker/friend kind of rolled their eyes and said vampires had been done to death. When Jim explained my rather unusual take on them, his friend/coworker was intrigued. Basically, I try to make my vampires as realistic as possible. Yes, they are creatures of fantasy (at least as far as I know) but what if they were real? Somehow I don’t think they’d have the ability to transform into bats or have sparkly skin in the sunlight. I thought long and hard about what characteristics they’d have and came up with my own very different take on them as a species. Yes, but why vampires at all? Ok, the premise was how to write a book where I could take my real life ancestors and somehow intertwine them into a modern story …. This is all I’m going to say on this subject because if you want the full explanation, you’re just going to have to read the books. So, why vampires? Well, they just solved a lot of my problems, metaphorically speaking that is.

He said … she said … A slightly different Narration Style

Today’s topic of discussion is narration style. I’ve had people ask me how I came up with my slightly unusual narration style. From the beginning, I wanted to write the books in a first person narration. For example “I did” or “I said” as opposed to “she did” and “she said”. I find the first person narrative to be more intimate and easier to develop a real sense of character when you’re inside their heads hearing their thoughts. However …. The problem with first person is that you only know what the narrator knows. I’ll refer here to the Twilight books. They’re told completely from Bella’s point of view which in the end limits how much you can develop a character because you’re only going to understand a character through her interpretations of them.  As much as I loved the Twilight series, it isn’t until you read the unpublished manuscript of Midnight Sun, the last book, that you gain valuable insights into Edward. Midnight Sun is a complete retelling of the first Twilight book from Edward’s point of view. There are several other books series that do this, give you glimpses of other characters point of view after the whole story is told. I love reading them, but always feel slightly let down that I didn’t have these insights when I was originally reading the series. So with this in mind, although Sara is the main narrator of my books, from time to time, I toss the narration over to another character. I do this to create a greater understanding of characters and also to help move the plot along in specific ways. I like that there are things going on that the reader knows that Sara doesn’t. It creates tension in the way the story is being told and helps move the plot forward in more interesting ways. These other narrator chapters are usually short, just long enough to accomplish what needed to be told. Sara continues to be the main narrator in every book. This is because more than anything, it is her story. I’m pleased that people are responding positively to this narration style. It seems to be accomplishing what I’d hoped it would. So if you’ve read the books and have any insights on what you thought of my narration style, I’d love to hear your feedback.