Sunday, March 18, 2012

Guest Post & Giveaway: Behind the Name by Shana Galen


Shana Galen is the author of numerous fast-paced adventurous Regency historical romances, including the Rita-nominated Blackthorne’s Bride. Her books have been sold worldwide, including Japan, Brazil, Russia, Spain, Turkey, and the Netherlands, and have been featured in the Rhapsody and Doubleday Book Clubs.

A former English teacher in Houston’s inner city, Shana now writes full time. She’s a wife, a mother, and an expert multi-tasker. She loves to hear from readers: visit her website at www.shanagalen.com or see what she’s up to daily on Facebook and Twitter.

Behind the Name
By Shana Galen

Thanks so much to Aislynn for having me today. I’m excited to be back!

I’ve never had a subscription to People or been one to pick up the National Enquirer, but I have to admit, I enjoy it when celebrities have kids. They come up with the craziest names—and as a former teacher, I’ve known some kids with crazy names!

Take Bob Geldof and Paula Yates. They named their kids Fifi Trixibelle, Peaches Honeyblossom, and Little Pixie. John Cougar Mellencamp named his sons Hud and Spec Wildhorse. Nicholas Cage named his son Kal-el. Um, isn’t that Superman’s real name? These names almost make Apple and Suri and Blue Ivy sound normal.

I write historical romance, and historically, people have not been so creative. They named their children after Biblical figures or after the father or a respected relative. So when I begin a book and introduce characters, I have to be careful about the names I choose. Women in the nineteenth century had names like Eugenia, Theodosia, Harriett, Jane, and Mary. These aren’t exactly names that make you think heroine. Men in the nineteenth century were typically named George, Obediah, Frederick, and Archibald. Hmm, “Oh, Archibald, yes! Yes, Archibald!” No, that’s just not going to work.

The job of an author, no matter what her setting, is to pick names for characters that are believable, authentic, and reflect the character’s personality. In my last novel, Lord and Lady Spy, I had originally named the heroine Bridget. My editor asked me to change it because Bridget is not commonly the name of an aristocratic woman. She was right, and even though I was quite attached to that name—and my editor and I still call that character Bridget when we talk about her—I renamed her Sophia.

The author also has to choose a name she can live with for six months. If my archenemy is named Gabrielle, I’m not going to want to write that name a dozen times a day. Another consideration is unusual pronunciations or spellings. My friend Ashley March has a hero named the Earl of Wriothesly. She told me she’d never pick a title like that again because it was long and difficult to spell.

The Marquess of Cholmondeley (pronounced chum-lee) is currently the Lord Great Chamberlain of England. His lineage goes back to the 1600s, but I would never use the title in a book. It throws readers off when they can’t figure out how to pronounce a name. I might use the courtesy title of his heir, who is the Earl of Rocksavage. Now that is a heroic name.

There have been many times I worked on character names for days, decided I was pleased with my choices, and then had to change them because three of the characters had names beginning with A. Too many similar names can also confuse a reader.

Bastien and Raeven are the names of my hero and heroine in my latest release, The Rogue Pirate’s Bride. Since this is the third book in a series, I knew Bastien’s name already. He’s named in the first book. His real name is Sebastien Harcourt, and I chose it for two reasons. First of all, I wanted a name that was French and English. Bastien was born in France but fled as a child to escape the French Revolution. He signed on as a cabin boy on a pirate ship and eventually moved up the ranks until he became the captain of his own ship, which is where my book begins.

I also chose the name Bastien because I’ve always wanted to write a character named Bastien. In my very first book, When Dashing Met Danger, I mention a character named Sebastian Middleton. In the back of my mind, I had an idea for Middleton’s book, but it never came to pass, and I still liked the name.

The heroine’s name is Raeven Russell. I honestly do not know where that name or the spelling came from. Sometimes naming characters is a bit like magic. The character sort of whispers his or her name to the author, and we have no choice but to comply. Raeven is pretty bossy, so it doesn’t surprise me that she was born insisting on a particular name. It did mean I had to make some explanation in the book for the non-standard spelling, though.

A non-standard name can often work for a heroine and not a hero. A name like Amber or Shanna can seem exotic and romantic to readers. Since Raeven does not come from an aristocratic family, and she is rather unconventional, I felt safe giving her an uncommon name.

That’s just a small peek into my process of creating a novel. I’d love to hear what you think about character names.

What are your pet peeves? What are your favorite names?

I’ll be checking in all day to read your comments.

I’m also pleased to offer copies of The Rogue Pirate’s Bride to two readers who comment (U.S. and Canadian residents only).


a Rafflecopter giveaway

43 comments:

  1. Hi Aislynn, thanks so much for having me here today. I'll be stopping by all day!

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  2. I enjoyed your behind the scenes look at naming characters. When I used to write characters when I was a kid, I always named the heroes Nathan, Nathaniel, Bradford or James. The heroines were Gloria, Penelope,or Felicity. Now I pick a short name for the heroine such as Ava or Eve until the character tells me their name, and for the hero I start with Max.

    My pet peeves are initials such as T.J. or K.C. I also have a problem when there are to many many names for one character, such as title, given name, nickname.

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    1. Gayle, you're smart to use short names. Sometimes I've used names like Josephine or Madeleine and halfway through I was like, these people need nicknames! I agree. I'm not a big fan of initials either. Thanks for stopping by!

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  3. Hi Shana,
    I like your thinking and advice when it comes to naming characters. I agree with Gayle that characters eventually name themselves even if they need a little help. I'll look through a list of names until one pops out as if the character shouts, "wait, that' me!"
    Pet peeves - names that truly belong on a pet rather than a human. This applies in real life as well - names like Sissy, Toby, or Buck. Or names that conjure less than feminine heroines or too effeminate heroes like Sam or Max for a heroine when their real name is Samantha or Maxine (they are feminized versions of men's name, why make them masculine again?) I know that Francis is a man's name but please, is it a name that conjures extreme masculinity? Just saying. : )

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    1. Amy, I agree with Gayle, too. Usually I have to have the character's name before I can write the story. But sometimes it takes a while for me to figure it out. Heroes definitely cannot have feminine names!

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  4. I think my pet peeves would probably be unpronouncable names (or at least ones I can't fathom out) or ones that are not period-accurate in the case of historical fiction.

    As for favorite names, I tend to go for standard British names.

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    1. Erica, I definitely ponder how to pronounce a character's name if I don't know how, and I've emailed authors before to ask!

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  5. Great interview. I love it when authors tell you how they come up with there ideal.

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    1. Thanks, Kiki, and thanks for stopping by.

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  6. My pet peeves with names is silly. I hate when the male lead has the same name as my sonor brother. I am sure it bug me if it was my dad's name, too, but his name was Earl and you never see the sexy male lead being named Earl hehehe.

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    1. Delphina, Earl is my dad's name too! You will never have a hero named Earl in any of my books. The hero might be an earl, but that's different!

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  7. one of my pet peeves is when a lot of the names are very close in spelling, like in the Lord of the Rings books and in my Aztec history class. There are so many characters to begin with in LOTR that it makes them even harder to keep track of when some of their names only differ in one or two letters! (i am a huge fan of the movies however)

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    1. Caro, I completely agree with you. I start to mix up names and characters when the names are too close. I read fast--you probably do too--and I have to pause to make sure I have the name right when they're so close.

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  8. I've always loved old fashioned names. And sooner or later, with everyone using "unique" names the old-fashioned ones are going to end up being the uncommon names. I've always loved the names Declan, Connor, even Rhys. My first boyfriend's name (before I even loved historical romance, an omen I think) was Sebastian. For some reason the female names don't seem to age as well as the men's. The one's who've stuck out to me are Minerva, Winnifred. The craziest one I read was Bathsheba (My Favorite Countess).
    My pet-peeve, well more of something that always catches me up, is trying to keep the hero's names straight. With their names and then their titles...on top of nicknames.... sheesh lol. They have so many sometimes.
    sharocks13@yahoo.com

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    1. Sharon, I like old-fashioned names as well, but a lot of them aren't very sexy/pretty-sounding. George and Winnifred aren't really hero/heroine names. I love the ones you mentioned, though (besides Winnifred!--unless it was shortened to Winnie, maybe?).

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  9. One of the things I love about reading historical novels are the names and titles. Sebastian has always been on the top 5 names that I like, along with Marcus. I dont really have pet peeves, when it comes to characters names but I like for characters to have names that are unique and that highlight the character's personality. Raeven has a unique name and seems to be a unique character I cant wait to read about her when I read that book :D

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    1. Thanks, Lucy! In historical fiction, it's definitely a challenge to be unique but still period appropriate.

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  10. I like classic names that sound good whether the person is young or old (Alexander, Sebastian, Elizabeth, Christina, etc.) and have a few nicknames they can choose to go by if they want to. I do like unique names as long as they're not ridiculous.

    Kelli
    krolvaag@gmail.com

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    1. Kelli, I have to agree with you on the classic names. I also like names that can be shortened. I think that's because mine can'tm and growing up, I always wanted a nickname!

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  11. My pet peeves are people popping gum inn their mouths as they chew...it's annoying and it sets my teeth on edge. I like unique names but hate when people spell them wrong. For instance my name is Jaime (Jay me) notice that the I is before the M.

    My favorite names are my mom's and my niece's. They are Demetra and Pantera. I think they are beautiful! For a guy's name I like Gerard.

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    1. Jaime, I love your nieces' names! Those are so pretty. I ahve a niece named Jaime!

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  12. I like names that suit the characters and flows with the story. I don't mind if a name is popular or unique, however with unique names if it's hard to sound out it can be distracting and takes away from the story. I find that with "good" or appropriate names I don't notice it as much as names that stand out only because it's awkward.

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    1. Na, you make a good point. The reader really shouldn't "notice" the name if it works well in the story.

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  13. Hi Shana, I really love your books and characters name. My favorite names are Sydney (for a girl) and Maurice these would have been my kids names but I was nice and let their dad name them. Also, there's another book out with the same concept of Lord and Lady Spy and the heroes have the same name. How do you try not to have that happen in your books.

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    1. Rhonda, I find it almost impossible not to use the same names as other authors do. But if I've just read a book with a Tristan, I won't name my next hero Tristan. What book has thre same concept as Lord and Lady Spy? That hero is also Adrian? I haven't heard of this book. Interesting...

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  14. Thank you for the interesting post Shana! My hobby is researching names and their origins and meanings, so characters' names are always important to me.

    As you mentioned sadly there are some names which although historically accurate make me picture the heroine ugly and not interesting at all (e.g. Euphrosine, Eugenia, etc.). I have my favourite "historical elegant" names: Sophia, Isabelle, Eleanore, Elizabeth, etc. but I can see how they can become repetitive and dull for an author. But you were spot on with Raeven and I especially like how Bastien sounds more badass and dangerous than the refined and elegantly aristocratic Sebastian :-)

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Stella! There is something elegant about the names you cited. So strange how names have their own associations for us.

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  15. Nice post, I really enjoyed it! One of my biggest pet peeves I guess is when there are quite a few titled gentleman in the story and the author goes back and forth between the title, the last name and even the first name. I hate having to stop and think who is talking, almost like I need to keep notes, lol! It's also kind of weird when my sons names are used, lol :) Thankfully, I have not come across too many! And I also totally agree about the using too many names that start with the same letter...again, it gets confusing!
    It's hard enough naming your real children, let alone coming up with names for all your book characters! :)

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    1. Lisa, the easy thing about naming characters, as opposed to children, is that I don't have to get my husband to agree with me. If that were the case, I don't think I'd have written more than one or two books so far because he and I would still be going around about the character names.

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  16. I hate trying to figure out how to pronounce a name that I have never seen. Also when the names are similar it is very confusing and when they have several names (Bastion Collingswood, Earl of Windcastel)and he is referred to by both, confusing. I like these names Charles, Richard, Elizabeth and Serena.
    I like the names to be from the era in which the story is being written so no Cindy, or Bucky. lol
    Love your books and already have this one on my wish list. Thanks for the opportunity to enter.

    misskallie2000 at yahoo dot com

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    1. Miss Kallie, I really appreciate how so many of you are mentioning names you like and what can be confusing for you as readers (i.e. multiple names). It really is insightful and helpful for me as an author. Thanks!

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  17. My pet peeves are names that I just associate with people I did not like or who were not nice to me growing up... like Jessica *cringe* and my friends would understand the name Brittany. LOL

    Also names that I cannot pronounce or figure out how to begin saying. UGH.

    But my favourite female names ever are Claire, Emma, Arabella (Ari) and Grace. My favourite male names are Aiden, Rhys (a few different spellings), John, and Tristan.

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    1. Chrystal, I love the names you like too! Thanks for sharing them. I was a teacher for many years, so there are quite a few names that have negative associations for me.

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  18. I appreciate your efforts in choosing names, they can be very annoying! I like the ones you came up with!

    robindpdx(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  19. Sorry to check in so late. Tough day with my daughter. Lots of whining and typical two-year-old stuff.

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  20. I like your characters' names. I like characters with different names, but not too crazy.

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    1. Thanks bn100. It can be hard to find the right balance.

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  21. Big fan of Shana's books. Want to read this book badly. Love the cover.
    My pet peeves are something talking on their cell phone and then get in line to buy something. I hate because the cashier is trying to talk to them and the customer is not paying attention. I work front desk at a hotel and hate when people are talking on their phones. They do not pay attention to what you are saying and then get mad when they do not understand.
    Favorite names are Gabe, Sebastian, Dylan(my son), Abagail, and Miranda. I like strong names.
    Thanks for the chance to win.
    christinebails@yahoo.com

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    1. Chrisbails, I agree about the cell phone thing. I'm often waiting in line with an impatient toddler. I need that line to move!

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  22. I can't imagine have to come up with so many names, I had enough trouble naming my two boys! Jeremy got his mane from the TV series "Here Come the Brides" and Peter finally got his first name (after 3 days) from his great grandfather his middle name, Kelly, was for a friend of my husbands, but I didn't want that as his first name.

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    1. Bookie20, just like naming kids, a lot of times, I use a baby name book to help out. I try to avoid relative's names, though. I'm sure you understand why.

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  23. Great interview. I always wondered how authors came up with their characters names. A pet peeve of mine is when the H/H have similar names or names beginning with the same letter. I will still read it if it is a good story, but it's a little annoying. My son has an unusual name and so many people get it wrong. I really didn't think that it was hard to pronounce when I picked it out, but I guess I was wrong. I am always having to correct people. It's kind of funny in a way, but his own grandfather even pronounces it wrong and he has only heard us say it, not read it. I like the names of your characters in A Pirate's Rogue Bride. I think they are adventurous names for what sounds like an adventurous novel. Thank you for the opportunity to read it. :)

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