A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.

A Poppy by any other name…

Until I’ve found a name that fits, I find it really hard to write any character… hence I have a lovely collection of baby naming books as well as a long list of bookmarked internet pages pertaining to surnames and name meanings.

Something I always do is Google my character’s names. I’m kind of fascinated to discover what my characters get up to when I’m not directing the course of their fictional lives.


Originally, the main character in my book Dead Jealous was called Poppy St John. That’s how she appeared to me. When I Googled her name, I found that Poppy St John was the name of the heroine in a book called The Far Horizon by Lucas Malet published in the 1850s. She is an actress married to an ‘unfortunate playwright’. I managed to find a review from the New York Times and was totally sold on the name when I read:


Yes! What a feisty role model for my headstrong heroine, I thought…

That was until the publisher asked me to change her name.


The name Poppy St John was so in my head that I really couldn’t imagine writing about a character by any other name! After a short time of sulking, beating my breast and throwing things I calmed down.

Poppy was Poppy, right? Just because I needed to change her surname needn’t mean everything would fall apart… that she would somehow fade from my imagination… like the name of that kid I sat next to in nursery school who gave me his sock puppet when I lost mine.

Maybe if I came up with something LIKE St John it wouldn’t be so bad.

But I kind of liked that her surname was St Something. I knew that people pronounced St John as Singen, but to me she’d always been Saint John – it always sounded so classic and English. So… maybe there was another name like that… one that didn’t have two ways of pronouncing it?

In my internet searching I came across the name St Clare. Nice, I thought. But what if the publisher wasn’t happy with a saints name full stop? Gahh! That was when I found a whole load of names derived from St Clare. Among them was:


Wow! It sounded just like St Clair, but it wasn’t. I was so happy to land on the name that I immediately emailed my editor. She was sold on it too! So that’s how Poppy got a name makeover. And the weird thing is, it feels right. Even though in my imagination she’d been Poppy St John for so long… Poppy Sinclair is now who she is – out there in the world, and in my head.

As for on Google, apparently Poppy Sinclair (when not finding dead bodies) is a model/burlesque dancer. And according to The Urban Dictionary, Poppy Sinclair means ‘pure beauty’ or ‘utter perfection’. I’m not sure either of those definitions fits my Poppy, but I’ll take it!


Sharon Jones
Undiscovered Voices 2012 winner, Sharon Jones, has been writing since childhood. While studying for a degree in politics and then a Masters in theology, she worked in two independent bookshops where she developed a love of young adult fiction. Sharon gained a doctorate in the theology of story whilst being den mother to 500 undergraduates and has taught courses on everything from the philosophy of education to the history of Neo-Paganism. Having lived in Liverpool, Cambridge, Warwick and Colchester, she now lives back in her native Lancashire with a giant white poodle, Harvey.

DEAD JEALOUS, the first Poppy Sinclair Thriller, is available from all good bookshops!

2 comments on “A Poppy by any other name…

  1. Abi Burlingham
    July 17, 2013

    Aw, what a lovely tale, Sharon, and Poppy Sinclair sounds just fab x

  2. Rose Mannering
    July 25, 2013

    Names are so important to me too so I know I’d freak out at first if I had to change one. It sounds like you got a really fit the second time around though 🙂

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