A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
When I read novels it’s the characters I’m drawn to, as well as the setting and the story. In my mind, the three inform one another. I want to connect with either the character, the story or the setting – if I connect with all three I’m a genuinely happy reader.
My main character in Banished (The Blackhart Legacy: Book 1) is called Kit Blackhart. Her full name is: Katherine Gabrielle Blackhart. I love the name Kit. It’s a playful name and a name that can be either a girl’s name or a boy’s name. There are no expectations. I liked that. I also love the name Katherine. It’s grand and sweeping and puts me to mind of another age, another era. Kit is never a Kathy. Or a Kat or Cat. She is always only ever a Kit. And Gabrielle was her mum’s name. Kit is tall, she has dark hair and greyish eyes. She’s athletic and would rather punch you than kiss you. Or take you out dancing till dawn and then challenge you to a knife fight on the banks of the Thames.
Her cousin Megan Blackhart is slender, has blonde curly hair, wide blue eyes and looks innocent and sweet. She isn’t. She’s a metalhead and loves nothing more to tinker with car engines and electronics. Her twin brother is Marc – he’s the strategist in the family, the guy who likes being in control of the small team they occasionally form when they go hunt monsters together. He sees himself as the one that has to watch out for the others. Their younger brother Kyle is quiet, serious and study comes easy to him. He is however obsessively tidy and he’s the guy that works the information highway. Although Megan and Marc are older, Kyle’s is the voice of reason, the one that really watches out for his brother and sister and his cousin, Kit. He’s my favourite, I do not lie.
I sometimes have a name before I have a character or a story. In Banished the Fae prince Kit rescues is called Thorn. But his name is the name that stands out within his Fae family as they all have strong Anglo Saxon names almost straight from Beowulf: Aelrfic, Eadric, Petur. So Thorn’s name is just one way he doesn’t fit in with his majestically named family. There are other ways too…but let’s not talk about that. Tied in with the Fae names is how I perceive them in my mind, what they look like and who they are and especially how they sound. Formal, a bit supercilious and ever so slightly rude towards the humans they have to deal with, especially the older Fae. Of course there are other fae too that don’t yet make an appearance but who I mention by name. These are more ancient, grander creatures made of wishes and bones and their names are odd and strange and don’t necessarily trip of the tongue…but they are from another time when names were power.
My werewolves all have strong Irish names. Aiden and Shaun and their dad (the Alpha in the pack), Connor. To me the wolves are of Irish descent because I once read a book where shapeshifters were common in ancient times in Ireland and it’s my homage to that writer because she opened my eyes to writing urban fantasy or mythic fiction, as it was called back then. No one else will have known this if I didn’t tell you. But I would know. *insert sly wink here*
Names are important to me – they tell me who the characters are because tied in with each of their names I have a backstory and an image of who each one is. It makes describing them easy, but it also differentiates who each one is and solidifies them in my minds’ eye. Names are important – to me they inform the kind of story I want to tell. I try also not to have names sound too similar – even if they start with the same letter. KYLE / KIT and MEGAN / MARC – I get easily confused when I read books and names are too close to one another – things blur and two characters just turn into a mangled mess in my head. Not good.
Where do I find these names? I read a lot. I keep a notebook and the back pages are usually dedicated to names – town names, street names and character names. I recently chatted to a colleague and she mentioned her nieces and nephews and they have these incredibly evocative Hindi names and so I stole them and told her I’m stealing their names. She was so chuffed. I don’t know when I’ll use these names, but I know I will because they are already living under my skin. I also have various baby name books that I dip into. Also: Twitter is a great resource if you want a character named. Names are everywhere. Sometimes they aren’t important at all, throwaway names like Liz or Beth or Cath but sometimes those names are remarkable because of the character that inhabits them. And there’s invariably a reason why a character is called what it’s called. You just have to ask the writer.